One of the books on the “Merton shelf” of the bookcase that is directly to the left of my bedroom rocker is entitled Angelic Mistakes: the Art of Thomas Merton. The book really needs a deeper shelf to house it as it sticks out beyond its neighbors, begging to be noticed. It has a double value because it offers not only a large selection of what Merton himself called a collection of shapes, powers, flying beasts, cave animals, bloodstains, angelic mistakes, etc., that can perhaps have some visual effect on the local bisons…but also significant commentary and quotes to accompany each of the drawings. I have flagged some of those pages of quotes that are significant to me and was drawn again this morning to one of them that included the following:
In emptying Himself to come into the world, God has not simply kept in reserve, in a safe place, His reality and manifested a kind of shadow or symbol of Himself. He has emptied Himself and is all in Christ…Christ is not simply the tip of the little finger of the Godhead, moving in the world, easily withdrawn, never threatened, never really risking anything. God has acted and given Himself totally, without division, in the Incarnation. He has become not only one of us but even our very selves.
Last night I had the privilege of gathering with 11 women, all of whom had worked together for all or part of the past 15 years. (I left my position but not my connection six years ago.) We have worked, prayed and played together and watched our lives and the lives of our families unfold together as women are in the habit of doing, more or less, in such a situation. Last night we were celebrating one of us, soon to be married, in a joyous, playful extravaganza of good food, good gifts and deep, deep happiness. I was reminded of the above quote as I reflected this morning on our party. There have been tragedies and illnesses and great sorrow in the lives of all of us over the years – some very recent and raw – but nothing was able to dampen the spirit of love for our sister, Theresa, and one another that was palpable throughout the evening. We were “all in” – God incarnate – as one single manifestation of divine love. Even in writing that last sentence I feel the shocking nature of it. How bold it is! How dangerous to talk like that…and yet I have come to understand, through such experiences as this, the possibility of total letting go of personal interest in the draw of love’s selflessness. There was nothing of ego in the room last night; we were all engaged in the purpose for which we were gathered and moved as a unit to make it happen. It was a glorious dance and will stand for me as a touchstone of God’s love incarnate for a long time to come. And, as an old “folk Mass” song says, “And all we have to offer You is thanks. All we have to offer You is thanks.”