Generosity and Nobility: Intrinsic to All, Basic to Worship

According to Webster’s dictionary, the English word “generous” in its archaic use meant to be highborn and to be characterized by a noble or forbearing spirit.

Noblesse Oblige: a king delivers food to a starving peasant. Illustration for the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas,” 1904. Wikimedia Commons

Generosity has something to do with excellence and nobility.

Nobility ought not signify being born of a noble class; rather it is being born, as Meister Eckhart put it, “from the noblest foundation of all,” that is, from the Godhead.  The Godhead is itself so generous and so giving and so excellent and so much in pursuit of beauty and the sharing of beauty that creation itself exists, also abundant and beautiful, after the very image of its Creator.

Generosity, like magnanimity, is about a great soul, a large soul, a giving heart, an abundance within us that gets called outside us. Generosity allows us to democratize highborn-ness, or nobility, if you will. It is how each of us expresses the true nobility of our nature.

A nature that is of “the image of God” or Tselem in Hebrew.  Of the Cosmic Christ.  Of the Buddha Nature.

All of us are born from sacred stock—14 billion years of generous giving and generous receiving. We are all noble and, in a real sense, divine. We will know this from the fruits of our activities, for a good tree bears good fruit and a bad one bad fruit, as Jesus observed.

Matthew Fox joins ministers across traditions to celebrate the Eucharist at a Cosmic Mass. Photo by Katy Gaughan, National Cathedral. Published with permission.

There is a constant echo in both Latin and Old English in the family of words from which the word “generosity” derives, of being “highborn,” that is, of excellence.

Ceremony or Liturgy or Worship is then a gathering of noble people, excellent beings striving to be more excellent and wanting to live up to our nobility, to tap into it and live it out. 

In worship we gather to give thanks for our existence and our nobility and the accompanying invitation to be generous people.  Kind and loving and willing-to-sacrifice people. 

This undergirds all community and family and stretching our souls to be larger people, more magnanimous, more sharing of the joy of living on this unique and special planet.  And a willingness to sacrifice, to give back, to render holy for future generations.  This is why Malidoma Some can say that “there is no community without ritual.”


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp, 384f.

See also, Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image; “Catholic Worker Soup – Emmaus House, Troy, NY.” Photo by Jim Forest on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Can you at times recognize yourself and others as “born of the noblest foundation of all, the Godhead”?  What follows from that? How can we spread that good news?

Recommended Reading

Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them. 
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science.  A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics

Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart

Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.”  — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.  


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11 thoughts on “Generosity and Nobility: Intrinsic to All, Basic to Worship”

  1. Avatar

    How can we recognize ourselves and others as “born of the noblest foundation of all, the Godhead”? What follows from that? How can we spread that good news?

    It follows that we can only spread the good news by living the good news. If we treat ourselves and each other, at all times, and in all circumstances as the noblest of all, it is then that we are living our ‘birthright’ in God. If we are ‘hard pressed’ to find the noble in others, it also follows that we will lack finding it in ourselves as well. — BB.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Bill –
      I agree: if I am unaware of my personal nobility, I am hard pressed to see it in others.
      kinda-like – you need to love others as yourself – which precludes that one first love his/herself.
      As always, thanks for your faithful conversation here.

  2. Avatar
    Gwen McGrenere

    It is ‘wonder-full’ that Matthew can channel his readers directly to the prophetic persona, Meister Eckhardt. It is as if Eckhardt was/is present in the here and now.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      This ability to share these important historic teachers, make Matt’s presence so incredibly important for me, and I know others. This ability to be “in conversation” with Ancestors – as he demonstrates in books by dialoguing with them, makes them and their ideas, their minds, come alive for us.
      Thanks for your comment, Gwen.

  3. Avatar

    Liturgy is Life…and Life is Liturgy. If we don’t see this is true, we don’t give each its due.
    A lesson learned from a Liturgy Course taken at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA in the 60’s. (Sadly the school is no longer there.)

  4. Avatar

    Yes Matthew, thank you again along with all mystics, saints, and prophets of all genuine spiritual traditions for exemplifying and reminding all of us as unique human beings of our Divine Nature and Birth on our eternal spiritual journeys with one another in our sacred and beautiful Mother Earth, and within our sacred multi-dimensional-multiverse Living Cosmos of our co-Creator~Source’s Loving Evolving Diverse Oneness….

  5. Avatar

    Not only did Eckhart preach in the peasant’s language of early German, but he taught many of the secrets of mysticism (i.e. Neoplatonic/universal), which were traditionally limited to hints and tidbits for the “commoners” and the rest safely contained in Latin for the elite (male church monasteries). Freely sharing his own mystical discoveries, he started tearing down many boundaries: class, gender, and dualistic God/Self/self distinctions. And he did it boldly, with an exuberant flair for catchy phrasing. (He would have made a great advertising writer if he were alive today).
    But he was breaking the rules and wording his mysticism in dangerously provocative ways — transgressing not only church doctrine but also the traditional guidelines among mystics themselves for how to “correctly” word their revelations. He was conveying the most extremely non-dualistic experiences, but he was speaking to very untrained, dualistic/egoic-minded audiences who could — and DID — sometimes take his words very incorrectly.

    Eckhart was condemned by the Inquisition because he broke too many BIG rules, especially when preaching to peasants. Had he kept his mysticism in Latin and only shared it with fellow male clergy, maybe he wouldn’t have been condemned — but also maybe we wouldn’t have heard about him.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Your comment is packed with the realization of the power of our choices….and the fact, that we have no way of knowing the impact one may have on generations to come. Generations of Generosity!

  6. Avatar

    Of late, I have experienced generosity shared by the most humble and simple people via my Tenants Union. People who are in housing crises are coming together and sharing the little that they have. But together, they can create quite a feast for a large crowd. And together, the sting of the landlords’ injustices is soothed by the unity and kindness of a smile, a nod, a listening ear, a translator who connects people separated by languages. I get my strength from being among them. They inspire me. They are truly noble.

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