“The contemplative life must provide an area, a space of liberty, of silence, in which possibilities are allowed to surface and new choices – beyond routine choice – become manifest. It should create a new experience of time, not as stopgap, stillness, but as “temps vierge” – not a blank to be filled or an untouched space to be conquered and violated, but a space which can enjoy its own potentialities and hopes – and its own presence to itself. One’s own time. But not dominated by one’s own ego and its demands. Hence open to others – compassionate time, rooted in the sense of common illusion and in criticism of it.”
(“temps vierge”: French, literally, “virginal time.” Cf. in Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (page 117 of the original Doubleday edition) his use of the phrase “point vierge” to describe “the first chirps of the waking birds” at dawn near the monastery in Kentucky. “They begin to speak to Him, not with fluent song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn state, their state at the ‘point vierge.’ Their condition asks if it is time for them to ‘be.’ He answers ‘yes.’ Then, they one by one wake up, and become birds.”)
From The Asian Journals of Thomas Merton
(New Directions Publishing Corp. New York, 1975) Page 117, 177.