Notebook

Dilatatio cordis

The following observation from Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1968) is well-known. It is still worth recalling on this last day of the octave of prayer for Christian unity:

‘If I can unite in myself the thought and devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russian and the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From the secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians. If we want to bring together what is divided, we can not do so by imposing one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other. But if we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political, and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ.’

One aspect of what St Benedict in his Rule calls the ‘broadening of the heart’, a blessed, painful, joyful business.