Eckhart elaborates on another dimension to Christmas when he stresses how we are to give birth to Divinity in us. When does this happen? One criterion for realizing the authentic birth of the divine in us is that we return to creation and find God there. When you “grasp God in all things, that will be the sign for your new birth, by which you will have been begotten his firstborn Son, and not less.”
In this way, we become what Paul says we are: “True images of his Son, so that this Son might be the eldest of many brothers [and sisters].”
Using the text in John’s Gospel where Jesus says that a woman in childbirth suffers, but her suffering turns to joy when the child is born, Eckhart presents another sign of our giving birth to the Christ—Joy.
So it is with you: you are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you. (Jn. 16:16, 20-22)
When one is in God there is a joy that no one can take from you. Eternal life begins and with it a divine joy. This is called “realized eschatology.” It is in this life that a person is born as a child of God and to eternal life. Eckhart is so taken with this promise of eternal life before death that he dismisses speculation about life after death. What we shall be hereafter is not yet revealed, he rightly points out. So why waste one’s energy getting into heaven when heaven has already arrived? It will be revealed only when “we see God as God really is.”
The theme of joy as a fruit and sign of the spirit is a favorite one with Eckhart. The ecstasy of joy and its anticipation is overwhelming. “Just as one can die of anxiety before the blow, that is before a murder is carried out, in the same way one can die of joy or of its anticipation. And so the soul dies within itself in joyful expectation of eternal bliss before it passes over to God.” When we are in God we share divine joy. “Now notice what a wonderful and happy life this person has on earth, as in heaven, in God himself! Discomfort serves as comfort to him or her, grief is the same as joy…” Our calling is to make heaven happen on earth by working for justice and compassion. “We shall be like God,” as John puts it (1 Jn. 3.2).
The joy that the breakthrough brings is like this–“the birth of the fire and the joy are beyond time and beyond distance. Pleasure and joy do not seem long or far away to anyone.” For, “to rejoice always,” as Saint Paul admonishes us, is to find joy “beyond time and outside of time.” In this experience there arrives a new sense of time. The future becomes present.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp.324-326.
Do you find joy in birthing Divinity in your work and self and culture? A joy no one can take from you?