April 21, 2005
Julian Meditations

March, 2005

Gracious Emptiness

by James Finley

HOW STRANGE GOD'S ways are! He calls us to a union we do not understand. He calls us to a place of encounter which we cannot find. We search and search. Our silence reveals to us not a garden of delights but an awful nothingness.

God leaves us in an awful emptiness. All our initial enthusiastic notions of prayer deteriorate into an acknowledgment of our utter superficiality and lack of authenticity before God. We can only throw ourselves completely on His mercy. We can only wait in the darkness and cry out for our salvation. We can but trust that God's love is such that our sinfulness does not even matter. We can only have faith.

We can only believe that in Christ God has already spied us afar off returning repentant to His home. In Christ, God has already rushed out to meet us, fallen upon us and kissed us. We can only accept that our poverty is so utterly deep that God Himself will have to be our inheritance. Our darkness is so intense God Himself will have to be our light.

And it is to this that God leads us. It is here in this no-where that we are brought to no-thing. It is here that God reveals to us that He truly is God and that we are created to become who we are by becoming perfectly like Him. It is here that poverty reaches its supreme moment, for it is here that there is no longer anyone left to own anything. Here there is only Presence, only gracious emptiness, a Freedom and Love that forms a "circle whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere."

The contemplative is drawn into this circle by a divine compassion. The contemplative is brought to this fontal Nowhere to be given All by being dispossessed of all that is partial and passing. Here we understand with a new clarity what everyone at least vaguely and unconsciously suspects. As Thomas Merton observes:

There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.

Taken from Merton's Palace of Nowhere by James Finley (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1974).