Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Swimming In the Attributes of God

Sunset in Monroe County
Thomas Merton writes:

"It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life... Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul." (New Seeds of Contemplation, 184)

That is a strong claim. It can be argued for. Merton says it is true because "in perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself for God: and it is lost and submerged in Him and transformed into Him." (Ib.)

Paradoxically and oxymoronically it is here that humility is "highest." The humble person gets lifted up, high and exalted. We no longer live for the cultivation of our own tiny selves. From God's perspective this is very good. To live, out of one's heart, for others, is to live as Christ lived and still lives. Merton says the humble person "is delivered of all the limitations and vicissitudes of creaturehood and contingency, and swims in the attributes of God."

That last phrase, "swims in the attributes of God," is not hyperbolic. Read John chs. 14-16 and enter the waters of God. God's "power, magnificence, greatness and eternity have, through love, through humility, become our own." (Ib.) Merton's words are but a straightforward reading of Jesus' "final discourse."

Humility is so rock-bottom essential to authentic Jesus-living that Merton writes, "if there were no humility in the world, everybody would long ago have committed suicide." Uh-huh. Because there would be no real hope. Only the humble can be hopeful.