[After a Sunday in which Jesus’ prayer for unity was a part of the lectionary readings, alumna Chelsea Sosiak sent me this prayer by Merton]:
Prayer for Unity
O God, we are one with you.
You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
you dwell in us.
Help us to preserve this openness
and to fight for it with all our hearts.
Help us to realize that there can be no understanding
where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely,
we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you,
and we love you with our whole being,
because our being is in your being,
our spirit is rooted in your spirit.
Fill us then with love,
and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways,
united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world,
and makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome.
Love is victorious.
– written by Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
[a follow-up to the last poem by Rachael Barham]
confessions ii : God responds
I don’t care
whether or not
you believe in me.
I believe in you.
I don’t need you to protect
my fragile sense of self
by defending me,
by ensuring I am the answer
to every question,
by twisting and distorting your precious soul
to accommodate this little image of me
that you’ve created but outgrown.
I am not small
and I don’t need you
to play small
or play safe for me.
Can’t you sense
that I am always
and calling you
to join me there?
Can’t you feel
this unstoppable force
carrying you towards
a love so powerful
that it is breaking your brittle heart
and remaking it
as a river?
Can’t you see
that I don’t exist
but always for you,
always for the other,
and that you are just like me?
and give in to the mighty flow of reality
which is love.
Let whatever is
Let your own beloved self
Whether or not you believe I am
Let me be
Let me be
– Rachael Barham – see her blog to find this and related poems
What happens really in the soul’s union with God in terms of liberation and healing? It is an exercise in seeing how God sees, the perception of what is little and unimportant; it is listening to the cry of God’s children who are in slavery in Egypt. God calls upon the soul to give away its own ears and eyes and to let itself be given those of God. Only they who hear with other ears can speak with the mouth of God. God sees what elsewhere is rendered invisible and is of no relevance. Who other than God sees the poor and hears their cry? To use “God’s senses” does not mean simply turning inward but becoming free for a different way of living life: See what God sees! Hear what God hears! Laugh where God laughs! Cry where God cries!
– Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (2001)
I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down. Simone Weil says simply, “Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love.”
-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Our meditation teaches us how fully every part of us has to be involved in the radical conversion of our life. It teaches us that we have to put our whole heart into this work of the Spirit if we are genuinely to respond to the call to leave the shallows and enter into the deep, direct knowledge that marks a life lived in the mystery of God. Then everything in our life acquires this depth dimension of divine Presence. We are foolish to look for “signs” on the way – it is a form of spiritual materialism that Jesus rebuked – because if we are on the way, which means in the Mystery, in the bright cloud of God’s presence, then all things are signs. Everything mediates the love of God….
The “heart” is that focal point in our being where we can simply be in the Mystery without trying to explain or dissect it. A mystery analyzed becomes merely another problem. It must be apprehended whole and entire. And that is why we, who are called to apprehend it, must ourselves be one in mind and heart.
- John Main, Selected Writings