Markus Vinzent's Blog

Friday, 22 April 2011

Meister Eckhart, On the Lord's Prayer

In the following you will find my own English translation of Meister Eckhart, On the Lord's Prayer - a fascinating text by the master. I will publish the full introduction, edition, translation and commentary of this text as Meister Eckhart, On the Lord's Prayer in the series Eckhart: Texts and Studies, 2 (Peeters, Leuven) in 2011.

Here the draft translation which still needs some refinements:

Meister Eckhart, On the Lord's Prayer
[n. 1] Our Father
Before [we begin] with the Lord’s Prayer two notes,
a first one solely because We sit idle waiting for the Divine, He [the Lord] advises Us to ask and to pray.

A second He commends His love for Us; because We are so far away (Luke 15:20), He calls Us back and excites Us.

A third note, His goodness; He is so good that it is necessary to give of Himself.

Fourth, it is to note that nothing temporal We should ask for from God:
First, because the Lord’s Prayer itself does not contain anything like this.
Second, how could we ask for something that He whom we ask, teaches everywhere to disregard?
Third, because it would not suit God who is eternal to give this.
Fourth, because the temporal things especially in compari-son with eternal ones are nothing, and to pray for nothing is not to pray at all.

[n. 2] Father
Note first a point made by Chrysostom that God wishes more to be loved than to be feared, that is why He said Our Father, not ‘our Lord’;

second, to know that He gave us power to become sons of God (John 1:12);

third, in consequence, that if [We are] sons, then heirs (Rom. 8:17);

fourth, who has said Father, through this one address has confessed the remission of sins as well as the adoption, inheritance and brotherhood of sons with the Only born, as well as the generosity of the Spirit;

fifth, to love the honour of God and grieve over everything which op-poses it, wherever it occurs, just as sons of their father;

sixth, that He gives Us trust to achieving it; because fathers use to listen to their sons according to the word: Ask and You will receive (John 16:24), and again: Everything that You ask for when You pray, trust and so forth (Marc 11:24).

[n. 3] Our
First note: He does not say ‘My’, because prayer pleases many, which love, not necessity elicits.

Second, as Jerome said, a speech is the more efficient the more communal it is.

Third, because He is not only ‘Mine’, ‘Yours’ or ‘everybody’s’ [Father], but because of Himself every fatherhood in heaven and on earth has received its name (Eph. 3:15).

Fourth, that We remember that everybody is Our brother and co heir (Rom. 8:17; Eph. 3:6), and that We love them as much, follow them to the same extent as one does with brothers, according to the saying: You are all brothers (Matth. 23:8).

[n. 4] Who is in heaven
First note that Chrysostom said: We should be ashamed that We place Ourselves wholly with earthly things when We know that We have a Father in heaven.

Second, from the first Collation of Abbas Isaac that We should avoid the present life that, full of horror, We live on earth, because it separates Us by a great distance from Our Father, as the Psalm says: How miserable I am, because My life lasts for so long (Ps. 119:5).

Third, from the same (Collation) that, full of desire, We should hasten towards that region in which We confess to have a Father, as the Psalm (Ps. 137:1) says: By the rivers of Babylon ...

Fourth, from the same (Collation) that We admit nothing that can make Us loose the heritage and nobility of such dignity.

Fifth, mention that this has been said for Us to be heaven or rather heaven of heavens (1Kings 8:27), if We want that God be Father in Us.

Sixth, Chrysostom says in his homily: When He says in heaven, He does not say it in order to lock God up in there, but to lead the one who prays away from the earth and fix Him to the highest regions.

Seventh, Augustine says in his work On the Lord’s homily on the mount of beatitudes: In heaven means ‘in the holy and just men’. Because there is such a spiritual distance between just and sinners, as there is a physical one between heaven and earth.

Eighth, Augustine in the same place said again In heaven, so that the soul is reminded, to turn herself towards the more excellent nature, namely towards God, so that her earthly body will turn towards the more excellent body, namely towards the heavenly body.

Ninth, it is right that all Our senses, small and big, should think properly about God; hence, the opinion of those who yet cannot think of God as something non corporeal is easier to tolerate, if they think of God being in heaven rather than on earth.

[n. 5] May Your name be honoured, meaning that He is to be confessed that nothing is regarded as more holy by all.

Second, be honoured means be glorified, so that in everything We may offer Our total affection to the glory of Our Father, being witnesses that Our desire, Our joy are Our Father’s glory, because the one who desires the glory of the one who sent him is a truthful person, and there is no injustice in him (John 7:18). Thus, Paul wished to become separated from Christ Jesus (Rom. 9:3), so that towards the glory of the Father the wellbeing of the entire people of Israel grows. For he was determined to be destroyed for Christ knowing that nobody can die for life.

Third, as follows: May Your name be honoured, meaning form Us, Father, to be people who are worthy to know or to grasp the magnitude of Your glory.

Fourth, as follows: May Your name be honoured, meaning make Us to live, so that through Our familiar intercourse Your name be glorified and honoured: They can see Your good deeds and give honour to Your Father (Matth. 5:16).

Fifth, may Your name be honoured, meaning, We should be cleansed by continual sanctification from what we sin day by day, so that He be honoured, namely preserved as holy in Us.

Sixth, speak: May the name of God be honoured, when what We know of God is reflected in affection and effect.

Seventh, We pray, that knowing Him as holy, We fear Him and are eager and vigilant, not to violate the honour of His name in Us through evil deeds.

[n. 6] May Your kingdom come
Rightly, it was stated before may Your name be honoured, because according to Jerome it comes of high confidence, and of an unblemished conscience only, to wish for the kingdom of God and not to fear the judgement.

May Your kingdom come

First, that once the devil is driven out through the extinction of vices, God reigns in Us, or rather [He reigns] through the fragrance of virtues in the entire world.

Second, this is spoken of the future reign of which the following verse is said: Come, you who are blessed by my Father, perceive the kingdom (Matth. 25:34). Because the saint knows by the witness of his conscience that when the kingdom of God shall appear, he will participate in it.

He says, however, Your.

Because God is eternal, properly spirit (John 4:24; Dan. 6:26), His reign is not corporeal, temporal or alike, but more sublime.

Or second, He says Your, because the kingdom, namely power, wisdom, goodness, riches and honour of God, appears in the spirit, in eternity and alike.


[n. 7] May Your will be done as it is in heaven, so on earth
With regards to this petition we first have to note that according to Chrysostom the expression on earth as it is in heaven refers to the related earlier first and second petitions and the third one.

Second, that He does neither say, ‘honour’ nor ‘let Us honour’, nor does He say ‘bring forth Your kingdom’ nor ‘let Us receive Your kingdom’, nor does He say, again, ‘do’ nor ‘let Us do Your will’, but he states all of this in passive form: May it be honoured, may it come, may it be done. One has to note again that He does not say ‘Your name be honoured in Me’, nor ‘Your kingdom may come in Me’, nor ‘may Your will be done in Me’, but universally may it be honoured, may it come, may it be done, in order to teach Us that We pray for the entire world.

Third, one has to note that the third petition follows the second: Because He has taught Us to take up heavenly things by that which He said, may Your kingdom come, before We come to heaven He bids Us make this earth into heaven, saying may Your will be done as it is in heaven, so on earth: that error may cease, truth be planted, malice be banished, virtue return, and thus the earth will not differ at all from heaven.

This, now, is the first explanation of this third petition.

[n. 8] Second, mention that He wishes the earthly things should equal the heavenly ones, so that God’s will that is fulfilled by the angels in heaven, will also be fulfilled by all men on earth. This, however, is easy to pray for, if We believe that God is more concerned for Us than We Ourselves are.

Third, God’s will is Our salvation, according to that vers: He wants all people to be saved (1Tim. 2:4). We, therefore, pray to be saved or for salvation, when We say may Your will etc., so that like those who are saved in heaven, so also those who are on earth will be saved. For that reason it has been said before may Your kingdom come. Because as soon as this kingdom has come, be it now through grace or in the future through glory, God’s will will be done on earth as in heaven.

[n. 9] Fourth, as it is in heaven, meaning the just, so on earth, meaning the sinners.

Fifth, He prays that there will be retribution of good and bad people which will happen in the final judgement, the arrival of which He is praying for, so that the kingdom of God will come.

Sixth: heaven and earth are spirit and flesh. Hence, He prays that as reason, the spirit, obeys to God, so should the flesh obey to the spirit.

Seventh, as in Christ, so in the entire church.

Eighth, mention that He prays, as We perceive the kingdom of God already in reason, in the spirit, so on earth, namely in the body, glorified in the resurrection, may God’s will be done, namely the salvation of reason and body.

[n. 10] Give Us our daily bread today: the supersubstantial bread give Us today (Matth. 6:11); Luke 11 it is said: Give Us our daily bread today (Luke 11:3).

Chrysostom, too, uses this term daily in his Explanation of Matthew. He explains it, however, fourfold:

First, in the following way: Our bread, through which as daily [given bread] We are nourished daily, give Us today, so that without sinning We may prepare and eat it. Because God, of course, gives that what is eaten and received without sin and rightly. What, however, is badly [given bread], is, of course, not given by God, but derives from concupiscense or from the devil.

Second, in the following way: Our bread, namely the one that we already possess, give Us today, daily, namely honoured or safe or blessed; and to this Matthew’s rendering consonants: Our bread, namely the supersubstantial give Us today.

Third, in the following way: Our daily bread give Us, namely give Us daily for today, meaning for this one day, so that We do not waste today in one day what would have lasted Us for a hundred days or for hundred people in one day, but Our bread give Us today daily or daily today, meaning daily for today or for this day.

Fourth, in the following way: Our daily bread give Us today, meaning as much as is possible, because We do not wish to have more than the daily bread.

[n. 11] That, however, He says Our, Chrysostom explains in two ways in the text above on Matthew 6:

First, that We do not eat the bread that is given to Us on Our own, but together with others who are in need of it, so that nobody may say: ‘my bread given to me for me’, but Our as given to Me and others through Me and to Me because of others. In addition, also, because bread and everything necessary for this present life are given to Us and others, because of others and to others in Us. The one who does not give others what is somebody else’s, does not eat his own bread, but that of others, somebody else’s together with that which is his own.

Then, of course, when We eat the bread that We rightly received, then in any case We eat bread that is Ours; when, however, We received it unjustly and have committed a sin, then We don’t eat Our own bread, but an alien one. Because everything which one holds unjustly, is not Ours.

Our bread: or mention that We pray that He gives Us today the daily bread, namely the one for every day, so that We do not need to be concerned every day to have what is necessary for life; this is also hinted at by the Gospel of the Hebrews according to Jerome which We find in the Glosse to Matthew 6 as follows: ‘Our bread for tomorrow give Us today’.

[n. 12] Second, mention: Our daily bread give Us today, namely the one which We need daily, as said already above. Give Us daily, meaning at present or as long as We walk as pilgrims in the present time, or as We need the baked bread, as long as We are mortal and suffering people; to this the Glosse alludes from where already earlier on we have quoted the Collation of the Fathers [Cassian].

One has to note that the term ‘bread’ derives from that preeminent part which according to Augustine’s letter To Proba on Praying to God is the image for the sufficiency of the present life. ‘Who wishes to wish for the sufficiencies of life and no more, is not improper’, as he says there; in the same way the clothing with a tunic, too, is an image for sufficiency, where it is said: do not take an extra tunic (Luke 9:3).

[n. 13] Third, in the following way, that by the term bread is designated either the heavenly doctrine, or the inspiration or the illumination according to the verse: Man does not live by bread alone etc. (Luke 4:4; Matth. 4:4). That is why Luke put: Our supersubstantial bread which is God himself who nurishes always all and everything. Or, again, in another way, according to that verse John 6: I am the living bread that came down from heaven (John 6:51). Christ, insofar that he is God, nurishes, indeed, everything, until now, in the sacrament of his body, of which We ask to partake daily, saying Our bread etc.

We are fine, if We do not consume this sacrament every day; nevertheless We still are participants, if We are in love and are one body with those who do consume it, wherever they are. Again, it also applies to the apostles who travelled hither and thither teaching, so that they did not reserve anything for the next day.

[n. 14] In addition, also, note, that He does not ask Us to wish for money or delights, but for bread: Our daily bread give Us today. Justly, the disciple of Christ who prays that the kingdom of God may quickly come, needs to wish for food by the day, not to look for a long life in this world, when he says may Your kingdom come, according to the verse: How miserable I am, Lord, for I have lived etc. (here for too long) (Ps. 119,5f.) and, again, I have a desire to depart etc. (Phil. 1:23).

Or, mention: bread, the one of today, meaning the one in eternity that is always today, give Us, or substantial bread give Us today, meaning in eternity, therefore: today, I have conceived You (Ps. 2:7). Augustine writes towards the end of Confessions xi 6: ‘Your years are but one day, and your day is not a daily, but one of today, because your today does not yield to tomorrow, nor does it follow yesterday. Your today is eternity. Therefore, you conceived the coeternal, to whom you said, It was Me who conceived You, today (Ps. 2:7)’.

He asked Us to wish for the temporal things, to show against the Manichees that not solely the spiritual, but also the temporal things are by God, the first principle. Similarly, not the salted bread, not the delights. Similarly We should know that even the smallest good things are by God.

[n. 15] and forgive Us Our debts
Note, He lets Us know how to pray, teaches Us the virtues, removes anger and sorrow, the root of evil, the mode in which as praying people we can obtain what We have wished for and moderated the divine anger or judgement against Us, saying: forgive etc.

He says, however: Our debtors for two reasons:
First, because according to Chrysostom someone is to be lauded who has been personally injured, but endures it patiently, but to hide wrong doings towards God is utterly wicked.

Second, because many are willing to forgive injuries committed against a neighbour or even God, but they do not equally easily forgive injuries against themselves.

Third, note, if the prayer of someone who is offended, but does not forgive his debtor, is fruitless, what do you think of a prayer of the offender?

Fourth, note that some skip this clause as We Ourselves have forgiven. But these are foolish!
First, because the one who does not pray in the manner that Christ taught, is neither a Christian nor Christ’s disciple.

Second, because the Father does not readily hear any prayer which the Son has not dictated.

Third: Because the Father respects and supports not the words, but rather the intentions of the Son. Hence, You can pray, but You cannot deceive God.

[n. 16] In addition, also, with regards to this fifth petition forgive Us etc. there are four notes to add:

First, who has God as Father, should not plume Himself with the pretence of innocence, and perish more wretchedly through self exaltation, He is instructed that He commits sin every day by being commanded to daily beg saying forgive Us.

Second, is the paternal mercy of God commended to Us, because He who taught Us to pray for Our sins, has certainly promised Us mercy.

Third: He does not say ‘let Us forgive’, but as We have forgiven. Because God does not want to forgive, unless prior We have forgiven.

Fourth, one has to note that this petition does not urge Us to love Our enemies. Because God wants Us to forgive as He Himself has forgiven Us. He Himself, however, forgives Us, if We ask and pray for forgiveness. Therefore, it is sufficient, if We forgive those who ask and plea Us. Indeed, if one asks forgiveness of him against whom one has sinned, one is no more to be thought of as an enemy. Augustine, therefore, says in the Enchiridium, to love Our enemies, cannot be possessed by so great a number as We suppose to be heard in the use of this prayer, forgive Us, as We have forgiven.

Again, one has to note that in the first three petitions, where He was speaking of God’s things, He uses the singular: Your name, Your kingdom, Your will. In the other four He speaks in the plural: Our bread, Our debts, do not lead Us, deliver Us.

[n. 17] And do not lead Us into temptation, the sixth petition
First note that We do not pray not to be tempted. Because Job was tempted, Abraham and Joseph were tempted for the greater merit and the crown. But We pray, not to be lead into, not to be surrendered, like the one who would pray not that fire should not touch him, but not burn him.

Second, it is indicated that the enemy can nothing avail against Us, unless God first permits him, so that all Our fear and devotion ought to be addressed to God. From which follows, deliver Us from evil, namely do not allow that We are tried beyond what We are able to bear, but with the trial provide the way out so that We may be able to endure it (1Cor. 10:13).

Or in another way, when We say do not lead Us into temptation, We pray for perseverance in holyness. To here, however, We pray that God may not lead Us into temptation, although the blessed Jacob said: God is not tempted by evil (James 1:13), because according to Augustine’s On the good of perseverance for there is nothing done, but what God Himself either does, or allows to be done.

[n. 18] But deliver Us from evil, the seventh petition
First note: We pray that We may not be lead into evil, namely into sin, a crime that has not been committed yet, when We say do not lead Us etc.; now We pray to be delivered from evil, namely the sin that has already been committed.

Second mention: from evil means from the danger of temptation.

Third: from evil means from the devil who is called evil either because of his utter wickedness or because he is relentlessly fighting against Us.

Fourth: from evil means from praying for the wrong things, so that We do not ask or pray in a carnal or temporal way. Let one then be withheld by shame from praying for what one was not ashamed of desiring for. But if desire overcomes, he will do better to pray for deliverance from the evil of desire. Because You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly (James 4:3), wrongly, namely in a carnal and temporal way.

That is the end of the Lord’s Prayer.

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