Monday, April 23, 2007

love is the epiphany of God in our poverty

"Love is the epiphany of God in our poverty. The contemplative life is then the search for peace not in an abstract exclusion of all outside reality, not in a barren negative closing of the senses upon the world, but in the openness of love. [The contemplative life] begins with the acceptance of my own self in my poverty and my nearness to despair in order to recognize that where God is there can be no despair, and God is in me even if I despair. Nothing can change God's love for me, since my very existence is the sign that God loves me and the presence of His love creates and sustains me. Nor is there any need to understand how this can be or to explain it or to solve the problems it seems to raise. For there is in our hearts and in the very ground of our being a natural certainty which is co-extensive with our very existence: a certainty that says that insofar as we exist we are penetrated through and through with the sense and reality of God even though we may be utterly unable to believe or experience this in philosophic or even religious terms. The message of hope [I offer you, then,] is not that you need to find your way through the jungle of language and problems that today surround God: but that whether you understand or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you, and offers you an understanding and light which are like nothing you have ever found in books or heard in sermons. [I have] nothing to tell you except to reassure you and say that, if you dare to penetrate your own silence and risk sharing that solitude with the lonely other who seeks God through you, then you will truly recover the light and the capacity to understand what is beyond words and beyond explanations because it is too close to be explained: it is the intimate union in the depths of you own heart, of God's spirit and your own secret inmost self, so that you and God are in all truth One Spirit. I love you, in Christ."

Thomas Merton. The Hidden Ground of Love. Letters, Volume 1. William H. Shannon, editor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1985 : 157-158.


  1. Well chosen and beautiful, comforting quote, Beth! It speaks to me in a clarifying way that really helps me where I am lately.
    I read lots of Merton back in the day and have a growing library of his works with the idea of re-reading some, reading others for the first time. Your blog encourages me further.

  2. I'm glad that you liked the quote, Barbara. I have been reading Merton all my life (or since age 18), and find that I'm always being led deeper, even when I read the same things over again.

    At present I am doing the "Bridges to Contemplative Living" (available through the Merton Foundation) series with a local group of people. We've been meeting for 6 months and are on (only) the 2nd book. I'm beginning to appreciate the order of the various Merton (and other) quotes that are used to lead one to a personal way toward contemplative living (and awareness). This was really Merton's forte.

    The Zen aspects seem to help round out (or fill in) what Merton is pointing toward.

  3. "...and risk sharing that solitude with the lonely other who seeks God through you". This, truly, is what we must have the courage to do. With His grace.


2nd Sunday of Advent 2023

Photo by John P. Walsh F rom Alfred Delp S.J.,   Prison Writings , Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004: “So this Sunday we must again fol...