Meister Eckhart



(Pf 45, Q 60, QT 45)





These words are written in the Book of Wisdom. This time we shall interpret them in the form of a conversation in which Eternal Wisdom says to the soul: 'In all things I have sought rest', and the soul replies: "He who created me rested in my tent". And thirdly Eternal Wisdom says: "My rest is in the holy city". If I were asked to say to what end the Creator has created all creatures, I would say: rest. If I were asked secondly what the Holy Trinity sought altogether in all its works, I would answer: rest. If I were asked thirdly what the soul sought in all her agitations, I would answer: rest. If I were asked fourthly what all creatures sought in their natural desires and motions, I would answer: rest.

 In the first place let us note and observe how the divine nature makes all the soul‘s desires mad and crazy for Him, so as to draw her to him. For the divine nature tastes so well to God and pleases him so much - that is: rest - that He has projected it out of Himself to stir up and draw into Himself the natural desires of all creatures. Not only does the Creator seek his own rest by projecting it and informing all creatures with it, but He seeks to draw all creatures back with Him into their first beginning, which is rest. Also, God loves Himself in all creatures. Thus as He seeks His own love in all creatures, so He seeks His own rest.

 Secondly, the Holy Trinity seeks rest. The Father seeks rest in His Son, in whom He has poured out and formed all creatures, and they both seek rest in the Holy Ghost, who has proceeded from them both as eternal and immeasurable love.

 Thirdly, the soul seeks rest in all her powers and motions, whether a man knows it or not. He never opens or shuts an eye without seeking rest by doing so: either he seeks to reject something that hinders him, or he seeks to draw in something on which to rest. These are the two motives of all human action. I have also said before that a man could never feel love or desire for any creature, unless God‘s likeness were in it. My love is placed where I most clearly see God‘s likeness, but nothing in all creatures so resembles God as rest. Thirdly, we should note how the soul must be for God to rest in her. She must be pure. How does the soul become pure? - By keeping to spiritual things, by which she is exalted: the more she is exalted, the purer her devotion; and the purer her devotion, the more powerful her works. One master says of the stars that the closer they appear to the earth, the less their effects, for they are not in their proper circle. But when they enter their proper circle, then they are at their highest; then they cannot be seen on earth, but their influence on the earth is the strongest. St Anselm says to the soul: 'withdraw a little from the tumult of outward works'. Secondly: 'flee and hide from the storm of inward thoughts, which also perturb the soul'.

 Thirdly: 'man can indeed offer God nothing more precious than rest'. God does not heed or require fasting, praying or any self-mortification nearly so much as rest. God wants nothing of man but a peaceful heart; then He performs within the soul such secret divine works as no creature can earn or see: even the soul of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot look in there. The eternal wisdom is so delicate and so glorious that it cannot tolerate any creaturely admixture when God is working alone in the soul. Therefore the Eternal Wisdom cannot permit any creature to watch. Our Lord says: "I will lead my bride into the desert and will speak to her heart" (Hosea 2:14), that is into a solitude away from all creatures. Fourthly he says: "the soul must rest in God". God cannot do divine works in the soul, for whatever enters the soul is ruled by measure. Measure means inclusion and exclusion. But it is not thus with divine works: they are unbounded, and are included but unenclosed in divine revelation. Therefore David says: "God sits above the Cherubim" (Ps.80:2): he does not say He sits above the Seraphim. Cherubim denotes wisdom, that is, understanding which brings God into the soul and guides the soul to God. But it cannot bring her into God. Therefore God does not perform His works in the understanding, for this is bound in the soul by measure, but He performs them divinely as God. Then the highest power steps forth - which is love - and breaks into God leading the soul with understanding and all her powers into God and unites her with God. Here God is acting above the power of the soul, not as in the soul, but divinely as in God. Here the soul is plunged into God and baptized in the divine nature, receiving the divine life therein and taking upon herself the divine order, so that she is ordered according to God. We can take an illustration from what the masters write about nature: when a child is conceived in its mother‘s womb, it has limbs and colour. But when the soul is infused into the body, it loses the form and appearance it first had and becomes something simple - this by the power of the soul - and it receives another shape from the soul and another appearance according to the life of the soul. So it is with the soul: when she is fully united with God and baptized in the divine nature, she loses all her hindrances, her debility and instability, and is totally renewed with divine life, and all her ways and virtues are ordered according to the divine ways and virtues, just as we can see with a candle. The closer the flame burns to the wick, the darker and denser it is, but as it springs up away from the wick, the brighter it becomes. The higher the soul is raised up above herself, the purer and clearer she is, and the more perfectly God can do in her His divine work in His own likeness. If a mountain rose up two leagues above the earth, and if one were to write characters on it in the dust or sand, they would remain intact, untouched by wind or rain. Just so a truly spiritual man should be raised up in true peace, entire and changeless in divine activity. Any spiritual man has good cause for shame at being so easily moved by depression, anger or annoyance: such a man was never truly spiritual.

 In the fourth place, all creatures seek rest by a natural tendency: whether they know it or not, they prove it in their works. A stone is never free of motion as long as it is not on the ground - it always seeks the ground. The same applies to fire: it strives upwards, and every creature seeks its natural place. Thus they confirm the truth of divine rest, which God has injected into all of them.

 That we may thus seek the equality of divine rest, and find it in God, may God help us. Amen.

Quoted from: Meister Eckhart, Sermons and Treatises Volume II, trans & ed. by M. O 'C. Walshe (Shaftesbury: Element Books, 1987), pp.13-17.