In a wonderful letter to Czeslaw Milosz Thomas Merton writes about resurrection consciousness – “life is on our side” – where the God whom we seek is not to be found in intellectually satisfying systems of thought, but rather in the muddle and agony of a man being humiliated and executed. Merton’s resurrection consciousness is full of the cross – struggles with despair, violence, dishonesty and betrayal, but a despair that Merton believes can lead to rebirth and the light of Christ, and where the consciousness is awareness that from the darkest times rebirth can take place. In the trauma is the transcendence.
The dividing line between despair and faith can be a mere thread; when the soul is at the very edge of the abyss it can in an instant be snatched into safety. There need not be any long twilight separating darkness from dawn. The sun can suddenly arise – strangely and unexpectedly out of the most unpromising sky. Merton shows us how both faith and despair can be paradoxical and contradictory; to be human is to be many things sometimes consecutively and sometimes almost at the same time: both the shadow and the persona; the false and the true self; wise and foolish; dead and alive – crucified and resurrected.
Merton writes that Easter celebrates the victory of love over everything and in the letter he expresses it in this way:
“… Life is on our side. The silence and the Cross of which we know are forces that cannot be defeated. In silence and suffering, in the heartbreaking effort to be honest in the midst of dishonesty (most of all our own dishonesty), in all these is victory. It is Christ in us who drives us through darkness to a light of which we have no conception and which can only be found by passing through apparent despair. Everything has to be tested. All relationships have to be tried. All loyalties have to pass through fire. Much has to be lost. Much in us has to be killed, even much that is best in us. But Victory is certain. The Resurrection is the only light, and with that light there is no error.”