Farewell Faithful Companion(As published in ‘The Link’)
The Companions in Christ group last met on 30th March to farewell our dear friend, the Rev’d John Payne, a faithful member of our group since its inception 11.5 years ago. As Meister Eckert was often quoted by John during the course of our discussions, we decided to find out more about this theologian who obviously had a deep influence on John’s own life and theology. Below is a brief summary of his life and some of the sayings which we found most interesting. Meister Eckart (1260‐1327) was a German theologian, mystic and philosopher who was educated in Cologne, and possibly Paris. He was a member of the Dominican order and lectured at the Dominican convent of St Jacques in Paris. He later became the Prior of the convent near his birthplace of Erfut in Germany, and was responsible for 47 convents in the Province of Saxony.
Eckart saw God in all things and his practical spiritual philosophy attracted many people to his teaching. Eckart’s greatest passion was for preaching. He used simple language which appealed to the common people. Eckart stressed the spiritual connection between the soul of humanity and God: “The Eye with which I see God is the same Eye with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye is one eye and one sight and one knowledge and one love.” Eckart taught the importance of stilling the mind to be receptive to God’s presence: “To the quiet mind all things are possible. What is a quiet mind? A quiet mind is one which nothing weights on, nothing worries, which, free from ties and from all self‐ seeking, is wholly merged into the will of God and dead to its own.” He believed that in order to become closer to God one needed to be detached from earthly distractions: “To be full of things is to be empty of God; to be empty of things is to be full of God.” Eckart saw God’s presence in all living things: “We shall find God in everything alike and always find God alike in everything.” In order to overcome our innate selfishness Eckart encouraged his followers to devote themselves to serving others.
However, as Eckart’s teachings became increasingly popular, some church authorities became concerned that his popular teachings could lead his simple followers astray. In 1326 Eckart was charged with heresy. Eckart protested his innocence on the grounds that he was simply instructing ordinary people about Christ’s teachings: “The ignorant are taught in the hope of changing them from ignorant to enlightened people.” A papal bull, issued in March 1329, found Eckart guilty of teaching a number of heretical teachings but stated that before his death he recanted of all of these. Eckart died in January 1328, before the tribunals set up by the Pope could reach a verdict.
Some of Eckart’s Sayings:
- People should not worry as much about what they do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous. We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works.
- Be sure of this: absolute stillness for as long as possible is best of all for you. [German sermon 4, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
- You should know that God must act and pour Himself into the moment He finds you ready. [German sermon 4, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
- Whoever possesses God in their being, has him in a divine manner, and he shines out to them in all things; for them all things taste of God and in all things it is God’s image that they see. [German sermon 10, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
- If you seek God and seek Him for your own profit and bliss, then in truth you are not seeking God. [German sermon 11, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
© 2016 Eckhart Society ‐http://www.eckhartsociety.org/eckhart/some‐eckharts‐sayings
John’s life and ministry reflected many of Meister Eckart’s teachings. He was a humble, forgiving, generous and compassionate man who saw God’s hand at work in humanity and in the natural world. John had a great affinity with the lonely, elderly and those with mental health issues and his ministry to the people of Bucklands and The Pines was faithful and diligent. His services there are still greatly missed, and residents and staff often remark on his “down to earth” ministry and sense of humour. John’s preaching, although not always straightforward, was based on practical theology and often illustrated honestly with incidents from his own spiritual journey and the inevitable quotations from Meister Eckart’s Sayings.
Farewell, John. We will miss your wisdom (and that of Meister Eckart) and our meetings will certainly not be the same without your unique sense of humour.