Birth of Christ in the Soul

Girl in sunset

We have been talking in the last few weeks about the fact that serious practice of meditation, contemplative prayer, leads us gradually into deep interior silence, where we become aware of the presence of Christ within us. On this Christmas Day I would like to share with you Meister Eckhart’s teaching on this growing intuitive awareness, which he called the ‘Birth of Christ in the Soul’.

Meister Eckhart supports the view of the early Church Fathers that we can ‘know’ God because we have something essential in common with the Divine, which he calls ‘the spark’, ‘the castle’ or sometimes the ‘ground’ of our being. He feels that we are able to ‘descend’ to this ‘ground’ of our pure being and become aware of its true Divine nature. Thus we are transformed into Christ, ascending with Him to God in this life. He calls the moment of realization of our potentiality to know God ‘the birth of Christ in the soul’. He shares with St Augustine the primacy of this experience, who said: “What does it avail me that this birth of Christ is always happening if it does not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what matters.” An important sign of this potentiality is humanity’s deep longing for God implanted by the Divine in the ‘spark’ within the centre of our being.

He sees this ‘birth’ as a revelation. It will occur, if we “keep the mind fixed on God.” It is not a result of any effort on our part but a pure gift, a grace: “God alone must do it…. and you must undergo it.”

Like Origen and St Augustine he talks of the way of intuitive knowing, the way “by which God may be seen”, as “the eye of the heart”. He talks of “purely spiritual knowledge; therein the soul is rapt away from all bodily things. There we hear without any sound and see without matter…”

Our intuitive capacity to know God, our way of being able to have direct contact with the Divine Reality, is our Divine ‘spark’; but at the same time it is also the element that makes us truly human. It gives us the ability to see beyond the ordinary created world and our own needs and desires and look at others compassionately and at the same time truly appreciate creation as a manifestation of the Divine. 

Meister Eckhart does not at all deny the importance of our rational intelligence, which given his highly intellectual educational background and career is very understandable.  Although he feels God cannot be reached by reason, he considers our rational powers to be essential for clarifying our intuitive experience. He sees contemplation as a marriage of mind and heart. The urgency of his teaching is occasioned by his conviction of the necessity for everyone to become aware of this potentiality.

We meet this same urgency in the teaching of John Main. He constantly stresses that our faithful and longing repetition of our mantra will lead us to the Silence, where the gift, the grace of this deep insight into the true Divine nature of the ground of our being is given to us. “Nothing describes God as well as silence.”

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

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