Excerpt from a letter written in response to a request from Pope Paul VI for “a message of contemplatives in the world.”
God seeks Himself in us, and the aridity and sorrow of our heart is the sorrow of God who is not known to us, who cannot yet find Himself in us because we do not dare to believe or trust the incredible truth that He could live in us, and live there out of choice, out of preference. But indeed, we exist solely for this, to be the place He has chosen for His presence, His manifestation in the world. His epiphany. But we make all this dark and inglorious because fail to believe it, we refuse to believe it. It is not that we hate God, rather that we hate ourselves, despairs of ourselves. If we once began to recognize, humbly, but truly, the real value of our own self, we would see that this value was the sign of God in our being, the signature of God upon our being.
The contemplative is not the man who has fiery visions of the cherubim of God on their imagined chariot, but simply he who has risked his mind in the desert beyond language and ideas where God is encountered in the nakedness of pure trust, that is to say in the surrender of our own poverty and incompleteness in order no longer to clench our minds in a cramp upon themselves, as if thinking made us exist. The message of hope the contemplatives offers you,, then, is not that you need to find your own way through the jungle of language and problems that today surround God; but that whether you understand or not, God loves you, is present to you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you, and offers you an understanding and light which are like nothing you ever found in books or heard in sermons. The contemplative has nothing to tell you except to reassure you and to say, that if you dare to penetrate your own silence and dare to advance without fear into the solitude of your own heart, and risk sharing that solitude with the lonely other who seeks God through you and with you, then you will truly recover the light and the capacity to understand what is beyond words and beyond explanations because it is to close to be explained; it is the intimate union in the depths of your own heart, of God’s Spirit and your secret inmost self, so that you and He are in all truth one Spirit, I love you in Christ.
Thomas Merton 1915-1968 American Cistercian Monk