Those who have gone to the depths—of suffering, awe, or silence—discover an Indwelling Presence. It is a deep and loving “yes,” an “amen” or “let it be,” that is inherent within you. In Christian theology, this inner presence is described as the Holy Spirit: God as immanent, within, and even our deepest and truest self.
Some saints and mystics have described this presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” This is what Thomas Merton called the True Self. It is inherent in all of us, yet it must be awakened and chosen. The Holy Spirit is totally given—and given equally—to all; but it must be received, too. One who totally receives this Presence and draws life from it is what we mean by a saint.
That is how “image” becomes “likeness” (Genesis 1:26). We all have the indwelling image, but we surrender to the likeness in varying degrees and stages. None of us are morally or psychologically perfect or whole, but a saint or mystic nevertheless dares to believe that he or she is ontologically (“in their very being”) whole and that this wholeness is a gift from God. It has nothing to do with “me” in my separateness!
The Holy Spirit is never concocted by our actions or behavior. The Spirit is naturally indwelling from the moment of our conception (Jeremiah 1:5); it is our inner being with God (which, by the way, is the basis for the sacredness of life in the womb!). With that understanding, we sometimes called the Holy Spirit “Uncreated Grace.” Culture and even religion often teach us to live out of our false self of reputation, self-image, role, possessions, money, appearance, and so on. It is only as this small self fails us—and it always eventually does—that the True Self stands revealed and ready to guide us.
The True Self—where you and God are one—does not choose to love as much as it is love itself already (see Colossians 3:3-4). The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it is compassion. Loving from this core of your being is experienced as a river within you that flows of its own accord (see John 7:38-39). From this more spacious and grounded place, one naturally connects, empathizes, forgives, and loves everything. We were made in love, for love, and unto love. This deep inner “yes,” that is God in me, is already loving God through me. The false self does not really know how to love, in a very deep or broad way. It is too opportunistic. It is too small. It is too self-referential to be compassionate.
Throughout this year’s meditations I have explored love as the very foundation of reality, God’s character, and our own selves. This week and next I’ll try to summarize how everything is connected by this unbreakable thread throughout history and in our short lives.
Gateway to Silence:
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014), 46-48.