The Hermitage of the Heart

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thank you
the title of these reflections
is the hermitage of the heart
and i hope in the course of these for
our talks to explore a little bit with you
what that
term the hermitage of the heart may mean for our lives
and what it suggests for us
i want to begin with to quotes the first quote is from paul's letter to the claassens chapter three
and i'm just gonna do a very short excerpt
from that section the very famous quotation that we hear and see often enough
he says you have died
and now your life is hidden
with christ in god
and the second quote is a quote of thomas merton from one of his lay her writings
a quote which i believe reflex
a certain amount of accumulated experience in his life which makes it a significant statement
and merton rights are real journey in life is interior
it is a matter of growth
and of our ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace and our hearts
and a quote
that first quotation from collisions i think has at least two
senses of of meaning
one if you read the further context of that the excerpt brief excerpt
the the more obvious possible meaning is that paul is referring to the future of the christian the future live in in the prusa after the second coming when the kingdom is fully established
that our future the future of the christian the future glorified life is hid with christ and the text goes on when christ returns in glory than who the christian really is shall be revealed along with who christ really is and the glory of each christian will be revealed
field in within the glory of christ
so in that sense that hidden life with christ and god
that paul is referring to refer to that future our future may and the gloria that future may not be fully apparent in the imperfection and limitation and travails of this life ah but it is there it is a sure does it is somehow already given to us
us to some extent
and that's what leads us to the second sensor of that word hidden it's not only that who we really are as hidden in god's future which we await and hope but also if we certainly take john's gospel and the letters of john that future has already been given to us and as or
and so when that sense it is hidden within us
and maybe has not come to full outer manifestation and our individual lives and in the lives of people around us society the world and even creation itself
much like paul's notion of bomb
a nice creation being in labor pains that there's something within creation seeking to be born and completely revealed well there's something in us likewise waiting to be born completely and fully reveal fully manifest ah and that's this hit
one life of christ hidden like with christ and god
john tells us that the fullness of the trinity the trinitarian life for those who love god the father and i will come and we will dwell within them
and i think that's what merton is getting at in his a rather stark or startling statement that are real journey and life is interior it's a matter of growth deepening of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love
grace in our hearts
and i i'm really using these two quotes the colossus three quote quote and this merton statement as kind of the the guiding lights for these for reflections with you
and if i were to give a title to this first reflection it with some what i suppose you could say it's or what is the hermit of hermitage of the heart is there such a reality what is it where is it
i think and thomas merton's statement there are some very key words that are worth pausing over
the first right at the beginning of the statement is real journey is as as are real journey
what he's suggesting is that life is a journey
and that perhaps there are two principal journeys and lie
and that of the to one is perhaps more real than the other more important than the other
or has first place while the other has second or one a follows the other
i don't think he's suggesting that
no one is real and the other is totally unreal or unrelated
now i think we all know that life is a journey and often we use that word that the metaphor of a journey to to refer to our individual lives to refer to history history is sort of like a journey
a movement a progression
and our own personal experience i think bears witness to this
we think of a journey as going from point a to point b and covering covering a certain amount of geographic territory with different events and sites and people and twists and turns and ups and downs and mountains and valleys et cetera
we know that this is also a very very
pronounced image in the scriptures
the whole a israelite experiences one of a nomadic people who journey for whom life is very much a journey
both metaphorically and concretely literally as nomadic peoples and so the father of their people as abraham was called out of his homeland to journey
and in christianity that same word is used referring to the new israel the church the followers of christ who are are continuing the journey of their ancestors
but it's given a lot perhaps less of a geographic meaning it's less of a journey towards a geographic promised land but rather it's the journey in relationship the journey as relationship the journey for relationship relationship with the lord
covenant with the lord relationship with one another our brothers and sisters on this planet and relationship with the planet itself with creation itself
the vatican two council appropriated
this ancient term and gave it added emphasis and force him describing the church
not only as the people of god but also a pilgrim people to reclaim the sense that we are wanderers we are pilgrims we are still nomadic people we are people that are constantly moving and growing and seeking more and more for ourselves in relationship with the lord and one another
and with the earth itself
however having said this i think we live in a time and a place and an age and a culture where that sense of the journey of life is given almost exclusively an exterior dimension
associated with external geographic places events people
and we take this to be the only journey of life
the only real journey
to the neglect of this other journey which martin says is very important perhaps the real journey and that's the journey inward the interior journey
the real journey
as the writer and poet suggests in in one of his poems and life we returned to the place where we first started and we know it for the first time
that somehow this but we take to be an exclusively exterior affair
is has very much to do with an interior affair
or as our local new england poet robert frost once observed we danced around in a ring and suppose but the secret sits in the middle and knows
or as the
ancient desert fathers often put it go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything
i'll say more about this a little later i want to go to another key word that follows in the same first part of that statement of merton he says are real journey in life is interior let's dwell on that word interior
he suggesting that the the externalization of life and the preoccupation that we have as human beings and particularly as western human beings and americans
with the perhaps fulfilling the the ancient to a scriptural injunction to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth we seem to be so preoccupied to our science and our technology and our work to subdue life around us and the life we create for ourselves
seems to be the life around does
and we put very little energy at the life within us at the disposal of exploring this life within us we marvel at the explorations about her life and now even extending to outer space and the saw well and good there is there's a vastness out to there that is marvelous and and in
intriguing and arouses are are all and inspires cells and makes us so curious
but what merton the suggesting this interior journey leads to and a world within us a universe within as not any less great and perhaps even greater some might say that the universe out there
the problem with and so much of our outer exploration as we develop techniques and tools meant to master
control manipulate and at times often exploit the outer world and exploit others
i suppose there are at least two senses of this word interior if not three this interior journey is referring to the interior of each explore each person
but it perhaps refers to the interior dimension of every living thing every living thing has an an outer dimension and an inner dimension
the poll of existence and outer manifestation and an inner principle of existence and that the outer is only possible because of the inner
and beginner six outer manifestation i don't know if it's somewhat like the the or philosophical notion of the essence of of a thing and the form of a thing
both two dimensions of one reality
but so often i think what merton as saying as we take the outer form to be the total reality
to the neglect of exploring through the outer form to its inmost secret of dimensions
which one of oz experiences or really but believes that all that i am is completely manifested outwardly i think our experience teaches us that we're always trying to manifest more fully something within us that
as yet to be matured or developed or actualized are brought to the surface of our life
another way of putting that is isn't there more in us then then meets the eye
isn't there far more within us than gets communicated to the surface of our life
and that in fact the externals can often betray what's within us
as well as reveal
so this interior dimension is the interior reached explore each person but each thing each reality and then there's a third dimension of this word interior that merton may be implying and that's the
the interior of god
she saying are suggesting the real journey in life is interior is within god not so much to god
as if we were outside of god and journeying to god
but rather an awakening and discovering
that the journey is really within god
but we find ourselves within the mystery and we seek to journey within the mystery within the one
i think that gives one's journey of very different
color a very different sense because i'm and that sense word is one go when one realizes one has arrived when one is within the mystery than one is not going from point a to point b
one doesn't explore from outside and moving towards inside
the now what is the nature of that journey what is the nature of that exploration when you are already within
and conversely when you find that same mystery is already completely within you

by interior journey burton seems to mean this entering into the depths of life
this entering into the depths of my own personal life
and of life around me this entering into the depths of god
an editor and entering
that requires less and less control and manipulation and ever greater surrender
it is a surrender to someone greater than ourselves at work within us
and merton uses that word surrender
about someone within us and within whom we find ourselves who is grace who is law who was the very principle and source and combination of growth
i think what merton is suggesting by this interior journey this going within to the depths of of all reality and not to the denigration of the exterior or the the outward form or manifestation one must reference that too
but part of our referencing it in part of our savouring it is to precisely ah not sell it short and not superficial eyes it's existence but rather to really delve as deeply and to saber as deeply the presence and the exists
mix of of that reality
so for the individual that it means and interior journey within oneself within one's psyche
and that means dealing and exploring one's thoughts
an imagination
the will
oh rationality
and the irrational
both one's consciousness and unconsciousness
it means exploring one's psyche
and going even deeper still to a place that i would call and that others in the tradition would call this hermitage of the heart
what that the hindus would call the cave of the heart or that the the scriptures made a christian scriptures might call the one's heart of hearts that very core central that source of all but i am
in process that all of all that i am becoming
the challenge it seems to me for every human being but especially for the westerner is to first of all believe that there is this inner dimension to who i am and to who i am becoming and to all reality for that matter
that such interiority is extremely important for my growth into christ like wholeness and for the growth of the world
i think merton and of others on a prophetic words calling us into this vast unknown world with him
for all the ills of our own personal life and out of society all the imperfections come from the brokenness within us that so often we have not embraced and that we do not know but rather act out of blindly or project onto others
so it's important that we come to notice inner dimension but even more important than these areas of of my own weakness that i need to discover within me is discovering also within that same place that same dimension is god and is god's grace
and loving presence
without this inner exploration you and i the world will never find peace or the source of peace
we will never stop harming one another
harming our environment
because we will never have faced the source of our own selfishness and our own fears
the term hermitage of the heart is a rich one
but the word hermitage coming from the word animals
usually refers to a desert like solitary place apart from others
which can also mean a wilderness or forest or vast empty expanse of ocean
two journey with them i must be willing to leave the crowd
and face my own solitariness that's what evoked by this image hermitage
and as two senses of the crowd is the crowd out there and that can be people places and things all but can cut keeps my mind preoccupied
can be activities all the things i crowd my life with
but beyond that there is also one must leave the crowd within one's own mind within one's own psyche
and when i say to leave i don't mean to repress or deny
but rather
not to we quite ones in her life with these realities and that's all i am are this this churning of thoughts and feelings and images and memories and
i go to a solitary outer place to leave the outer crowd for a while but i must also find that inner solitary place by leaving the inner crowd for a while by sort of passing through their amidst
the fringes of my conscious awareness him
going deeper
to some deeper dimension
the image of the hermitage captures both dimensions of outer spaciousness an inner spaciousness
usually the the sense of a hermit is is an uncrowded place but suggesting that one within oneself is likewise
an uncrowded space
the outer spaciousness and inner spaciousness
belong to me
to journey within i must be willing to leave the crowd
and be alone and a vast empty solitary space
and i think for at least for westerners this is very difficult for us and tends to be threatening and frightening
when jesus often leaves the crowd and his disciples it is the goat a solitary place and enter the hermitage of his heart
when he tells us to go to our inner chamber and shut the door and be seen and known only by god and prayer he is speaking of the hermitage of the heart but when moses goes up to mount sinai alone and is enshrouded by the cloud this is another image for the same dimension
but this hidden place
within us the secret hidden place with god with the mystery
when eliza leaves the city and travels through the desert alone and finds a cave and enters their alone and within that cave here's the still small whispering set whispering sound of the lord and covers his face
it is the cave of his heart the hermitage of the heart

biblically the image heart refers to that most inward reality
the seat or ground the personality
out of which emerge thoughts feelings images memories desires speech and eventually actions
the seeking of the hermitage of the heart is something like the the hindu renunciate the hindu monk who travels up the famous and long
ganges river seeking the source
which one of us has not been out hiking some way or traveling somewhere and seen a stream or river and wondered where it's source came from
how many powerful stories and account is door lock a historical accounts there are of explorers who have sought the source of rivers
according to the bible god alone knows the source because god alone is the source
god alone knows the heart to it's utter depths
biblically the heart is the center of a person the tap root of their existence as a living being
the center of their religious awareness
it is that place were each one of us most truly desires and six god
where each one of us is most able to listen to god
to serve god to praise god to love god and to love the world
it is that place of unity and us where there is no duplicity or hypocrisy or doubt or second thoughts this heart of our hearts
but the image the hermitage of the heart is a rich expression referring to that most inward solitary naked uncluttered dimension at the core of our being from which our life flows moment by moment
it is the place where our uniqueness is created and born
by the spirit of the creator in the image of jesus
it is where we are most unique most solitary and yet paradoxically most united with everyone and everything
it is both the source of our uniqueness and the source of our communion
it is not a place of isolation
but rather wherever a uniquely created thing celebrates in communion
as britain once wrote true communion as one solitude meeting another
it's importance lies precisely in it being the source the center the core the ground the foundation the access around which are like turns and pivots it is that place
a pure being in us it is the still point around which are world and the whole world is turning
it is the most pure and intense and naked and unadulterated and undistorted level of my being and existence
it is that place in me
that because it precedes the other levels of my psyche or is pure is is untainted
well as that
place from which my life flows passes through my own psyche with with all its various dimensions and especially its own wounded ness and defense mechanisms and limitations then it tends to be distorted and tainted and and rendered and complete
it is for this reason that the outer world and our out a journey
is not completely real in the sense that where we never see reality fully as it is
it's always condition
and by that i mean somehow slightly distorted or altered by a way of seeing things and our way of seeing is colored by our own psyche and its own a a way of being put together the way we've been put
but together
yeah the way we've learned to cope with life and to deal with life and to exist within our life
and so this the source is very important to continue to explore the the very ground of our being is important
because it can it can be a corrective to the confining limiting ways that we relate to life even our own life the way we see life around us the way we even see ourselves the way we love or do not love life around us or love do not love ourselves you and
the way we see god
and relate to god and love god
the whole point of human growth it seems to me and christian growth therefore is to expand these constricting limiting tendencies in us and this expansion
a requires inner knowledge and inner exploration as well as the art of exploration
but i want to stress in these talks the importance of the of because i believe we live in a time and age and a culture where that has been sadly and grossly neglected
i suppose we could say that the whole parent point of christian human growth is the unity of the inner and the outer
but to achieve that unity i think we need to emphasize the inner dimension
because it is so neglected
and so this this inner dimension that i am calling the hermitage of the heart is that that dimension within me that is most pure and intense and naked and unadulterated and undistorted
it is where i am most myself where god is most god's self where the world is most itself and were other human beings are most themselves all in relation to me in relation with me
most itself in relation with me
we cannot i think be reminded and of its importance and encouraged enough and supported enough in our efforts to journey within
especially considering the rather superficial external society we live in
we are in a society rich in things yet some have observed we are spiritually impoverished
others have said we we are without so we lacked up
we live in a society for for whom the the real monk as well as the inner monk within each person remains a stranger
an useless to society
and for even many members of the church the monk both the monk out there living in a monastery but i would say the inner monk within each person is unknown as a stranger and has seen as somehow valueless useless not import
want to our life of creating a better world out there
i suppose the first task of the gospel therefore is to get people to take their inner life seriously
to get people to realize that all that their life appears to be on the surface and all that life around them appears to be is not all is not the full reality there was a secret hidden dimension to all of life
and we are made for that secret hidden dimension we are not just made for the external world
and that all of the problems that we have in the external world perhaps are largely related to this unknown world with him that we have not explored
now when i say this i am i the hermitage of the heart is not referring to the unconscious that is the part of us we need to certainly explore as we go inward on the way
but this hermitage believes that even beneath the unconscious
or at its core
is this other reality
we need to develop an ever deepening interiority
and to grip less tightly to our life as it is our way of thinking as it is are feeling as it is while remembering and imagining and believing as they are
i think so often what we think is perhaps really isn't and what we think isn't perhaps really is
this is what i believe jesus calls us to when he says that the kingdom of god is like a treasure buried in a field
the field of our life
who would not sell all that she or he has in order to purchase that field
and then dig within that field
and seek and cherish that treasure buried within the field
elsewhere he says the kingdom of god is like a rare pearl the pearl beyond price the pearl of great price hidden in the depths of the ocean who would not give all that they have
to possess that rare precious pearl
there is a rare precious pearl there is a rare precious treasure buried within us
and so the first task perhaps for the search
to the hermitage of the heart
the first task of the explore is to perhaps leave the crowd
both the outer crowd of things
which have such a hold on us that they pull our energy and are worry and our concern and our focus and our senses and even our intuitions they pulled it almost all exclusively outward
outside of ourselves
so that leave that crowd that kind of crowd that has that that role in our lives
and then to leave the second crowd the crowd within
i think as soon as we tried to sit sit sit still
and explore within
we noticed there's a crowd within us
our mind is crowded with thoughts and images and memories flooding to the past or to the future worries
fear is emotions
that we are
need to explore those certainly but
to also realize there is there's another dimension
deep within those
perhaps some reflection questions to guide you in this inner exploration is the difference i think the first question is to ask do i really believe
in this inner reality called the hermitage of the heart to i really believed my life is now hidden with christ and god because i died
and what is paul referring to what kind of death death to what i'm not dead i'm alive
a second reflection question might be do i value this dimension of life both my own personal being my own self life around me do i really value it by
and why showed us by seeking it by learning and practicing ways of interiority
which are bringing about a greater unity in my life between the inner and the outer
a third question might be how much of my time and energy and life and attention is for focused outwardly outside of me
does this interior life this hermitage of the harder the inner world of my own psyche remain a strange unknown place to me
do i find i really don't savor life
and what i do is pack a lot of life into my life a lot of doing a lot of experience and a lot of things and that's what i think as a full life
and so i don't really have the time to stay long enough with one thing with one reality and savor the depths
of what it is
and the last reflection question might be how much does my western society influence me
in disregard of of putting the exterior dimension of life ah
over and above the interior dimension
and finally let me give you some scriptural references to use as you reflect and pray about this matthew chapter thirteen
versus forty four to forty six
chapter four vs one to thirteen
chapter five vs four to seven
chapter six vs forty three to forty five
chapter twelve twenty two to thirty two
chapter seventeen vs twenty twenty one
in chapter twenty four verse thirty two
and then from the gospel of john i'm quite a few here
chapter one verses twelve to eighteen
chapter three verse is one to twenty one
and then skip to twenty nine to thirty four
chapter four seven to twenty six
twenty seven to forty two
chapter six twenty six to twenty seven than skip fifty two to fifty eight
chapter seven thirty seven to thirty nine
chapter eight thirty one thirty two
chapter ten seven to eighteen
four to forty four
chapter twelve twenty three to thirty two
chapter fourteen fifteen to twenty nine
chapter fifteen one to seventeen
chapter twenty one to ten as you see there's a john is very concerned about this in dwelling this inner dimension and paused letter to the ephesians chapter two twenty one to twenty two
chapter three fourteen to twenty one
chapter four forty six
and finally collections three one two four
so this concludes our first time