Monday, May 26, 2008

The equality of the ground of love...

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)


  1. Lovely. This post was like having a glass of top-notch merlot :)

  2. A beautiful post, as always. Lately, I seem to have forgotten the "ground of love" that is in everything. I see so clearly the lack of love in myself and that is disheartening.

  3. Thank you both...

    Gartenfische, I know only too well what you mean - but I think it's only when we see the lack of love in ourselves that we can see clearly the love of God "in which we live and move and have our being."

    It's not down to us to generate love by some supreme effort of will, surely. If we will only be still, like the moon we will reflect the glory that falls on us. Our love is only a reflection of his, and the worst our failings can do is dim the mirror for a while...



  4. Mike, yeah, it took me a while to figure out that I simply couldn't generate love by a supreme effort of will. It simply doesn't work! And sometimes, in the darkness, the love of God is hidden. That's why I need reminders like this one.

    Blessings to you, too!