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Sermon on the Coming of the Lord | sermo de adventu domini

British Library MS Additional 18856 f. 3 [Public Domain]

Introduction to the Text

Meister Eckhart was born around 1260 in Tambach (Thuringia) and died in Avignon in 1328 while awaiting a trial in which he was expected to defend himself before the papal commission against the teaching of heretical doctrines. This meant that Eckhart did not have to witness the condemnation of 28 sentences from his wide corpus of writings in the papal bull In agro dominico on March 27th 1329.

Eckhart wrote in both Latin and vernacular German and was likely still a young man when he entered a Dominican monastery in the Erfurt region. Although the result of Eckhart’s trial in Avignon caused problems for the reception of his teachings, his writing proved highly influential for generations to come, both inside the Dominican order and beyond.

Introduction to Source

The present sermon is transmitted in full in three manuscripts and appears in two further codices in fragmentary form. The present text is based on the fourth sermon transmitted in the collection Paradisus anime intelligentis, originally transmitted under the vernacular title paradis der fornuftigen sele. The Paradisus anime intelligentis is a thoughtfully-arranged collection of 64 sermons in Middle High German, half of which were written by Eckhart. All but one were written by Dominican preachers from the Erfurt region.

The compiler of the Paradisus remains unknown, but was probably a Dominican preacher from the region of Thuringia (in the center of what is now Germany). It was most likely compiled in the middle of the fourteenth century and may have been intended to commemorate the golden age of the Dominican monastery in Erfurt. The Paradisus is thus a unique object for scholarly analysis in that its collection of Eckhart texts can serve as evidence of early Eckhart reception. Three complete codices transmit the Paradisus collection. An edition, based on the Oxford codex, has been produced by Philipp Strauch. Recent comparative studies have demonstrated that the Eckhart sermons in the collection have often been slightly shortened and modified, possibly to fit better into the editorial agenda of the unknown compiler.

The Paradisus contains an index to the 64 sermons. Each entry includes a title, the name of the author to whom the sermon is attributed, and a concise summary of its content or main argument. The index entry for this sermon reads: “In that time, the angel Gabriel was sent by God. In this sermon Meister Eckhart the Elder proves, both with arguments and with similes, that God is born in the soul and that the soul is born in God.”

The Latin verse that introduces the text is Luke 1:26-28. The sermon follows the form of a homily: after an introductory paragraph summarizing the main argument of the sermon, Eckhart explains in detail each part of the Biblical verse. The sermon deals with the birth of God in the innermost part of the soul, i.e. in man’s reason.

Further Reading

Flasch, Kurt: Meister Eckhart: Philosopher of Christianity. Transl. by Anne Schindel and Aaron Vanides. New Haven: Yale University Press: 2015.

Hackett, Jeremiah M. A Companion to Meister Eckhart. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

McGinn, Bernhard. The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart: The Man from God Hid Nothing. New York: Crossroads, 2001.

Mojsisch, Burkhard. Meister Eckhart: Analogy, Univocity, and Unity. Transl. with a preface and an appendix by Orrin F. Summerell. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: B. R. Grüner, 2001.

Tobin, Frank. Meister Eckhart: Thought and Language. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986. 

Credits

Translation by Patric di Dio di Marco, Björn Buschbeck, Robert Forke, Mae Lyons-Penner and Kathryn StarkeyEncoded in TEI P5 XML by Jordan Rosen-Kaplan and Mae Lyons-Penner