It happened again this morning! I read the gospel passage that instructs us on how to go about praying so as not to be swayed by the desire for approval. (MT 6:1-6, 16-18) It tells us to go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. That reminded me of Thomas Merton’s reference to what he calls the point vierge, that space in us that no one (even we ourselves) can access – only God can. I knew the quote originally found in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander appeared also in Kathleen Deignan’s book Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, so I pulled the book as I did yesterday with Macrina Wiederkehr. Again I found what I didn’t know I was to read. This time the book jacket flap gave it to me. It wasn’t what I was looking for but it certainly was what answered my need for coherence of thought. Merton was talking about vocation, our identity in God, and among other things, he says this:
…we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity. We can evade this responsibility by playing with masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living. It is quite easy, it seems, to please everyone. But in the long run the cost and the sorrow come very high. To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls “working out our salvation,” is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment, and great fidelity to God as He reveals Himself, obscurely, in the mystery of each new situation.
We do not know clearly beforehand what the result of this work will be. The secret of my full identity is hidden in God. God alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be. But unless I desire this identity and work to find it with God and in God, the work will never be done. The way of doing it is a secret I can learn from no one else but God. There is no way of attaining to the secret without faith. But contemplation is the greater and more precious gift, for it enables me to see and understand the work that God wants done. (New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 32-33, excerpted)