The Gate of Heaven
Thursday, May 2, 2019
James Finley, one of the Center for Action and Contemplation’s core faculty members, was a spiritual directee of Thomas Merton (1915–1968) at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Drawing from this experience and his own insights as a student of the mystics and a clinical psychologist, Finley helps us get a glimpse of heaven.
When Merton told me that “one thing for sure about heaven is that there is not going to be much of you there,” he was, I think, referring to the mystery that even now we are in God’s kingdom. And that even now we can begin to realize it if we but die to egocentric self-seeking and seek God’s will with a pure heart.
Because God is everywhere God is likewise no-where, meaning there is no “where” in which we can see God “out there.” Closer to us than we are to ourselves, God is too close to see. God is the heart of our heart, the hope of our hopes, the love of our love, the ground of our being.
Where must we go to see God? Nowhere! What can we do to have God? Nothing! All we can do, at least for a moment (an eternal moment) is to abandon all doing and be who we are in God and open ourselves to God’s life within us. It is then that we will at once see God and ourselves in a unity of divine love.
In fidelity to silent prayer there is unveiled the possibility of infinite growth in union with God. We can be so transformed through this unveiling that we existentially realize within us that “for me to live is Christ” [Philippians 1:21]. We realize obscurely in our being, that our simple, concrete acts are open to a transformation through which they are “not only Godlike, but they become God’s own acts.” 
There is nowhere to go. There is nothing to do. God is upon and within us. In the midst of our humble duties, our poor, weak selves, our simple being who we are, we can say with Jacob with overwhelming gratitude: “Truly this is the house of God and the gate of heaven and I knew it not” [see Genesis 28:16-17]. 
 Thomas Merton, What Are These Wounds? The Life of a Cistercian Mystic, Saint Lutgarde of Aywières (Bruce: 1950), 14.
 James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God Through Awareness of the True Self (Ave Maria Press:1978, 1983), 112-113. Learn more from James Finley at jamesfinley.org.