23 August 2011

this echo

Thomas Merton writes:

"Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo."

It is no secret that our lives are generally ruled by the tyranny of activity. This has long infiltrated the church, where programs and events have replaced personal development and discipleship. Part of the missional movement (and emerging movements) within evangelicalism is an awakening to the need for a deeper spiritual experience among believers. We need to recover the spiritual dimension of our lives and reach for the depths of divine mystery.

I have discovered that we all, at some point in our lives, become empty. This is one of the inevitable points of the human journey. The circumstances of life will drain us of everything - our strength, our will, our peace - and we must make the choice to move forward or drift away. Christ has also offered us an emptying, though it is often overlooked by our present church culture. He has summoned us to a path which begins with a kenosis, the most difficult thing in the world.

In order to reach out and grasp the Creator we must open our hands and let go of whatever it is we hold tightly. This is counterintuitive to the human condition, and to a culture which has (effectively) convinced us that the way forward is gaining, not losing. Even when we have lost it seems that we are told to gather together - why so many people and governments believe the accumulation of stuff erases the effects of debt.

I have now been summoned to this path in a way which I never before conceived. The promise that has been given is that it will be difficult and painful, that there will be much required of me that many others will not be willing to accomplish . . . or follow. It is not a journey of personal pride or accomplishment. In fact, it is the opposite - it is a kenosis. And this echo will be the renewed creating voice of God speaking once again to reconciliation and renewal. What is clear is that when we are part of the kingdom it is not our life that makes a difference in the world, it is Christ now living in us. To that end, it is not our voice that is heard but an echo of the voice of God now speaking to his own . . . even when his own does not receive him.

And thus our lives are echoes back to him and reverberations to others.

"We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question, and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer."

both quotes Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 3.

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