For many people, the teaching from Meister Eckhart, which we treated in our meditations on advent–that humans are meant to birth the divine son within us–sounds shockingly new.  

Renowned Catholic Theologian & Dutch Priest, Fr. Henri Nouwen on our call to be fruitful not successful. Originally posted to YouTube by the Henri Nouwen Society.

Yet New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton emphasizes how this was the teaching of Paul, the first author in the Christian Bible.  Says Chilton: “Paul puts the deep content of this experience so economically that its pivotal reference has been missed by some commentators: God determined ‘to uncover his Son in’ Paul….God’s Son, who is ‘in’ (en) Paul, within his consciousness in an experience uniquely his.  Paul calls what was disclosed within him God’s ‘Son.’”  

Thus Eckhart’s calling for our birthing the son of God in us was not so unique after all—it sounds so because Christianity detoured to run an empire and in the process squelched some of its deepest teachings.  

“Mothering God You Gave Me Birth” arranged by Zebulon Highben. Originally posted to YouTube by PreludeMusicPlanner.

Eckhart develops this consciousness of ourselves as sons and daughters of God in an extended way, using John’s writings as much or more than Paul’s.  He concludes that Christmas is as much a remembrance of our birthing God’s son as Mary’s doing so.

Chilton comments: “Readers today think exclusively of Jesus when they hear the words the ‘Son of God.’  But the phrase had a life of its own before it was applied to Jesus…referring to angels (Genesis 6:2), the whole people called Israel (Hosea 11:1), and to the king in David’s line (Psalm 2:7).  Direct revelation extends God’s favor to people and angels; each is ‘the Son,’ ‘the beloved,’ as Jesus became in his vision at his baptism (Mark 1:11).”

South African Mother carrying her child. Photo by Abo Ngalonkulu on Unsplash.

It also had a life of its own at the time that Jesus lived and when the gospels were being written because “the world of Jesus made no distinction between politics and religion.  The Romans not only obeyed the emperor, they worshipped him as God’s son, Divi filius.”  

To democratize the notion of “Son of God” was an affront to the Empire.  Surely Paul and the Gospel writers knew this.  That phrase plus the phrase “Kingdom of God” that Jesus used so often were both red flags to the ruling Empire of Jesus’ day.

Short clip featuring the beginning of Fr. Henri Nouwen’s third sermon at Crystal Cathedral entitled “Becoming the Beloved”. Originally posted to YouTube by belovedson12.

For Paul it is in baptism that “God sends the Spirit of his Son into every believer, who cries to God, ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6).  The believer becomes a Son, just as Jesus called upon his father; as Paul says in the same sentence, God sends his Spirit ‘because you are Sons.’   Baptism marks the moment for Paul and for us that one discovers oneself “as a Son of God, because Jesus as God’s Son was disclosed in one’s heart,” observes Chilton.

What does it mean to Paul, to become a “son of God”?  Chilton sees it this way: “When Paul felt the divine Son uncovered within himself, he encountered the divine presence he had sought for in the Temple, but now it was available inside him.”  It means the presence of God among and within us.*

*Bruce Chilton, The Way of Jesus: To Repair and Renew the World, pp. 138f.

See Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 3. And Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 325-338.

Banner Image: Father teaching his daughter how to properly wash her hands. Photo by CDC on Unsplash.

What does birthing the Son/Daughter of God mean to you?  To your work?  To culture/

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4 thoughts on “On Birthing the Son/Daughter of God in Us”

  1. Avatar

    Deep gratitude and love, respect and appreciation for your year long teaching. It blesses my journey and give me hope. Because of all your devotion and teaching I am changing and I trust more deeply my life to the Divine. I am knowing that I am a beloved woman and Gods favor is upon me, it gives me courage to love and serve others.

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    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate these daily meditations. I work in a hospital and have been struggling to maintain a sense of calm and optimism and meaning in this dark time. I wanted to return to some daily spiritual practice to strengthen me and remind me why i have chosen this work. These meditations, the music, the clips of sermons, have all been a blessing. I studied CS at the school in Oakland many years ago. I was not able to complete my course of study as I was pulled away to care for an ailing parent. I realize now that was the beginning of the work I currently do. I was already being guided into this work, which is on the surface about helping people heal their bodies, but is really about being with people when they are most vulnerable. Thank you for helping me in this work.

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    Thank you for so succinctly stating what happens when religion–our religion or any–is married with empire, as it has been, especially in the past two decades, in the United States: “Christianity detoured to run an empire and in the process squelched some of its deepest teachings.” It saddens me that I have to keep trying to explain this to people who blame Christianity for wars and other ills (for example for the troubles between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) since the time of Jesus. Thank you for you succinct words, Matthew!

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