In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Zechariah was standing in the holiest place on earth: in the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Temple. Standing there he began to look for an explanation of the message just given to him. But in the same instant he was struck dumb. Rightly so! The Holy of Holies is no place for explanations. Today we are still looking for explanations of everything in our religion, sometimes even reducing the whole thing to an explanation. For many teachers in the Church, you feel, the Holy of Holies is lined with books. The Holy of Holies in the Temple was empty in the time of Jesus, and this has always been a potent symbol of contemplation. But we fill the place with words, and when we have finished all our explanations there is no mystery left, no enchantment, no fascination…nothing but words. Why aren’t we struck dumb?
Meister Eckhart, like many others, is called a mystic. The word means ‘one who is silent’. Yet all these people had a lot to say! No doubt there have been many genuine mystics who seldom if ever spoke about their knowledge of God. But what all mystics have in common is a profound awareness that the mystery is deeper than their words. Underneath all their words is a great silence. Eckhart had a gift for removing names and labels from familiar things and allowing them to be mysterious again. Let’s hear something from him on this familiar reading.
“If anyone were to ask me, Why…did God become incarnate? – I would answer: in order that God may be born in the soul and the soul be born in God. It was for that reason that all the scriptures were written, for that reason that God created the world and all angelic natures: so that God may be born in the soul and the soul be born in God…. The soul has no name. Just as no one can find a true name for God, so none can find the soul's true name, although mighty tomes have been written about this….”
For all his words, he was dumb. His experience of God had struck him dumb, like Zechariah in the Holy of Holies.
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