"The seeds of this sublime life are planted in every Christian soul at Baptism. But seeds must grow and develop before you reap the harvest. There are thousands of Christians walking about the face of the earth bearing in their bodies the infinite God of Whom they know practically nothing. They are themselves sons of God and are not aware of their identity...
The seeds of contemplation and sanctity, planted in those souls, merely lie dormant. They do not germinate. They do not grow. In other words, sanctifying grace occupies the substance of their souls, but never flows out to inflame and irrigate and take possession of their faculties, their intellect and will. The presence of God never becomes an intimate reality. God does not manifest Himself to these souls because they do not seek Him with any real desire...
They are men divided between God and the world. They are at home only in their exterior self. They never seek what is deeper within them. They allow God to maintain His rights over the substance of their souls, but their thoughts and desires do not belong to him. They belong to illusion, to passion, and to external things.
~ Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience, p. 48
Earlier this morning I read from the book of Matthew chapter 7 and when I read this passage from Merton, in his exceptional book, The Inner Experience, I was reminded of these verses:
(7) Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be open.
I don't necessarily agree with all of Merton's theology in the above passage but I do agree with the fact that God dwells within us and so many of us live our lives missing out on the opportunity of experiencing the presence of God. I have to confess that I have lived the majority of my Christian life accepting God's truths yet failing to experience His actual presence within. I think that the contemplative experience is something that just isn't discussed much, at least in the Christian circles that I have found myself in. That's really unfortunate. To experience the presence of God is to be transformed in His love.
We have a wonderful opportunity in this life to get to know the God that will always be with us, even when our physical bodies are no more. He is with us now...not as an abstract concept or as some far and distant God that resides in the heavens, but He, through the form of the Holy Spirit, resides within our soul's temples. Let's not be the kind of christians Merton describes above. Let's seek the divine light that is in each one of us. As the verses in Matthew reveal, God never turns down the seeker. He is there waiting to open the door, it is just up to us to knock. Let's take the transformative journey inwards and into the arms of God.
A book that has really helped me with my journey inwards is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. You can find some of my favorite quotes from the book here: http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/p/brother-lawrence-quotes.html I hope you enjoy them!
Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for sending your only son down here to teach us how to love, how to give and ultimately to die for our sins. Forgive us our sins and the many times we fall short and help us to forgive others. Our hearts long to bring you glory. Help us open our hearts to your presence. We want to know you intimately and not just know of you. Guide us in our journey inwards and help transform our hearts as by your grace, your light floods them with your love and peace.
In Jesus' name,