Do we really renounce ourselves and the world in order to find Christ, or do we renounce our alienated and false selves in order to choose our own deepest truth in choosing both the world and Christ at the same time? If the deepest ground of my being is love, then in that very love, and nowhere else, will I find myself, the world, and my brother and my sister in Christ. It is not a question of either-or but of all-in-one. It is not a matter of exclusivity and "purity" but of wholeness, wholeheartedness, unity, and of Meister Eckhart's gleichheit (equality) which finds the same ground of love in everything.Thomas Merton. Contemplation in A World of Action, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1973: p. 171
This word of Eckhart's, gleichheit, is to me one of the key understandings of contemplative prayer. If "the same ground of love [is] in everything", then this is like finding the thumbprint of God in all he has made - the DNA of the divine in all of creation. We are, quite literally, sisters and brothers not only to all our fellow humans, regardless of race, sex, religion, nationality and all other distinctions, but to all our fellow creatures, animate and inanimate: cats and dogs, cows and sheep, wildebeest and ants and the furthest stars.
Of course it also follows that whatever affects one part of creation affects all, since we are all in some sense "of the same kind". This seems to me to hold from the most abstract - the butterfly effect and other developments of chaos theory - to the most personal. Our tears, our prayers, for the brokenness we find in all things, the anguish that seems to lie at the heart of existence, are not shed and prayed in some kind of solipsistic isolation, but are part of the living fabric of all that is, channels of the mercy of Christ himself.
St. Francis begins his Canticle of the Creatures:
Most High, all powerful, good Lord ,
To you be praise, glory, honour and all blessing.
Only to you, Most High, do they belong.
And no one is worthy to call upon your name.
May you be praised, My Lord, with all your creatures,
especially brother sun,
through whom you lighten the day for us.
He is beautiful and radiant with great splendour.
He signifies you, O Most High.
Be praised ,my Lord, for sister moon and the stars.
clear and precious and lovely they are formed in heaven...
I want always to remember my kinship with all that has been made, with the little robin singing on topmost twig of the cedar behind the house in the last of the light, the shadowy, lovely tree, the chalk bank that rises above the garden, and the fields beyond, with their sheep and ponies, badgers and mice. The pain that is in all creation, as it "waits with eager longing" (Romans 8.19) for redemption, let me remember too, lifting it to the gentleness of Christ, the mercy of Christ, in whose love all things hold together (Colossians 1.17)