Eckhart on Compassion and Justice: A Summary

Eckhart practices what he preaches.  He walks his talk as we would say today.  Proof of this is to take a critical look at a collection of his via transformative sermons and/or treatises.

Black Unity activists receive training before a march. Photo by David Geitgey Sierralupe on Flickr.

By taking just a quick look at the titles of seven of his sermons collected in my major book of his sermons, you get a sense of his passion for justice and compassion.

Sermon 30:Be compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.”  Based on Luke 6:36-42, Eckhart offers substantive teachings on compassion including this important point—that we be compassionate

…not from passion, not from impulse, but from deliberate choice and reasonable decision.  For Psalm 84 says: ‘Compassion and truth meet one another’—that is passion and reason. 

We need to bring our intellects and strategy to compassion—not just our passion.

Sermon 31: “Compassion is an Ocean—the Mystical Side of Compassion.”

“Christ Driving the Money-changers from the Temple,” by Theodoor Rombouts, 17th century, Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp. On Wikimedia Commons

Sermon 32: “Driving Merchant Mentalities from our Souls: Economics and Compassion.”  I have written further on Eckhart’s economics in an extended essay, “Meister Eckhart and Karl Marx: The Mystic as Political Theologian.”

Sermon 33: “Justice, the Work of Compassion.”

Sermon 34: “When Our Work Becomes a Spiritual Work, Working in the World.”  Here Eckhart totally overturns the traditional interpretation of the Martha/Mary story.  He says Martha was more mature than Mary because she could do two things at once—work in the kitchen and listen to Jesus teaching or contemplate.  Maybe Martha will some day become so mature, he says.

Christ of the Breadlines” by Fritz Eichenberg for The Catholic Worker. Uploaded to Flickr by Jim Forest

Sermon 35: “Bread is given us for others, on account of others, and with others—especially the indigent.”  In this treatise on the “Our Father,”  Eckhart urges us to learn from the poor who

…must seek their very bread in rain, cold, and snow from house to house.  If you would be comforted, forget those who are better placed and remember those who are less fortunate.

“Free Hugs, 8/4/19 Dayton” Photo by Becker1999, Flickr

Sermon 36: “Everyone an Aristocrat, Everyone a Royal Person.”  This teaching democratizes our nobility and did not sit well with the aristocrats of his time—the peasants liked it however.  Says Eckhart:

Who then is more royal than one who was born, on the one hand, from the highest and best that a creature possesses and, on the other hand, from the most intimate depths of the divine nature and its wilderness?

Sermon 37: “Compassion as Celebration.”  The sharing of common joy is just as much compassion as the sharing of justice and resistance to injustice.  Eckhart says: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself — as yourself bespeaks equality.”  He employs the story of the Good Samaritan:

…so too should you act toward every person regardless of ties of affection, relationship, or reward.  Take nothing into account except the need and the necessity of this other person.

One can see in these titles and themes, how deeply devoted Eckhart was to the justice issues of his time and urges us to do the same.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 424, 450, 508, 524, 534f.

See also: Matthew Fox, “Meister Eckhart and Karl Marx: The Mystic as Political Theologian,” in Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 165-198.

Banner Image: “25th Annual Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March…to honour the lives of missing and murdered women. Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women …still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Indigenous women disproportionately continue to go missing or be murdered with minimal to no action to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism.” Photo by Jen Castro on Flickr.

Do all these themes that Eckhart includes in his spiritual teachings on justice and compassion also draw your attention?  Can you recognize in them how he was not afraid to step on toes of the powerful to be true to a compassionate spirituality and practice?

Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life

In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.

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1 thought on “Eckhart on Compassion and Justice: A Summary”

  1. Avatar

    Dear Dr Fox, I cannot find the references in Meister Eckhart’s writing to which you refer. His sermon 30 is on Matthew 16 – I think. Would you mind directing me to the sermon on Luke 6?
    Thank you very much indeed,

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