The Old Man and the Field

Once upon a time a poor peasant was living in the cold North of Germany. The climate was rough and it was hard to make a living. The peasant was humble, worked hard, and loved God and his family with all his heart, but nature left them with too little to live and too much to die.

One day, Meister Eckhart passed by. The peasant greeted him respectfully and asked: “Honorable master, I work so hard, but my struggle never ends. Could you bless my field?” Meister Eckhart blessed the field and was about to move on, when he had an idea:” Why don’t you sing hallelujah while you’re working in your field? If you continuously praise the Lord, he will continuously bless you and your work.”

The peasant was startled. God is only to be praised in the church, not at work. But who am I to question the honorable Eckhart?

And so, he recited ‘hellruleya’ll‘ while he was working in the field. He mumbled it, he sang it, he even shouted it angrily when something went wrong. And although he didn’t get the word right, God smiled upon him. A long summer brought a splendid harvest, allowing the peasant to buy more and better seeds, and the next year the harvest was even more abundant. The peasant and his wife were happy, they could rent a second parcel of land, and send their children to school.

One day a Jesuit passed by and heard the peasant chanting ‘hellruleya’ll’. “What a sacrilege!”, he screamed, “don’t you know that it’s pronounced hallelujah?”

The peasant was mortified and apologized many times. The Jesuit scolded the peasant two more times and made him repeat hallelujah until he could remember it properly.

From that day on, the peasant recited hallelujah while he was working, hoping life would get even better and his family could acquire true wealth. But God stopped smiling upon him. Bad weather, locusts, bandits, and sickness took it all away. Just one season later he and his family were poor again.

At the time of harvest, the peasant was sitting in his field, staring at his feeble crops, and crying with all his heart. Why did God give him fortune and then took it all away again? Is He playing games with me? At that moment Meister Eckhart happened to pass by again.

“What’s wrong?” Meister Eckhart asked, full of compassion for the peasant.

“I recited hallelujah as you told me, but I got it wrong, I chanted hellruleya’ll instead. But everything was fine. God smiled upon me, I think because you had blessed my field. A year ago a Jesuit passed by and corrected me. He said I was a bad man, because I offended God by mispronouncing the holy hallelujah. But when I sang hallelujah the right way, I lost everything. It was too late – God punished me.

Upon hearing this, Meister Eckhart laughed. “Peasant, God’s love is unconditional and He never punishes his children. Praising God isn’t about good and bad, it’s about functional and dysfunctional. And the only way you can make your prayer work is by doing it your way.  Just go back to your hellruleya’ll and everything will be fine.”

And so the peasant did, and, as Meister Eckhart promised, God smiled upon him again.

Picture attribution: halfpoint @ shutterstock

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