Contemplation as Repose: Bede Griffiths and Meister Eckhart

Eckhart continues his teaching on repose which he derives from the Book of Sirach in the Bible: “In all things I sought rest.”   (Si 24:11)

Cat taking a rest on porch. Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash.

If I were asked for the second time what the Holy Trinity was seeking in all its deeds, I would answer: ‘Repose.’  If I were asked for the third time what the soul was seeking in all its motions, I would answer: ‘Repose.’  If I were asked for a fourth time what creatures were seeking in all their natural efforts and motions, I would answer: ‘Repose.’  Clearly, Eckhart is promoting an awareness of rest and repose, of contemplation therefore, and he sees it throughout creation and embedded in the Divine nature itself.

Indeed, Eckhart says in this amazing sermon on Repose that “the divine nature is repose” and God “enjoys” repose so much that he uses it “to attract the longing of all creatures and to draw them to himself.”  Indeed, God “is seeking to draw all creatures with him back again to their origin which is repose.”  Our very origin is repose, surely we ought to return to it on a regular basis!

Furthermore, “since God is seeking love for himself in all creatures, he is seeking also his own repose in them.”  Divinity likes our stillness and likes to match the divine stillness to human stillness and vice versa.

Baba Ram Dass sharing on “Be Here Now”. Film produced by Wisdom Films

Humans like to take delight in things and experiences, but delight implies repose.  Repose is the rest that accompanies delight and pleasure.  And “nothing resembles God in all creatures so much as repose.”  Eckhart urges us to set aside “vigils, fasting, prayer and all forms of mortification in contrast to repose.”  For “God needs nothing more than for us to offer him a quiet heart.” 

Wisdom comes to those who are quiet inside.  The “eternal wisdom is of such delicate tenderness and so shy,” that it looks for an emptied place in which to dwell.  “On this account our Lord says: ‘I shall lead my bride out into the desert and shall speak there into her heart’ (Ho. 2:14).  This means in the wilderness, away from all creatures.”

Walking in the midst of the desert. Photo by Kyle Cottrell on Unsplash.

Father Bede draws some powerful lessons from our ability to recover a contemplative attitude of repose calling our attention to the “limitations of Western science and democracy” where the disastrous effects of western industrialism, physical, social and psychological, polluting the world and threatening to destroy it, are only too evident. But this is not an “accident” due to the misuse of science and technology; it is due to a fundamental defect in Western man. . . . The balance can only be restored when a meeting takes place between East and West.  It “must take place at the deepest level of the human consciousness” which marries the two fundamental dimensions of human nature: the male and the female — the masculine, rational, active, dominating power of the mind, and the feminine, intuitive, passive and receptive power.

SPECIAL DOCUMENTARY: This documentary features Matthew Fox and Fr. Bede Griffiths and can be rented for $1.99 on Vimeo.

SPECIAL AUDIO RECORDING: This audio recording features Fr. Bede Griffiths and Matthew Fox dialoguing shortly before Fr. Bede transitioned:

From Matthew Fox, “Sermon 27: How all creatures experience the divine repose,” in Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 380-382.

And from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 244.

Banner Image: Bede Griffiths speaking during retreat in Denmark circa June 1984. Originally posted to Flickr by Dialogcentret billedarkiv.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Eckhart that “God needs nothing more than for us to offer him/her a ‘quiet heart’”?  What follows from that?  How deep is our listening?

Do you agree with Father Bede that western culture suffers from a lack of repose?

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4 thoughts on “Contemplation as Repose: Bede Griffiths and Meister Eckhart”

  1. Avatar

    An incredible, beautiful meditation. I would use this in my prison education if I could save. Haven’t found a way. How can I tap into?

    Thank you,

    Morry Lindros

  2. Carol Kilby for the DM team.
    Carol Kilby for the DM team.

    Morry, your work is so important. It would be wonderful to think of Matthew’s wok supporting you and those you serve. I will ask one of the DM technology team to advise on how you might save! However all the meditations are archived on the D M website for your future reference.

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