Throughout this past session I felt the group more deeply moving at a contemplative pace. The group embraced a natural pace (what Merton has called a "human pace") with which we shared, absorbed each other's reflections, and responded. As a group and as individuals we are becoming at peace with "the silence between thoughts".
An idea we spent some time exploring was of being open and present to God in the ordinary events of life and to His continual, gentle offer of love to us. With attention, presence and openness we transcend the superficial concerns that we tend to get caught up in and allow ourselves to experience oneness with all that is around us. By deeply experiencing that oneness in nature or the oneness in community we become aware of our oneness with all in God. This was the notion that a number of us were able to relate back to Merton's words: "So we all become doors and windows through which God shines back into His own house."
Some of us were captured by the phrase "birth canals to more compassionate living." We related how discomforts of life experience lead us to new spiritual birth. In particular, many shared how situations of extraordinary vulnerability (age, personal experiences, health issues) lead us to abandon or forget ourselves and find God. We could relate to the grace of aging and how the dependence on others allows us to progressively acknowledge and surrender to dependence on God.
Finally we spent time on a line from Another Voice: "All holiness on earth is the fragrance of God present in and with all of us." We talked about how fragrances elicit whole body reactions and how they can bring us back to precious moments or memories in our life. In this vein, "justice, goodness, mercy, understanding, compassion" impact us deeply and bring us back to the truth that lies at our center, our True Self, which is God.
I conclude this reflection with two items. The first is a reference to the book by Sr. Miriam Therese Winter, Eucharist With a Small e, which several people felt spoke about the experience of finding God in community and in life. The second item is both the introduction to and the prayer by Thomas Merton that we shared at the end of our session. Merton offered the following words and spontaneous prayer at the conclusion of the first spiritual summit in Calcutta, a gathering of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, and Muslims which occurred in October 1968, a few months before his death:
I will ask you to stand and all join hands in a little while. But first, we realize that we are going to have to create a new language of prayer. And this new language of prayer has to come out of something which transcends all our traditions, and comes out of the immediacy of love. We have to part now, aware of the love that unites us, the love that unites us in spite of real differences, real emotional friction ...
The things that are on the surface are nothing, what is deep is the Real. We are creatures of love. Let us therefore join hands as we did before, and I will try to say something that comes out of the depths of our hearts. I ask you to concentrate on the love that is in you, that is in us all. I have no idea what I am going to say. I am going to be silent a minute, and then I will say something . . .
Oh 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.
Oh 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 which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.