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These are the talks of instruction that the Vicar of Thuringen, the prior of Erfurt, Brother Eckhart of the preaching order held with some of his spiritual children, who asked him about many things as they sat together at collation
True and perfect obedience is a virtue above all virtues. No great work can be accomplished without it; nor can there be any task, however small or insignificant, which will not be done to better purpose in obedience, whether it be hearing or reading the Mass, or prayer, or contemplation, or whatever. Take any project you please, however trifling; it is improved and exalted by obedience. Obedience brings out the best of everything; it never fails or errs in any matter; and no matter what you do, if you do it in true obedience, it will not miss being good.
Obedience has no cares; it lacks no blessing. Being obedient, if a man purifies himself, God will come into him in course; for when he has no will of his own, then God will command for him what God would command for himself. When I give my will up to the care of my prelate, and have no will of my own, God must will for me; for if he were to neglect me, he would be neglecting himself. So it is with everything: where I do not choose for myself, God chooses for me.
What will He choose for me? That I shall not choose for myself. When I deny myself, his will for me is identical with his will for himself, just as if it were for him alone; and if he did not so behave, then by the truth that God is, he would not be just, nor would he be what it ishis nature to be. You will never hear an obedient person saying: "I want it so and so; I must have this or that. " You will hear only of utter denial of self. Therefore, in the best prayer that man may offer, he will not say: "Give me virtue or a way," nor "Yea, Lord, give me thyself or life eternal," but only "Lord, give me nothing but what thou wilt and dost -- Lord, what and how thou wilt in every detail!" This exceeds the first prayer as heaven the earth; and when one has achieved it, he has prayed well. He has g iven up to God in true obedience and just as there is no "I want this in true obedience, so he will never De heard saying "I will not"; for "I will not" is the bane of obedience. According to St. Augustine, the true servant of God will not be pleased when someone gives him or says to him what he would like to see or hear; his first and chief care is what pleases God most.
The strongest prayer, one well-nigh almighty in what it can effect, and the most exalted work a man can do proceed from a pure heart. The more pure it is, the more powerful, and the more exalted, useful, laudable and perfect is its prayer and work. A pure heart is capable of anything.
What is a pure heart?
A pure heart is one that is unencumbered, unworried, uncommitted, and which does not want its own way about anything but which, rather, is submerged in the loving will of God, having denied self. Let a job be ever so inconsiderable, it will be raised in effectiveness and dimension by a pure heart.
We ought so to pray that every member and faculty, eyes, ears, mouth, heart, and the senses shall be directed to this end and never to cease prayer until we attain unity with him to whom our prayers and attention are directed, namely, God.
People say: "Alas, sit, but I would prefer to stand well with God, to have the devotion and divine calm of some people," or "I wish I could be like this or as poor as that." Or they say: "It will never do if I cannot be here or there and do thus and so. I must get away-or go into a cloister or a cell."
The truth is that you yourself ate at fault in all this and no one else. It is pure self-will. Whether you realize it or not, there can be no restlessness unless it come from self-will, although not every person understands this. This is what I I mean: people fly from this to seek that-these places, these people, these manners, those purposes, that activity-but they should not blame ways or things for thwarting them. When you are thwarted, it is your own attitude that is out of order.
Begin, therefore, first with self and forget yourself! If you do not first get away from self, then whatever else you get away from you will still find obstacles and restlessness. People look in vain for peace, who seek it in the world outside, in places, people, ways, activities, or in world-flight, poverty and humiliation, whatever the avenue or degree; for there is no peace this way. They are looking in the wrong direction, and the longer they look the less they find what they are looking for. They go along like someone who has missed his road; the farther they go the more they are astray.
What, then, is to be done?
Let everyone begin by denying self and in so doing he will have denied all else. Indeed, if a man gave up a kingdom, or even the whole world and still was selfish, he would have given up nothing. If, however, he denies himself, then whatever he keeps, be it wealth, honor, or anything else, he is free from it all.Meister Eckhart. Copyright © by Meister Eckhart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.