The Zoom Wednesday Bible Study I lead has been a great educational experience for me. Every time we have a discussion on the scriptures appointed for the next Sunday, I discover something new or I think about God and the Bible from a different perspective. This past week we had a discussion on the way God is present within us. Where is our spiritual center? Where does God dwell in us? Is God in our emotions, or in our intellect, or in our “heart,” or in our “soul?” How, precisely, is God “within” us?
After that class, a friend shared a quote from the well-known Trappist Monk, mystic, and author, Thomas Merton, where he contemplates this very question. Merton wrote of le point vierge—“the virgin point.”
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is, so to speak, His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our Son-ship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.i”
I’ve always loved Merton’s writings (as well as the fact that he experienced his most profound religious experience, not on a distant mountaintop, but at the busy intersection of 4th and Walnut in downtown Louisville, Kentucky!) The term he used, le point vierge, finds its origins in the “ninth century Sunni mystic, Al-Hallaj, (who) taught the core of the human heart was accessible only by God, but that our spirit may touch God at the virginal center of this core, le point vierge.ii”
For me, and for many of us, le point vierge is deeply connected to our participation at St. Bart’s. This community of faith finds its way into the center of our desires to reach towards God. It transforms us even as we seek to be transformational agents within it. On its best days, it is, as Merton so beautifully described it, “a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.”
How, precisely, is God “within” us? It’s an impossible question to answer. But I believe Thomas Merton was right. The gate of heaven is everywhere. It is all around us.
No one may be able to explain it completely, but many of us have come to conclude that St. Bart’s is, as Merton describes it, “a brilliant point of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.”
And, there is certainly enough darkness and cruelty to go around.
New York City has received approximately 100,000 new immigrants in the past 12 months from all over the world. Thousands of immigrants are currently sleeping on our streets…some on the very steps of this sacred institution. Thousands of immigrants are seeking to be fed…many of them being served food from the undercroft of this parish. I realize the topic of immigration has become a highly politicized national issue but, as followers of Christ, what will our responsibility be in making the “darkness and cruelty” experienced by these immigrants “vanish completely?” Are they any less our brothers and sisters than the people receiving Communion next to us in church?
As summer begins to wind-down, we all begin to look towards participating in the myriad of programs being planned for the fall. I hope you will find this vibrant congregation helpful in your spiritual quest to discover le point vierge; God at the very center of your being. I pray we will all continue to find outward and visible ways of responding to Christ’s call upon each one of our lives.
St. Bartholomew’s Church in the City of New York