I’m continuing to examine and think about Christian contemplative practice with Thomas Merton’s help, still reading The Inner Experience. Recently a friend started reading it as well and I went back several chapters to reread and remind myself of what’s there. We’ve started to discuss some of it, which I thoroughly enjoy. Some pieces have been grabbing me that hadn’t before, like the following passage on the importance of the Resurrection to the Christian contemplative tradition:
It may perhaps not be clear at first sight what this belief in the Resurrection might have to do with contemplation. But in fact the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the New Adam, completely restored human nature to its spiritual condition and made possible the divination of every man coming into the world. This meant that in each one of us the inner self was now able to be awakened and transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, and this awakening would not only enable us to discover our true identity “in Christ,” but would also make the living and Risen Savior present in us. Hence the importance of the Divinity of Christ—for it is as God-Man that He is risen from the dead and as God-Man that He is capable of living and acting in us all by His Spirit, so that in Him we are not only our true personal selves, but are also one Mystical Person, one Christ. And thus each one of us is endowed with the creative liberty of the Son of God. Each one of us, in some sense, is able to be completely transformed into the likeness of Christ, to become, as He is, divinely human, and thus to share His spiritual authority and charismatic power in the world. (p. 38)
I find the idea of God as Christ and the Holy Spirit somehow living in us and able to be made to thrive through the application of faith and contemplative practice much more compelling than what I’ve often encountered in Christianity— the idea of Jesus as some other than present reality power/being we have to chase, mainly through doctrinal assertion, while totally rejecting all we are on a personal level. Granted, Merton would also have us go beyond those aspects of self that are inextricably tied to delusion/sin. Me too, I mean, we’re complex beings filled with a great capacity to love and heal while at the same time being able to destroy all that is good. No doubt some wise discernment is necessary here. We certainly have to learn to go past what is rooted in selfishness. I have to believe though, due to my experience and greatest hopes, that beneath it all we are somehow tied to and called to God. To what level we are actually tied to God remains debatable and fascinating to me.