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Accueil > Ocidente > Medievo e Renascença > Maître Eckhart (1260-1327) > Eckhart : Sermon IV

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Eckhart : Sermon IV

Omne datum optimun et omne donum.

jeudi 11 octobre 2007

Sermon 4 - Omne datum optimun et omne donum. Perfectum desursum est. Jacobi I


Omne datum optimum et omne donum perfectum descendit a patre luminum (Jac. 117).

My Latin quotation is from the Epistle of St James. He says, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above from the Father of lights. With him is no variableness nor shadow of time (or, temporal [105] reflection).’ These two terms he uses, good gift and perfect gift, refer to different things, so our masters say. Datum befalls in time ; donum has no thought of time. Datum is a matter? of self-seeking, but donum is free and unconditioned and wholly without why. A perfect gift is one betokening nothing but goodwill. The perfect gift is therefore free and unconditional. The perfect gift is a friendly offering, essentially a giving albeit not bestowed. According to our masters, gifts are perfect in so far as they are love-bearers ; but good gifts are like hucksters and have ever their price. In the words of one of the saints, ‘Blood of the Holy Ghost and its glow is in one sense eternal and in another temporal.’ If my face were eternal and were held before a mirror it would be received in the mirror as a temporal thing albeit eternal in itself. The Holy Ghost has its glow. The eternal glow of his eternal blood is the perfect gift ; when the soul is worthy and receives the same it turns to the good gift. Meaning to say that this gift which is temporal in us is in itself eternal. God would give us not only his good gift ; he is ready to bestow on us his perfect gift as well, to wit, the Holy Ghost itself. Hence his words, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above from the Father of lights.’

From another point of view he means, so it appears to me, that the Holy Ghost is the perfect gift only as working in the intellect. As proceeding forth in the practice of good works, albeit godly, or withal in thought, it becomcs good gift. It is the perfect gift so far as the soul is living in God, immanent in the light? and savour of God, hanging motionless in his perfect light-nature?. As St Paul says, ‘Ye shall taste the things that are above.’ The Holy Ghost is the Gift wherein ye abide in the perfection of light. The soul suspended in pure intellectual light is enjoying the things that are above. Our masters teach that corporeal things are called matter. We say, the light of intellect shuns matter, but albeit in itself wholly devoid of things it still has potentiality and that for matter. He says, ‘Taste the things that are above,’ not, that are above the earth. We have a saying, So far from matter so far pure intelligence. When in the light the grey tint of the cloth assails my eye, I see it. If it were intellect I should see nothing. Wc recognise another power as being far removed from matter. How so ? Suppose I saw a man twenty years ago, he may now be dead, but still I have a likeness of his form as though he stood before my eyes. This power needs no matter, but it has the imperfection of receiving from matter—in forms, that is to say. On the other hand, the light, intelligence, transcends what is already matter or is so potentially. While the soul abides in God, suspended in his [106] intellectual light she has no material objectivity nor likeness nor potentiality. He says, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from above from the Father of lights.’

What does he mean by calling it ‘good gift ? ’ Betwixt those things whose being-and-doing is in eternity and the things whose being and doing are in time there needs must be some middle term. He means that it is God, this thing whose being-and-doing is the perfect gift ; so the being-and-doing of the perfect gift is in eternity. But the being-and-doing of the good gift are in time ; which of course must mean that the soul is on the way to eternal life. Why does he promise both good and perfect gifts ? When God bestows the Holy Ghost itself, whose being-and-activity? is in eternity, that is his perfect gift which, peering forth in thought, is his good gift.

St Augustine says, and the masters too, the soul has some capacity which is open towards God and into which he alone can speak, whereas creature speaks into another. Into this highest power, which is addressed by God alone, he utters wisdom, which is his perfect gift. But the other one that creature speaks to is satisfied with reason. The same gift is perfcct, being timeless, and good as perfecting the things of time. What is temporal in us is eternal in God. Datum in us is donum in God. What is mixed and temporal and good in us becomes, if wc follow it up, perfect in God. What we are able to receive of him is infinitely small compared to what he is. Whatever else one may know one docs not know God.

He says, ‘he comes down from on high from the Father of lights.’ What does he mean ? The Son and the Holy Ghost have one source in the Father, and the Holy Ghost and the Son are one light and they are both of them lights. God is the Father of lights. St Augustine tells what the soul is tasting in God. He explains that in that food the tongue is savouring the invisible light ; he says the soul is not a thing of sensible appetites and pleasures ; she has a hidden energy and luminosity.

According to the masters, the angels are a light : God is the entire light, with whom is no change nor time nor turning. The nobler the creature the more akin to God. All creaturely being-and-doing is in time. But the angels, who are higher, are in essence timeless and without alteration in themselves. Their wonted activities in God are free from time, but in that they look down they have an aspect (or shadow) of time. But in none of his works has God any shadow of time nor of change. So far as there is no changing, no shadow in man, so far he compares with divinity. Creature has ever this and that, one thing and another ; but in God exists neither this nor that, neither one nor tother ; [107] and unless there be in us what two and two are, what is one plus other, the happenings within us remain just good and ill. There is no one or other with the Father of lights. May we be given every good gift and every perfect gift wherein we are exalted above time to the Father of lights with whom is no variableness nor temporal nature, So help us God. Amen.

Voir en ligne : SERMON IV