6/25/2007

Love demands a complete inner transformation...

"All through the Verba Seniorum [The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] we find a repeated insistence on the primacy of love over everything else in the spiritual life: over knowledge, gnosis, asceticism, contemplation, solitude, prayer. Love in fact is the spiritual life, and without it all the other exercises of the spirit, however lofty, are emptied of content and become mere illusions. The more lofty they are, the more dangerous the illusion. Love, of course, means something much more then mere sentiment, much more than token favors and perfunctory almsdeeds. Love mean an interior and spiritual identification with one's neighbor, so that she is not regarded as an "object" to "which" one "does good." The fact is that good done to another as an object is of little or no spiritual value. Love takes one's neighbor as one's other self, and loves him with all the immense humility and discretion and reserve and reverence without which no one can presume to enter into the sanctuary of another's subjectivity. From such love all authoritarian brutality, all exploitation, domineering and condescension must necessarily be absent. The saints of the desert were enemies of every subtle or gross expedient by which "the spiritual man" contrives to bully those he thinks inferior to himself, thus gratifying his own ego. They had renounced everything that savored of punishment and revenge, however hidden it might be."

Thomas Merton. The Wisdom of the Desert. New York: New Directions Press, 1960: 17-18.
*Reprinted with permission by The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living.

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