I was working on a new section of the Meister Eckhart site, selecting and translating Eckhart’s Sayings , when the Forum‘s robot notified me that a new message has arrived. This message is the cause of the post that follows. Here is what I had been translating at the time for the Eckhart site: “It is much more necessary for Him to give than for us to receive, but we must not try for that [i. e. to receive], because the less we try or wish for it, the more God gives.”
St Maximus Confessor says “Blessed he who has understood truly that God Himself inside us, as in instruments, acts all deeds and all divine thinking (theoria), … without us contributing anything whatever, except for the disposition to the goods.” He who tries and puts a great effort, is also obliged to judge the effort and to justify or condemn himself. If to try-not-to-try would be also a trying and an effort, then some kind of madness must exist in the essence of a right action in order for it to be right. But, what kind of madness is not falsity and nightmare?
“The great goods”, Plato says, “happen to us through that madness which is granted to us by a divine giving”. St Gregory of Nyssa calls this giving a “sober drunkenness”. It is a going-out of ourselves in the desire to be close to Him. Platonic madness, divine share and sober drunkenness belong to “him who has stood in front of God (see Luke 1.19). This is what happens to the person that is becoming godlike, and this has two sides, a positive, when it is fulfilled, and a negative, when a person is sad because he has lost his contact and closeness with God.
St. Gregory of Nyssa says about the ‘negative’ side, that “God stays away not because He has abandoned us, but in order to free us from anything else and then bring us even closer to Himself”.
St Siluan the Athonite says that “all this war happens for humility. The enemies [i. e. demons] fell because of their pride, and they push also us to the loss through the same way. … Some people have grown old in ascesis [monastic life], and yet they have not learned humility and they can not understand why they lack peace and their soul is sad”.
St Makarius the Great advises, “when someone is in trouble and is sad among tempests of passions, he needs not to put himself to despair, because this way sin gets even thicker and enters even deeper, while, when one has always the hope of God, somehow evil gets thinner and leaves like water”.
“Grief knocks at the heaven”, says St. John of the Divine Ladder.
In humility the sword that guards the door of Heaven turns, and ascesis becomes katharsis: “then he rests, blissfully modest, because that which he desired, the Heavenly, embraces him by itself, easily…”, as Hoelderlin describes it.