My reflection on the Wilderness Experience brings some insight to the three attributes of emptiness, loneliness, and dryness. However, after reading over that section, I feel that a more detailed explanation covering those terms is needed to give the reader a better description as to what I meant and Merton as well.
Emptiness: As I mentioned in my reflection, as humans we are capable of loading ourselves down with much too much unnecessary baggage (everyday problems and doubts). It is very unlikely most people can rid themselves of these nuances for very long without any one of them raising their ugly head and confronting our peace of mind, as well as any thoughts of relaxation so often needed in the busy life-style most endure daily. We need to become like a hollow bowl cleared of any debris and waiting for some unseen entity to fill the emptiness therein. That entity should be the Holy Spirit who just waits patiently to be invited in to take residence in a welcoming vessel that needs the presence of Jesus Christ who was already outside knocking at the door of our heart. Keep in mind that any one of the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity is completely God and to interchange the persons by name in no way diminishes the power and holiness of that status of God’s intervention within us.
Once we allow God’s Holy Presence to reside within the metamorphosis of our humanity, we will become new and brilliant as He begins to set up house, so to speak, and walk via our own movement to see the world around us with eyes of faith never before encountered. Can anyone imagine the power of God residing within our human presence and taking control of the many distractions life throws at us daily? Yes, we have free will and God will not interfere with that. But, when He becomes the captain of our ship we will bend that free will to match the very essence of a Divine Guide accepting the direction He wants us to follow. It will be like our sailing on a ship in a storm and He stands up and says; “Quiet! Be still; I am here”. All becomes calm and we can see through the clouds of doubt and problems that no longer are important. The emptiness disappears and we will be filled with our God sustaining the direction of our faith journey.
Loneliness: No man is an island (by John Donne) speaks to man in a very profound manner. At times we might seek to be without people, but as Merton states: “ We do not go into the desert to escape people, but to learn how to find them; we do not leave them in order to have nothing to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good”.
However, in this spiritual exercise we need to actually become alone absenting ourselves from others around us to find that it is God who fills that space, and as in the emptiness mentioned above it is a profound moment that there will be just the Lord and me wherein His Holy Spirit can speak to my heart and permeate my senses in a way that can not happen when I am in dialogue with others.
This portion of the Wilderness Experience will touch our persona more than the others in a way that brings new life into our waking moments and resurrect a complete sense of understanding not realized with any other faction. We must be alone to be with God even in the midst of people.
Dryness: An experience that many saints, mystics, and contemplatives have gone through in their spiritual journey towards holiness and eventual comfort of God’s Realm. It becomes a time when prayer becomes difficult and keeping our sight on the Lord during the loneliest and darkest times when we try to get close to God’s presence. It is when nothing can salve the terrible feelings of failing in our walk and only an insurmountable trek looms before us. Elijah describes it as climbing to the top of the mountain to realize you will be going down the other side. Our journey of faith is like that as we climb in faith to find we face obstacles that bring us down again. The taste or lack of it in our journey is much like that. In the Dark Night of the Soul it seems that nothing is working for you, but there is always hope that you will reach the pinnacle of God’s Realm as you struggle to find that refreshment so longed for by those who have experienced this dry time.
As a paradox the dryness is something to really be experienced by anyone seeking the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in a way that surpasses all intelligence and learned expressions of life. It is here that the soul finds a meaning to contemplate who God is in our very existence.