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Jesus At  Prayer

In the last analysis what I am looking for in solitude is not happiness or fulfillment but salvation. Not "my own salvation" but the salvation of everybody. Here is where the game gets serious. I have used the word revolt in connection with solitude. Revolt against what? Against a notion of salvation that is entirely legal and extrinsic and can be achieved no matter how false, no matter how shriveled and fruitless one's inner life really is. This is the worst ambiguity: the impression that one can be grossly unfaithful to life, to experience, to love, to other people, to one's own deepest self, and yet be "saved" by an act of stubborn conformity, by the will to be correct. In the end this seems to me to be fatally like the act by which one is lost: the determination to be "right" at all costs, by dint of hardening one's core around an arbitrary choice of a fixed position. To close in on one's central wrongness with the refusal to admit that it might be wrong. ..I am here [in solitude and in the hermitage] for one thing: to be open, to be not "closed in" on any one choice to the exclusion of all others: to be open to God's will and freedom to His love, which comes to save me from all in myself that resists Him and says no to Him. This I must do not to justify myself, not to be right, not to be good, but because the whole world of lost people needs this opening by which salvation can get into it through me.

Thomas Merton. Learning to Love. Christine M. Bochen, editor.
San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997: 345.

Robert Toth
The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living

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