The Desert …

The prospect of this wilderness is something that so appalls most people that they refuse to enter upon its burning sands and travel among its rocks. They cannot believe that contemplation and sanctity are to be found in a desolation where there is no food, and no shelter, and no refreshment for their imagination and intellect and the desires of their nature …

… If a man in this night lets his spirit get carried away with fear or impatience or anxiety, he will come to a standstill. He will twist and turn and torture himself with attempts to see some light and feel some warmth and recapture the old consolations that are beyond recovery. And finally he will run away from darkness, and do the best he can to dope himself with the first light that comes along.

But there are others who, no matter how much they suffer perplexity and uneasiness in the wilderness where God begins to lead them, still feel drawn farther and farther into the wasteland. They cannot think, they cannot meditate, their imagination tortures them with everything they do not want to see, their life of prayer is without light and without pleasure and without devotion.

They sense by a kind of instinct that peace lies in the heart of this darkness. Something prompts them to keep still, to trust, to be quiet and listen, to be patient and not get excited. Soon they discover that all useless attempts to meditate only upset and disturb them. When they stay quiet in the muteness of naked truth, resting in a simple and open eyed awareness, attentive to the dark that baffles them, a subtle and indefinable peace begins to seep into their souls and occupies them with a deep and inexplicable satisfaction. This satisfaction is tenuous and dark. It cannot be grasped or identified. It slips out of focus and gets away. Yet it is there.

What is it? It is hard to say, but one feels that it is somehow summed up in the will of God … or simply God.

— Thomas Merton from New Seeds of Contemplation

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.

— Isaiah 35:1