Eckhart on Advent, Christmas, and Humanity’s Deification

Are Advent and Christmas meant to be reminders of Divinity and the Christ being born in us?  Meister Eckhart invokes Clement of Alexander who writes: “The baptized, ‘in whom dwells the Word, possesses that beautiful form of the Word; such a person is assimilated to God as is beautiful himself or herself.’  It is then rightly that Heraclitus said: ‘Men are gods and gods are men.’  This mystery indeed is revealed in the Word, God in people and people in God.”

“Cuban River Baptism” Image by Ahstubbs from Pixabay

Eckhart develops at considerable length this theme of the deification of humanity, a theme so regrettably lost in Western spirituality, almost since his condemnation.  But he is careful to make the proper distinction, as, for example, in the following analogy: 

When you pour a drop into the stormy sea, the drop changes into the sea and not the sea into the drop.  This is also how it happens to the soul.  When God draws the soul to himself, then the soul becomes divine, but God does not become the soul.  Then the soul loses its name and its power but not its will and not its being.  Then the soul remains in God as God remains in the Godself.

A Drop Becomes the Sea. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

We are reminded that the soul, like a drop in the divine sea, becomes the sea or God, but the sea does not become the drop.  God does not become the soul.  At his trial Eckhart repeats this need to clarify the meaning of our deification.  “To say that the deified person is nothing other than God is false and an error,” he insists.  So, while becoming God, we also remain ourselves—with will and being intact.  

On many occasions Eckhart gives the reason for the Incarnation as our becoming divine and the child of the divine.  He says, “The reason why God has become a person is that he may beget you as his firstborn Son, and nothing less.”  

No wonder Eckhartian scholar Schurmann can exclaim that for Eckhart “the glory of God is man deified; a man such as this God ‘must’ love.  His love for him ‘cannot not be’ since he gives to this man the very love with which he loves his own nature, that is, the Godhead.”

Humanity and Divinity United. Image by beate bachmann from Pixabay

God bestows his whole divinity on God’s sons and daughters! Eckhart has in mind the line from John’s Epistle: “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.” (1 Jn. 3.1)  ‘That is what we are’—here lies so much of Eckhart’s inspiration for developing the theme of our divine son/daughtership in God.

He repeats this understanding of God on another occasion: “God’s supreme purpose is to beget.  He is never content unless he begets his Son in us.”  Just as God bears his son by nature all the time, so we too are born as the adopted sons and daughters without ceasing.  Christmas becomes a daily thing.

Adapted from Matthew FoxPassion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 318-322.
Banner image:  “Advents kranz” Image by Pete Jelliffe on Flickr

What examples can you point to that exhibit the deification in human beings?  Might Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King, Sister Dorothy Stang and Abraham Lincoln, all saintly humans be such evidence?  And people in your own life you have known who may not have been public saints but deeply graced and beautiful?  And those serving on the front lines so generously and courageously in a time of pandemic?

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6 thoughts on “Eckhart on Advent, Christmas, and Humanity’s Deification”

  1. Avatar

    I am concerned about God always mentioned as a “He”…. “He is never content unless he beget his son in us.”….
    Either God has no gender or we are only getting half of the creation story….the feminine part.

    1. Avatar

      Words Are Traps is a koan from Zen. The higher mind or Intuition is beyond language. In the aforementioned context He intuitively means he/she. Eckhart was a mystic. All true mystics reside in the higher mind of Intuition or Super Intuition and see the same soul in our different bodies whether it is a female body or a male body and this is what you mystically perceive because you Donna are going beyond language to “what is.”

    2. Avatar

      This concerns me every day. I belong to an Anonymous Recovery Program where people are encouraged to find their own concept of a Higher Power. To find one that works for them. In this environment because of the common pedagogy it turns out to nearly always be male. A general exception being people that are severely abused picking one of their own gender that hates the other. Today, like Matt, I have a lot of names for supremacy. “Higher Power” “Universal Spirit” and the most comfortable to me “My Creator”
      Just before I read your post this very topic was concerning me and a what I call a Chuckerism came to me. “A person who understands God has no God at all.”
      Thanks for your share.

  2. Avatar

    Matt, to use a technical term ” this is some deep powerful shit!” Awesome to remind us we are all daughters and sons of God. Inheritors,co creators
    I,m really enjoying the Advent reflections.

  3. Richard E Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard E Reich-Kuykendall

    Thank you for all of your good and insightful comments on this meditation–and have a Merry Christmas !!!

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