Meister Eckhart’s “Rapid River that Divinizes Us”

We ended yesterday’s DM about Joy, Courage and Generosity as signs of holiness with reference to Meister Eckhart’s amazing sermon on “The Holy Spirit, Like a Rapid River, Divinizes Us.”  Let us explore that sermon more today.

The Seine, rolling past Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo by Philippe D. on Unsplash

Eckhart first cites Psalm 46:4: “There is a river whose streams refresh the city of God, and it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High.”  Then he offers another translation of the same psalm: This “rapid or quick-flowing river has caused the city of God to rejoice.”

He tells us to pay attention to what this ‘city’ is.  In a spiritual meaning, it is the soul.  A ‘city’ means a civium unitas (‘a unity of the citizens’).  This means a city that is secure on the outside and united within as the ‘unity of its citizens.’  So also should the soul be into which God is to flow.

Saint John says that from all of those who have a faith enlivened by divine love and who prove it by their good works ‘living waters will flow’ (cf. Jn. 7:38).  In this way he wished to point to the Holy Spirit. 

The Spirit flows just as completely into the soul as the soul empties itself in humility and expands itself to receive him.

United by the flame of the Spirit: “Pentecost.” Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I am certain of this: If my soul were as ready and if God should find as much space in it as in the soul of our Lord Jesus Christ, he would just as completely fill it with this ‘river.’  For the Holy Spirit cannot keep from flowing into every place where he finds space and he flows just as  extensively as the space he finds there.

Eckhart tells us that the soul is to receive the divine river’ that fills it and causes it to rejoice.  Saint John writes that the Apostles were gathered together and enclosed when they received the Holy Spirit.  

We need to be gathered together and enclosed also and that is the work of meditation, contemplation and the via negativa. 

For God leads his bride, that is, the soul…to a solitary desert and not himself, and he himself speaks in the soul’s heart….For this noble deed the soul has to gather and close itself up.  

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Sermon 26: The Holy Spirit, Like a Rapid River, Divinizes Us,” in Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 363-365.

Banner Image: A rushing river. Photo by Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.

Queries for Contemplation

In this time of Lent and of loss, is it useful to hear how emptying makes room for Spirit and for joy and invites them in?

Recommended Reading

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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10 thoughts on “Meister Eckhart’s “Rapid River that Divinizes Us””

  1. Avatar

    “How Do We Empty? – Forgive and Move On” –

    The following comment was written for another meditation but applies here as well.

    There is a stillness and peacefulness that we can curate within ourselves. Do we know how ‘valued’ this is and can be, as we see others suffering their tortured thoughts with control tendencies, compulsions, addictions and very little relief or respite for themselves. We must let go of hatred, grudges, revenge, envy, divisiveness and allow others to ‘be their be’ as we desire to focus our thoughts and energy to ‘be our be’, which is our spiritual liberty. Just take the time, just take the time, to forgive and move on with the journey of our own making and not allow our misguided thoughts of others to diminish our peace and joy. We also need to give others boundaries on when, where and how much time they can impose themselves upon us. My university football coach would say, “Misery likes company”, so avoid, when possible, those who look to poison your mind and drag you down to their level.

  2. Avatar

    “God leads the soul, to a solitary dessert, and there speaks to the heart of one’s soul”… for this to unfold, evolve and emerge, one must converge with and allow oneself to be gathered and enclosed… in the living essence and presence of God found there within… within oneself and within the all and the everything of creation. Meditation and contemplation in its various forms, which for myself also includes the processes of intuitive art, ritual and ceremony… become the pathways to experiencing and encountering this spiritual reality.

    What I found thought provoking in today’s DM, was Matthew’s reference to the Via Negativa only, in the second to last paragraph of todays message, with regards to this work of meditation and contemplation. Why was the Via Positiva, the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa not included. Was it because the theme of the DM’s are focused on the Season of Lent? Or does one only enter into these four pathways of Creation Spirituality, beginning always with the Via Negativa first, then circling around to the others? Perhaps Matthew, you would be willing to clarify and expand on this for me, as doing so would be much appreciated.

  3. Avatar

    This was divinely appropriate to me this morning as I endure the passing of my bride of 63 years last evening. Flow on great river.

    1. Avatar

      Blessings on you and your wife, Patrick. And Gratitude for those 63 years together. Peace and grace to you both. May being and grace flow on (Eckhart: “in death, life dies but being goes on”).

  4. Avatar

    Dear Patrick I pray that the Holy Spirit will gather you with your beloved wife in this river of deep love and the Light and Joy found in the Presence of the Spirit will live on in you as it flows through your body and soul. May the Holy Spirit be with you in Peace and unending love.

  5. Avatar

    Meister Eckhart taught mysticism. Everything he spoke about was within that context.
    He used the idea of “emptying”, paired with “humility,” as essential virtues or states of a “properly spiritualized” Christian life. By “emptying,” he meant “detachment” i.e., not controlled by/centered in the ego-self, and living instead by God’s will. That’s within a larger context of several other essential practices and attitudes/mindframes that Eckhart defined as living closer to God (all within a mystical Path).

    And “enclosing,” other than as a metaphor for “interiority” in prayer/meditation or in gathering for worship, would not be a correct OVERALL mystical/spiritual Practice. Eckhart insisted, correctly, that people must find God within/through everyday experiences. The Mystical Path, and God, are deeply interwoven with every moment of life.

    Both the Path AND the Mystical Revelation itself are all about radically humble receptivity and complete wide-lens-openness to all that God is giving, with nothing of your ego/false self/personal unworthy wishes taking up space in you (pushing back at God, so to speak) or of its creation of any conceptual boundaries (through fear or ego), and thereby making way for the (eternally-potential-through Grace) Totality of God/One to flow in, unimpeded and “unmixed” with any residual ego/intellect-self.

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