Contemplative Living

Pierre-Marie Delfieux wrote:

Prayer will teach you, too, that God is nearer to you than you are to yourself. After passing the fiery crucible and stepping through the narrow doorway where you can bring nothing with you, enter the cave of your heart that contains God, whom the universe cannot hold.

The Jerusalem Community Rule of Life, cited in Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton: Entering the School of your Experience, 34.

We seek. We strive. We struggle. We try to find God only to find that God has found us. Our concepts cannot encompass God. Our knowledge cannot define God. Our faith cannot control God. Coming to know God, we realize that we are known by God (Merton, Contemplative Prayer, Bridges, 33). Trying to grasp God, we understand that God has grasped us. God is deeper to us than we are to ourselves. God Is. Merton would paraphrase Delfieux by saying that we fall into the abyss of our nothingness, our poverty, out utter limitations, the void and tumble out into the love of God. God finds us amid lack, nothingness, and poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, God shall see them and they shall see God.

One of my favorite monks after Merton is Father Anthony Delisi, one of the Gethsemani founders of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. Father Anthony’s book, Praying in the Cellar, shows that he has grasped the fact that God has grasped him. He goes into the cellar and lets God know him. He understands that God is the depths of his reality.

Delfieux’s statement, “[E]nter the cave of your heart that contains God, whom the universe cannot hold” is profound. The very God Creator who imploded the cosmic dust out of nothingness dwells within each of us. The very life of God became the universe and all that is in it.

God continues to fill the universe and each of us with God-life today as creation unfolds to reveal the ultimate mystery—God. Creation is the first revelation of God. Creation is gift, pure gift, gift for ALL. Unlike the revealed Word of God in various scriptures, the cosmic revelation is unadulterated by human efforts to appropriate God for oneself or ones clan or ones nation. God is beyond all appropriation for individual or collective benefit. God Is.

When we enter into the caves of our hearts we enter into communion with God and with all that is. Julian of Norwich’s mystical concept of Oneing explains the ultimate depth of the unity in creation. We are all of God, sprung forth from the same cosmic dust. God breathed life into the universe and the Wisdom Word danced in joy. “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.”

Events, concerns, worries and problems distract us from our true destiny. We wallow in the desert sands and windstorms of existence. We search for the fertile oasis. We look for water in a parched places. We need but look within and let the God of life and love find us. “Deep down darkness” where the God who cannot be contained by the universe dwells.

The Kingdom of God was Jesus’ pivotal proclamation. The Kingdom represents the essence of Jesus’ proclamation of the Good News. “The Kingdom is within you.” God who created the universe dwells in your innermost being, your heart.

The defining value in the Kingdom is justice—right order, right relationships. Contemplative living tells us that we are meant to dwell in right relationship with God, ourselves, one another, and creation. Living justly is tough and we fall short only to have the Spirit breathe new life and new resolve into our hearts where God is giving us life. “I have come that you might have life. . . .” God wants us to have life and to have everything we need (Jesus did not say “want.”)

Knowing that God dwells deeply within and that we and the universe are “charged with the grandeur of God” we strive for harmony, right relationship. Our starting point is oneness amid the fragmentation of a turbulent world. Our goal is to bring about God’s justice in an unjust world run amok. Contemplation leads to action. Union leads to justice.

Wisdom is the only way of (un)knowing what is. Merton begins his magnificent poem, Hagai Sophia:

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden whole-ness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in word-less gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at
once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

For Merton, Wisdom is the feminine side of God, the nurturing gentle sweetness of loving divinity. Wisdom is so precious that it has been described as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is gift and charism. Wisdom divinizes life.

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