Meister Eckhart vs. Columba

Our trek into saintly Quirks and Quotes continues with Meister Eckhart taking on Columba. To make it to the Saintly Sixteen Eckhart somehow managed to defeat Drogo, the patron saint of coffee, while Columba snuck past Kateri Tekakwitha in the closest encounter (of the saintly kind) of Lent Madness 2016.

Don't forget, especially if you're just getting started in Lent Madness, that links to all the previous battles are available on the Bracket page (scroll down). In other words, what you read in this round isn't all that has been written about our saints. You can read the initial bios in additional to these write-ups and make a fully informed decision. To make this as user friendly as possible, you can even click the links in the first paragraph above to revisit the first round matchups of both Meister Eckhart and Columba. Yes, throughout Lent, the Supreme Executive Committee continues to lose sleep on your behalf.

Yesterday, Albert Schweitzer made it past Methodius 56% to 44% to claim his spot in the Elate Eight. He'll face the winner of Roch vs. Julian of Norwich.

And in case you missed yesterday's edition of Monday Madness, you can watch it here. Learn how to submit your Mug Shot (and view several examples) to have a crack at winning St. Francis of Assisi!

Meister Eckhart

meister-eckhart“The eye, with which I see God, is the same eye with which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are only one eye and one seeing and one knowing and one love.”

So taught Meister Eckhart, Dominican friar, professor, preacher, teacher, and mystic.

Eckhart received his formal schooling from the University of Paris, the greatest institution of higher education in late 13th century Europe. However, Eckhart’s work of preaching and providing spiritual counsel to the Dominican nuns of Saxony was not a one-way street; his informal education came from the women whom he conversed with on spiritual matters, and his writings show a familiarity with the mystical mothers of the Rhineland including Hadewijch and Mechtild of Magdeburg.

In summing up his own preaching, Eckhart said that everything he taught was a variation on four intertwined themes:

“When I preach, I am careful to speak about detachment and that a person should become free of self and of all things. Secondly, that one should be reformed in the simple good that is God. Thirdly, that one should think of the great nobility which God has placed in the soul, so that a person can thereby come to God in a wonderful way. Fourthly, concerning the purity of divine nature—there is such brilliance in it that it is inexpressible!”

Basically, Eckhart is saying that through humility, love, and discernment, believers are able to break through their own distracting notions and ideas about both God and the self (that’s what he means by being “free of self and all things”) to discover that God and the soul are—by nature—at one.

As one aspect of this teaching, Eckhart insists that creation and incarnation should be understood as two sides of the same coin, and uses the image of a dance of sorts: “The Father speaks the Son always, in unity, and pours out in him all created things. They are all called to return into whence they have flowed out. All their life and being is a calling and a hastening back to God from whom they have issued.”

While his Dominican superiors approved of his teaching, the Archbishop of Cologne and later the pope condemned Eckhart’s writings after his death based on excerpts taken out of context. The charges focused around technical statements suggesting some aspects of the soul were uncreated, that Eckhart failed to draw a sharp enough distinction between Creator and creature. His defenders argue that the context of his works provide assurances of his orthodoxy, and Eckhart himself declared that he had no intention of teaching anything contrary to the faith.

With that, Eckhart himself receives the last word: “He who lives in the goodness of his nature lives in God’s love; and love has no why.”

— Derek Olsen


Columba was the founder of the abbey at Iona--the center of Celtic Christian activity through the Middle Ages and beyond. According to several sources, Columba was initially baptized Crimthan, which means "The Fox." However, as he grew up, his patient and loving demeanor didn’t fit his name, so he was renamed Columba, which means "The Dove." Despite his name change, Columba cut an arresting figure: “He was a striking figure of great stature and powerful build, with a loud, melodious voice which could be heard from one hilltop to another.”

The two battles that he was involved in really did pain him. It was Columba himself who suggested his exile to Scotland to the council of monks--vowing that he would go forth and convert all the world in order to make penance for those he had hurt, and never again see Ireland. He chose Iona as a settling place because it had no view of the Irish coast, as opposed to the first island where he landed.

From Iona, he traveled all over Scotland, and his missionary efforts included people and monsters. Apparently, in August of 565, Columba was wandering around the Highlands and came up to the River Ness. He noticed some Pict men dragging the body of a man out of the lake. The man had fallen out of his boat and been chomped by Nessie. The people on the shore had cast out fishing lines to bring back the body. Columba, unperturbed, asked someone to swim across the lake and retrieve the boat so he could cross the river. Lugne Moncumin (one of the men) quickly stripped and dove in the water.

As he was swimming across, he woke up Nessie again, and she charged at him, ready to chow down a second time. Columba raised his arm and rebuked the sea monster in the name of the crucified Christ, while making the sign of the cross. He said, "You will come no further. Go back! Do not touch this man!" At once, the monster receded. "Quicker than if pulled down by ropes" writes Columba’s biographer. The Picts were amazed and impressed.

Lugne retrieved the boat unharmed. And everyone, including Nessie, became Christian. Apparently, this story in Columba’s biography has been used extensively by crypto-zoologists in the search for the Loch Ness monster.)

He did return to Ireland once, in 575 CE, in order to settle a dispute between the king and the league of poets. In order to hold to the terms of his exile, he traveled blindfolded the entire time. The poets had sent for him because of his well-known love of books; however, he was so reasonable and calm, he succeeded in getting the king to compromise and see the dispute in the poets’ way.

Columba’s dedication to evangelism and the wonders of the written word have left a lasting impact on the world

— Megan Castellan

Meister Eckhart vs. Columba

  • Columba (60%, 3,755 Votes)
  • Meister Eckhart (40%, 2,458 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,213

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166 comments on “Meister Eckhart vs. Columba”

    1. To The SEC;
      I was on the train last night explaining LentMadness to my Catholic friend (rocking Episcopal, here)
      And the person behind us tapped me on the shoulder. And then another person asked a question, and I just kept telling them how awesome lent madness is and how much fun.
      By the time we got to our stop there were 8 people on their phones headed to the site.
      Hey,mid Colmba can convert Nessie, surly I get something for preaching on a train.
      Can I be a Saint now? Can I? Huh? Please?

      You guys are THE BEST!!!

      1. I'm not good at regular evangelism at all, but I tell everyone I know how much fun Lent Madness is!

      2. I have enjoyed this Lenten discipline more each day. Columbo is my choice, a doer rather than a mystic.

  1. I voted for saint Columba because my birthday is in June and that is his month.

    1. There is a mistake on the bracket on February 22. Columba has 51% and Kateri Tekakwitha has 51%. That means they tied. But Columba won that day.

      1. Good catch, Oliver! Your math teachers must be proud! It looks like only the "headline" on the first page is wrong. When you click on the link, Columba had 51% and Kateri had 49%. It looks like only 130 votes were the difference in Columba winning. I am now wondering what the narrowest margin was in Lent Madness!

  2. Mystics now and mystics forever. Meister Eckhart is the real deal here. Forget the Loch Ness monster. God made Leviathan for sport. Eckhart is one of the great figures of Christian history. What impresses me most in his write-up today is that he was a familiar of some of the women mystics of his time: Mechtild and Hadewijch. He learned much from women. Eckhart was not the first and will not be the last great thinker in Christian history to run afoul of the authorities. What would the church do without her brilliant and passionate children who push her forward into new life in the light? It's Eckhart for me today.

    1. I couldn't have sad it better, St. Celia.
      I voted for Eckhart❤️
      '... Love has no why'

    2. I voted for Meister Eckhart, too, as St. Celia did. My reasoning is similar; if he was wise enough to consult and exchange thoughts with women, I have to vote for that!

    3. St. Celia, you state the case I would make exactly! I voted for Meister Eckhart too for the same reasons as you did.

    1. I am with you, Kim. I can conjure Iona in my moments of need and I am there again, feeling the wind and sensing the spirit of all who have prayed there. It is truly a thin place that claims you.

      I do, however, love Eckhart's understanding of prayer.

    2. I've been on Iona several times also, plan to go again this August, it is the most spiritual place I've ever experienced. Hurrah for Columba!

    1. This is a hard choice for me. Columba whose footsteps I followed on pilgrimage in Ireland --his exile to Iona was out of a spirit of sorrow and penance. Our diocesan cathedral is St. Columba. But I also support all those who fell afoul of the hierarchy and were treated unjustly.

  3. The power of myth and legend combined with the indisputable power of the Gospel powered my vote for a giant of a Saint....Columba. I mean who else could stop Nessie other than a Saint.

  4. Today is International Women's Day. Meister Eckhart listened to learned from women.
    He gets my vote.

    1. I admit, my vote is being swayed by having Eckhart's appeal land on International Women's Day. I blame the SEC; obviously they planned this. (joke! joke!)

      Going to have to give this one some thought and reflection.

  5. Columba is the man. The whole of Iona is for me a "thin" place, and it is so because of the devotions of those who lived and worshiped there, men and women.

  6. I voted for each of these saints in the round of 32. Now I want to vote for each of them again! Choices, choices. I finally came down for Columba - for his own conversion of spirit, his vigor, his leadership, his example, his founding of Iona - such a vivid active spiritual center today - and for his charisma over Nessie. His vitality lives on!

  7. Still can't see the appeal of Columba who had to go to an island all by himself so he wouldn't start another war! I want to declare an injustice to Kateri and ask that she be brought back for next year's bracket!! Meister Eckhart for me!

    1. Megan Castellan's write-up on Columba was so moving that although I had fully intended to vote for Meister Eckhart I had to stop and think for a good long while. It was finally because I had wanted Kateri to have won in the first round that I went ahead and voted for Meister Eckhart.

    2. Columba didn't leave Ireland so he "wouldn't start another war". He left as penance for the wars he had been involved in. If we're going to hold sins against him which he has repented of, then we should hold it against Paul for persecuting the Church before he became a Christian.

    3. Columba travelled to Iona with twelve companions so not alone, and there are other versions of the story of Columba's voluntary exile that him in a much less violent light.

  8. Columba —for his month and Oliver's and my birthday and dear Nessie and all things Irish. Go GREEN!

  9. Columba for me today. To return to the homeland you love and go blindfolded so that you don't violate your vow to never set eyes on it again. Wow! Also, I just can't resist someone who tamed Nessie. 🙂

  10. I've been reading about Meister Eckhart since his last time in the 'dome.' Truly profound. A couple good zingers:
    "God is at home. It's we who have gone out for a walk." and
    "Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light; so when we are in sorrow, it is then this light is nearest of all to us."
    He gets my vote.

    1. Ahhhhh! Thank you, Karen C.! I was struggling mightily with this decision, but that first quote sealed the deal for me! It is, indeed, we who "go out for a walk"! Meister Eckhart it shall be!

    2. I wish i had seen this before i voted!!! After reading the above quotes, I did a little more digging...another one of my favorites-"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." (too bad i can't change my vote...doesn't look like Meister Eckhart will be moving on.)

  11. I have loved St. Columba for a long time. He built his monastery on the island my family came from (part of it) and years ago, while reading about him, I discovered that we share a birthday. Patsy McGuire Aldridge

    1. I don't know--Meistersinger sounds festive! Reminds me of the villain in the old Christmas special, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" -- Burgermeister Meisterburger!

  12. Columba, fierce but humble. His life bore the fruit of Iona, fount of spirituality.

  13. "Columba’s dedication to evangelism and the wonders of the written word have left a lasting impact on the world" — and on St. Columba's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., where the Loch Ness monster story is frequently enacted on St. Columba Day, the Sunday closest to June 9. Yep, it's a wild story, but in the end it's about faith and the power of God. Go Columba!

  14. Eckhart was an amazing communicator of the best of church beliefs. He was far ahead of his time in supporting women's causes. He deserves our admiration more than a legend.

  15. “He who lives in the goodness of his nature lives in God’s love; and love has no why.” I cannot stop thinking of that statement - "Love has no why." I am drawn to Meister Eckhardt. His informal education came from talking with women, Dominican nuns. From them, he grew to understand the source and mystery of God's love. "Mister Meister," you get my vote.

  16. A vote for Meister Eckhart on International Women's Day, he (and I) learn a lot from women, otherwise "love has no why" gets my attention