Eckhart does not get trapped in the contemplation vs. action dualistic dilemma. He also endorses art as meditation, which is centering by way of giving birth. It is the flowing out that all creative people must discipline themselves to do in order that beauty and blessing be shared.
In this birthing we are born again and God is born in human history again. We are to give birth to the Son of God in us and in our culture.
Eckhart writes: “We celebrate here in temporality with a view to the eternal birth, which God the Father has accomplished and accomplishes unceasingly in eternity, so that this same birth has now been accomplished in time within human nature.
“What does it avail me if this birth takes place unceasingly and yet does not take place within myself? It is quite fitting, however, that it should take place within me….”
God is birthed in the “spark of the soul.” There is where the birth takes place; there is where the Son is born. This birth does not take place once a year or once a month or once a day but all the time, that is, beyond time in that space where there is neither here and now nor nature and thought.
Eckhart writes: “Mary gave birth in the fullness of time and we are told to do the same. Our Lady said: ‘How can it be that I should become the Mother of God?’ Then the angel said: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee from above.’ David said: ‘This day have I begotten thee.’ What is today? Eternity… Today is eternity. Now is the hour and this is the place for birthing the Son as Mary once did.”
For, Eckhart asks, “What help is it to me that Mary is full of grace, if I am not also full of grace? And what help is it to me that the Father gives birth to his Son unless I too give birth to him? It is for this reason that God gives birth to his son in a perfect soul and lies in the maternity bed so that he can give birth to him again in all his works….”
The work of finding the transcendent within is the work that the Holy Spirit accomplished in Mary’s birth of Jesus, Eckhart says. “Every artist must make what is ‘above’ be ‘within.’ The work that is ‘with,’ ‘outside,’ and ‘above’ the artist must become the work that is ‘in’ him, taking form within him, in other words, to the end that he may produce a work of art, in accordance with the verse ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee’ (Lk. 1.35), that is, so that the ‘above’ may become ‘in.’ “
Once again Eckhart is relating his theology of creativity to his theology of the Spirit and to his theology of birthing. The fruit of our birthing from within, instead of merely from outside or even from above, will be God-with-us, Emmanuel, still another birth of God in our midst.
In this sense Mary was the first folk artist, the first one to birth God from within and not merely from without or above. Mary had the imagination, the courage, and the discipline to make the most sublime the innermost. To bring God in and to birth God outwardly. This is what is so noble and divine about the “intellect,” or what I prefer to call the imagination in us, the imago Dei.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 46-47, 293, 312, 336, 409.
Banner image: “The Annunciation” by Fra Angelico, 1437-46. Wikipedia
Queries for Contemplation
In prayerful meditation, sit with the following questions and invite Spirit to guide your thoughts…
- In what ways do you think you give birth to Christ in your lives?
- Are there ways in which you could see yourself as a “folk artist”?
Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.