A friend once told me about a comedy bit, “Facial expressions you don’t want to see from Jesus.” The comedian proceeds to frown, grimace, and manifest plain bewilderment, presumably in response to whatever it is you’re up to this time. It’s funny, because for many of us, that’s a real fear. Merton, it seems, would tell us that we’ve nothing to worry about, because the very existence of a creature is an act of praise to Yahweh (“Image and Likeness, in The New Man, 51ff.).
Yahweh himself exists as a Trinitarian community, outside of time and space. He wills that others exist as part of that community, to be loved by it, and to love within it. It is the nature of the Trinity to exist and love in community. Therefore the creative act by which Yahweh spoke the universe into being is the inevitable consequence of his own nature. The Creation praises, for it exists out of obedience and the knowledge that it is known and loved by Yahweh. To exist, any creature must first be conceived and loved in the mind of Yahweh. Therefore anything that exists in the original created order is intrinsically and irrevocably an object of Yahweh’s love.
Only non-existent creatures can be unknown to and unloved by Yahweh. If I exist, I was created by Yahweh. Yahweh creates solely out of creative love. If I exist, it is because I was conceived as an object of Yahweh’s love. Therefore the intrinsic ground of my own being is the reality that I am loved by Yahweh. Ecstasy and forgetfulness of self are normal for the Creation, Merton says, because self knowledge rests entirely on the truth of being loved by Yahweh. On such a foundation there is not need to hide or protect oneself.
Who can comprehend or explain the mystery of what it means to awaken to one’s own reality as an existential consequence of the fact that we are loved by Reality Itself? (54)
This is a god who will not grimace at our failings.