Sixth Day of Christmas - December 31

Day 6 Xmas


Meister Eckhart’s

Christmastide in Bremen Town

Beginning in the Year of Our Lord 1303




Introducing Meister Eckhart

The stories I tell these next two days will be challenging. First they are longer than most of my tales, and also complex in their structure.  So begin them only if you have some quiet and are not rushed. If you rush to read them, you will lose your way…


But the biggest challenge will be Meister Eckhart himself. He was a 14th Century mystic and philosopher, a Dominican Friar whose unconventional preaching and teaching led to his being investigated by The Inquisition… that dreaded word in the history of Christianity.  Today, he is both highly respected by many, and still under suspicion by others.  So, I invite you to enter into these two tales and make your own judgement.


If you do not know Meister Eckhart, I recommend two books:  Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings, edited by Oliver Davies. Excellent introduction. Identifies the major themes: Oneness, Creation, Birth of God in the Soul, The Ground of the Soul, and Detachment.


The Way of Paradox: Spiritual Life as Taught by Meister Eckhart, by Cyprian Smith.  Best and most clear explanation of Eckhart I have ever read.  Wonderful! 


This first tale — “Klaus the Pirate” — explores Meister Eckhart as a creative and controversial preacher.  The second tale — “Femke the Runaway" as a compassionate spiritual director. 


— Robert Béla Wilhelm



The Brementown Christmas Market Today 

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One of the most festive Christmas markets in Germany can be found in Bremen… or Brementown as it is called in the famous children’s story of The Brementown Musicians.  


Over the past year I have been searching for ways to tell the story of the German mystic Meister Eckhart. He was controversial as a preacher, a teacher, and a philosopher. And I have learned much from his wisdom.  But who is the fascinating person behind the scholar?  Little is known of his personal life, but enough to suggest that he may have written four of his best sermons in a place like Bremen over the Christmas season of 1303-1304.


In my search to see the face of Eckhart, and not just the printed words of his sermons, I have explored medieval Bremen in my mind’s eye over many months this year. And one of the clues I found — a crucial and playful teaching metaphor — was the old folktale of the Bremertown Musicians. 

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The story is mine, but the teachings are his. 


Suppose Meister Eckhart knew the tale of the Donkey, the Dog, the Cat, and the Cock, and adapted it for one of his Christmas sermons?  “Outrageous to think that”, the scholars would cry.  


But suppose… Just suppose… What would have happened if someone as brilliant and playful as the Meister decided to be outrageous with a storytelling sermon?  

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