Meister Eckhart II
What is Prayer?

Stand in the gate in the house of God: stand in his unity of essence. One is best kept by itself. So the unity stands by God and keeps God together, adding nothing. There unity sits in his own presence, in his is-ness, all in himself, nowhere out of himself. But as he melts, he runs. He melts and runs in his goodness, which consists in knowledge and love. Knowledge is hotter than love, but this knowledge is laden with love. Love is fooled and caught by kindness: in love, I hang near the gate, not seeing the authentic vision. Even stones have love for the ground. If I insist on goodness, and grasp it, I shall seize only the gate, not God himself. Knowledge is better, for it is the head of love. No single thought belongs to this knowledge: wholly detached, free of self, it runs bare into the arms of God and grasps him in himself.

What is prayer? It is the practice of glorying in pure being.

But while any image exists in the soul, there is no glorying in God therein.

Things different from God do not glorify God.

Our Lord said once: “You pray, not knowing what prayer is. There will come true prayers, praying to my Father not in words, but in spirit and in truth.”

But what is prayer? Dionysius said: “The mind’s ascent to God—that is what prayer means.” Where flesh wars with spirit, where time wars with eternity, there God is not. The soul must transcend. While there is anything above the soul, anything in front of God, the soul can never enter his ground.

When I subsisted in the ground, in the bottom, of the river and fount of Godhead, no one asked me where I was going or what I was doing; there was no one to ask me. But when I flowed forth all creatures spoke God. If I am asked, “Brother Eckhart, when did you leave your house?” then I must have been in the house. Thus do all creatures speak God.

And why do they not speak the Godhead? Everything in the Godhead is one, and of that there is nothing to be said. God works; the Godhead does no work. In the Godhead there is nothing to do; there is no activity. It never envisaged any work. God and Godhead are as different as active and inactive.

On my return to God, where I am formless, my breaking-through will be far nobler than my emanation. I alone take all creatures out of their sense into my mind and make them one in me. When I go back into the ground, into the depths, into the well-spring of the Godhead, no one will ask me from where I came or where I went. No one will miss me, for there God unbecomes.

My good wishes to anyone who has understood this sermon. Had there been no one here I would have had to preach it to the collection box. Some poor souls will go back home and say, “I shall settle down and eat my bread and serve God.” Truly, I say that they persist in error, and will never have the power to strive for or to win what those others do who follow Christ in poverty and exile.

Leaving God for God

To love another as myself means that I would as soon wish his fate for good or ill, for life or death, happened to me as him, which would amount to perfect understanding.

Bearing on this subject St. Paul says, “I would that I were divorced from God forever, for God and for my friend’s sake.” As you know, to leave God for an instant is to leave God eternally, and to leave God at all is to endure hellish torment. Then what does St. Paul mean by wishing to be divorced fom God? Doctors debate whether St. Paul was on the way to perfection or whether he was perfect. I say he was perfect; otherwise, he could not have said this.

I will put into plain words what St. Paul means by wishing to depart from God. Man’s last and highest leave-taking is leaving God for God. St. Paul left God for God: he left everything he could give or take of God, every concept of God. In leaving these, he left God for God since God remained to him in his essential self, not as a concept of himself, or as an acquired thing, but God in his essential actuality. This is no case of give and take between himself and God; it is the one and perfect union. Here man is the true man whom suffering can no more befall than it can befall the divine essence.
If everything temporal were comprehended in this one, it would be nothing else than the unity itself. Were I to find myself but for a single instant in this case, I would hold myself no more important than a worm.

God gives to everything alike. As they flow forth from God all things are equal; angels, men and creatures all proceed from God alike in their first emanation. To take things in their primal emanation is to take them all alike. If here in time they are alike, in God in eternity they are much more so. Any flea as it is in God is nobler than the highest of the angels in himself. Things are all the same in God; they are God himself.

God delights so in this likeness that he pours out his whole nature, his whole substance into it, in his own self. The joy and satisfaction of it are ineffable. It is like a horse turned loose in a lush meadow giving vent to his horse-nature by galloping full-tilt about the field: he enjoys it, and it is his nature. In just the same way God’s joy and satisfaction in his likes finds vent in his pouring out his entire nature and his being into this likeness, for he is this likeness himself.

It is a question whether those angels who are dwelling here with us to serve and guard us have less likeness in their joys than the ones abiding in eternity. Is it in any sense a drawback to them to be serving and protecting us? No, not at all. Their joy and their likeness are undiminished, for the work of the angels is the will of God and the will of God is the work of the angels. If God should bid an angel go pick the caterpillars off a tree, the angel would obey him readily; since it is God’s will it would be his happiness.

Being established in God’s will, a man will want what is God and what is God’s will and nothing else. If he is sick, he will not have a desire to be well. To him all pain is pleasure, multitude is pure and single, provided he is really in the will of God. Even the pains of hell would be joy and happiness to him. He has left himself and he is free, passive to all impressions.

Man being thus in the love of God is dead to self and all created things, and no more mindful of himself than one a thousand miles away. This man abides in likeness, in unity, and there is no unlikeness in him. This man has left the world and himself as well.

Supposing some man owned the world and for God’s sake gave it up just as he had gotten it. Then God would give him back the world and eternal life as well. If there were a second man possessing merely the good intention, who thought: “Lord, were the whole world mine—no, two of them—I would resign it and myself as well, wholly as I received it from you,” God would recompense him just as if these things had been given. Another man with nothing to resign, physical or spiritual, would be the most resigned of all. He who for one instant wholly resigns self, to him all shall be given.

But to leave himself for twenty years and then to have self back again even for an instant, is never to have left himself at all. He who both has and is resigned, and casts no glance at what he has resigned, but remains firm and motionless in himself, that man is free.