Meister Eckhart was a medieval, Dominican theologian and mystic who stood trial as a heretic during the Inquisition. He died before his sentencing during a controversial tribunal. His reputation was not fully restored by the Vatican until 2010, after a lengthy behest from the Dominican order. Despite the taint of unorthodoxy from this murky past, Eckhart’s writing–especially in this highly accessible translation by C.M. Vega–is spiritually rich and inspiring. The theological language is penetrating in a way that reminds me of reading Thomas A Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. It is a brief and profound meditative journey into the soul, where we find Christ, our savior.
For example, consider the question of why our sins must be purged before we may reside in eternity with the Lord. So often, such discussions gravitate toward a focus on punishment for wrong-doing or the need for good works in order to enter Heaven. Instead, Eckhart reminds the reader of the purity of Heaven. Worldliness simply cannot coexist with its perfection. He writes, “Understand this! Heaven receives nothing foreign to it. Nothing may attack it and throw it off course. And so in order for the soul to recognize God and be strengthened and confirmed by God, she must not be affected by anything—neither hope, nor fear, nor joy, nor sorrow, no love, nor pain, nor any other thing that could make her dismayed” (location 48).
These words remind the reader that surrender to Christ and the battle of wills it demands is a matter of spiritual physics. Our Creator sent us a savior so that we may be cleansed for life in the Kingdom. Judgment is not a legal verdict on our behavior, but a return to the Creator His creatures, who have been perfected by His grace.
According to Eckhart, this perfection takes place in our souls. He proclaims, “The soul has been created for such greatness and such majesty that she can never rest and will be perpetually unhappy until she passes beyond all things into the eternal goodness that is God, and for which she was made” (location 123).
When the language of the contemplative is deftly translated, the poetic beauty of God’s promise speaks and lifts the reader with joy. Discipleship is not an unbearable burden, but instead our destiny. I felt this way after reading The Imitation of Christ for the first time, and I feel this way after reading Vega’s translation of Meister Eckhart.