Nothing Is To Be Held

Nothing Is To Be Held September 6, 2019
wraithrune: Abyss Fire /pixabay

The abyss that is my soul invokes unceasingly
The abyss that is my God. Which may the deeper be?[1]

We cry out day and night, suffering with poverty of spirit. Where is God? Why do we feel so empty? But is that the foundation of blessedness, to be poor in spirit? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3 RSV). It’s because we try to possess God, to hold onto him, that he falls out of our hands. Only when we recognize the need to open up, to detach ourselves from all things, shall we find what we are looking for. Then we will see and understand how spiritual poverty leads to beatitude. For the first thing spiritual poverty will not notice is its own spiritual poverty: those who are attached to it are rich in themselves.

In the abyss of the soul, in the soul which is unattached to all things, we are able to experience the kingdom of God. We will encounter God in the greatness of that abyss: in the abyss of the soul, we find the abyss which is God awaiting us, the abyss which transcends our own abyss as God transcends us.

We can meet God in his abyss, in the self-emptying kenosis of the Son, but to do that, we must enter our own abyss, to truly become poor in spirit so that we can receive the fullness of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God which is revealed and established in the death and resurrection of Christ. Only those who lower themselves, who become the least among all, can truly become perfect and see God, for only in their emptiness, in accepting the nothingness from within, are they truly free. We put on Christ by dying to the self, so that we can then find ourselves within Christ, as Eckhart said: “By putting self aside, a person puts inside himself Christ, God, happiness, and holiness.”[2]

We are to Christ within, to give birth to him spiritually. To do this, we must make room for him; only by completely divesting ourselves from all that is not Christ can Christ come in and be born in us. Only when we turn away from all things based upon their appearances, as if they exist as independent things apart from God, can we find Christ being born again within us, and in that birth, all things will flow: for Christ, the Logos, who was in the beginning with God and is God, emptied itself of all things in the act of creation and in the incarnation in order to give all things their true self.

We must want God, and nothing but God: that means, we must not want nothing of ourselves, including and especially our thoughts on God. When we rely upon our thoughts, trying to establish God in and through them, and reason out a faith in that God, all we do is create a phantom which will vanish as easily as our thoughts:

A man ought not to have a God who is just a product of his thought, nor should he be satisfied with that, because if the thought vanished, God too would vanish. But one ought to have a God who is present, a God who is far above the notions of men and of all created things.[3]

Nothing is to be held. All things must vanish. Then we can truly be poor in spirit.  Then we can give birth to Christ. Then we shall see the kingdom of God, for where there is Christ, there we find the eschatological kingdom: the eschaton has become immanent, and continues to become immanent in all of us if we but make room for it. But if we try to hold on to our spiritual riches, if we think we have attained spiritual glory, and become attached to it, we shall find we were charlatans all along. For the kingdom of God is not found in such bounty but in the abyss, in the nothingness from which all things are able to flow.

Tauler, therefore, tells us about the abyss, about the poverty of the soul, and how in it we find the kingdom of God:

In the abyss the soul loses itself so deeply, so unfathomably, that it becomes forgetful of its own being, unaware of word or concept, feeling or perception, knowledge or love. There is but the pure simplicity of God, an unfathomable abyss, a being, a spirit. Now God grants the soul by grace that which He is by nature, uniting it with His nameless, unchartered, wayless Being. Here everything that is done in the soul God Himself performs: acting, knowing, loving, praising, enjoying. And the soul lets it be, in a divine passivity. To speak of the soul and how it fares is impossible as to conceive or express the divine Essence itself, for it is too lofted for the created intellect of both man and Angel, be it by nature or by grace. [4]

By emptying the self from all things, by holding no attachments, even to itself, true poverty of spirit is attained, and in it, the grace which allows us to participate in the great abyss of God. The kingdom of God, the uncreated energies of God, heaven – so long as we try to possess them, we shall not have them, but when we discard all things from us, then we shall find ourselves with them, participating in the abyss of God, and so enjoying the bliss of the kingdom in the transcendent silence of the soul. We shall have nothing, so there will be nothing to confuse us, nothing to hinder us, nothing to distract us; we will be with God, enjoying the divine life which God shares with us, so that we can be said to have sunk into the very heart of God, where love abounds.

Who is he as he were naught and never had been naught,
He, O Beatitude, has wholly become God.[5]

[1] Angelus Silesius, The Cherubinic Wanderer. Trans. Maria Shrady (New York: Paulist Press, 1986), 42.

[2] Meister Eckhart, “Sermon 24” in Meister Eckhart: Teacher and Preacher. Trans. Frank Tobin and Elvira Borgstadt (New York: Paulist Press, 1986), 284.

[3] Meister Eckhart, “Councils on Discernment” in Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises and Defense. Trans. Edmund College, OSA and Bernard McGinn (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), 253.

[4] Johannes Tauler, “Sermons 26” in Sermons. Trans. Maria Shrady (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), 97.

[5] Angelus Silesius, The Cherubinic Wanderer, 43.


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