The Mystery of Contemplative Prayer
by Thomas Merton
CONTEMPLATION IS THE SUMMIT of the Christian life of prayer, for the Lord desires nothing of us so much as to become, himself, our "way," our "truth and life." This is the whole purpose of his coming on earth to seek us, that he may take us, with himself, to the Father.
Only in and with him can we reach the invisible Father, who no one shall see and live. By dying to ourselves, and to all "ways," "logic" and "methods" of our own we can be numbered among those whom the mercy of the Father has called to himself in Christ.
But ... no logic of our own can accomplish this transformation of our interior life. We cannot argue that "emptiness" equals "the presence of God" and then sit down to acquire the presence of God by emptying our souls of every image. It is not a matter of logic or of cause and effect. It is not a matter of desire, of planned enterprise, or of our own spiritual technique.
The whole mystery of simple contemplative prayer is a mystery of divine love, of personal vocation and of free gift. This, and this alone, makes it "emptiness" in which there is nothing left of ourselves.
From Contemplative Prayer, by Thomas Merton (New York: An Image Book, published by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1990; copyright 1969, The Merton Legacy Trust) pp. 93, 94.