Bearing the Beams of Love
by Douglas Steere
THERE IS A LINE in William Blake that says that "we are put on earth for a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love." In this line we are given a clue both to the greatness of the human condition: that it is irradiated by love; but also the firm reminder of how much remains to be done to prepare us to bear the "beams of love."
If to pray means change, it is no wonder that humans, even devoted ones, hurry to fashion protective clothing, leaden aprons that resist all radiation, even beam-proof shelters within corporate religious exercises in order to elude the "beams of love" and to stay as we are. ... To compel humans to acknowledge their contrived hiding places ... to seek to strip them of their cloaks of evasion and leave them exposed before the necessary decisions may seem a negative task, ... but how else is one to describe genuine prayer?
Prayer if it is real is an acknowledgment of our finitude, our need, our openness to be changed, our readiness to be surprised, yes, astonished by the "beams of love."
Taken from the Foreword to Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1969).