Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - July 30

Praying in the Night

Lord God of this great night: Do You see the woods? Do You hear the rumor of their loneliness? Do You behold their secrecy? Do You remember their solitudes? Do You see that my soul is beginning to dissolve like wax within me?

“O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest.”

Do you remember the place by the stream? Do You remember the top of the Vineyard Knob that time in autumn, when the train was in the valley? Do You remember McGinty’s hollow? Do You remember the thinly wooded hillside behind Hanekamp’s place? Do You remember the time of the forest fire? Do You know what has become of the little poplars we planted in the spring? Do You observe the valley where I marked the trees?

There is no leaf that is not in Your care. There is not cry that was not heard by You before it was uttered. There is no water in the shales that was not hidden there by Your wisdom. There is no concealed spring that was not concealed by You. There is no glen for a lone house that was not planned by You for that acre of woods.

There is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. Eternity is a seed of fire whose sudden roots break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss.

July 4, 1952, II.487

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - July 29

Keeping Awake in Obedience to Him Who Is Holy

There is a special peace and sense of blessing on Sunday morning, though all mornings are equally quiet here at the hermitage and the same birds always sing. Today the peace is even greater because of the storm and cleansing in the night.

Seeing more and more that my understanding of myself and of my life has always been most inadequate. Now that I want more than ever to see, I realize how difficult it is. Though there is danger, doubtless, in solitude, I realize more than ever that here, in solitude, for me, is confrontation with the Word, and with God, and with the only possibilities that are fully real, or with those that are most real. (There is something real after all in community, but more and more, as I go down there, I have the sense that reality is smothered there and words are substituted for it.) Yet my job and that of the Church remains this: to awaken in myself and in others the sense of real possibility, of truth, of obedience to Him who is Holy, of refusal of pretences and servitude—without arrogance and hubris and specious idealism. The terrible thing is that our society, which pretends to be Christian, is in fact rejecting the noise of its own propaganda, able to make itself believe whatever it wants. This is a deluding, fanatical, stupid society. It is under judgment—and what can one say to it? It would be useless to pretend to be perfect, for no one, as far as I can see, is “sent” with any prophetic message. Least of all I.

July 18 and 19, 1965,V.271-72

A Year With Thomas Merton - July 28

Entering the School of My Life

During the night office and morning meditation, seeing that my whole life is a struggle to seek the truth (at least, I want it to be so) and that the truth is found in the reality of my own life as it is given to me, and that it is found by complete consent and acceptance. Not at all by defeat, by mere passive resignation, by mere inert acceptance of evil and falsity (which are nevertheless unavoidable), but by “creative” consent, in my deepest self, to the will of God, which is expressed in my own self and my own life. And indeed there is a sense in which my own deepest self is in God and even expresses Him, as “word.” Such is the deep meaning of our Sonship.

Gradually I will come more and more to transcend the limitations of the world and of the society to which I belong—while fully accepting my own little moment in history, such as it is.

To be detached from all systems, and without rancor towards them, but with insight and compassion. To be truly “catholic” is to be able to enter into everybody’s problems and joys and be all things to all men.

July 31, 1961, IV.146

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - July 27

Facing Death
Does my solitude meet the standard set by my approaching death? No. I’m afraid it does not. That possibility which is most intimate, isolated, my own, cannot be shared or described. I cannot look forward to it as an experience I can analyze and share. It is not something to be understood and enjoyed. (To “understand” and “contemplate” it beforehand is a kind of imposture.) But the solitary life should partake of the seriousness and incommunicability of death. Or should it? It that too rigid and absolute an ideal? The two go together. Solitude is not death, it is life. It aims not at a living death but at a certain fullness of life. But a fullness that comes from honestly and authentically facing death and accepting it without care, i.e., with faith and trust in God. Not with any social justification: not with reliance on an achievement which is approved or at least understood by others. Unfortunately, even in solitude, though I try not to (and sometimes claim not to), I still depend too much, emotionally, on being accepted and approved.
The greatest “comfort” (and a legitimate one, not an invasion) is to be sought precisely in the Psalms, which face death as it is, under the eye of God, and teach us how we may face it. The Psalms bring us at the same time into contact, rather communion, with all those who have seen death and accepted it. Most of all the Lord Himself, who prayed from Psalm 21 on the Cross.
July 5, 1965, V.264-65

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who's In Charge Here?

First circuit: white brilliant hot
Second circuit: yellowy brilliant
Third circuit: orangey glowing brilliant
Last circuit: ember orange cozy

First circuit: Matte white hot
Second circuit: Matte bluish white hot
Third circuit: Washed-out azure
Last circuit: Hints of lavender at the edges of azure

And that's just the sky, not the birds, the planes, the clouds when there are any. Trees and people and re-lay-shun-ships. Glad I'm not the General Manager of the Universe.

A Year With Thomas Merton - July 26

The Real Thing

I am very impressed and deeply moved by Ramana Maharshi: not only his life (of which I know only the bare outline) but his doctrine—traditional Advaita—or rather, his experience. Whatever may be the deficiencies of the doctrinal elaboration, and the misleading effect of some of the philosophical concepts, this is the basic experience: God is the ultimate “I” Who is the Self of every self! It is this that Christianity too expresses in and through the doctrines of grace, redemption, Incarnation, Trinity. Sons in the Son by grace, we recognize the Father as Him with Whom we are one—not by nature but by His Gift. But the impact of Maharshi’s experience awakens in us the real depth of this truth, and the love that springs from it. How powerless most Christian writing and teaching is today, in this respect! How lost, how far off the real target! The words are there, the doctrine is there, but the realization is absent. Maharshi has an inadequate doctrine, perhaps, but the real realization.

July 23, 1964, V.130-31