A New Sweet-Smelling Altar
(Merton celebrates his first Mass in the front room of his hermitage on July 17, 1967)
Today, on the patronal feast of my hermitage, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, first Mass here (after nearly seven years). Went over to Athertonville Saturday after dinner to get the altar, sweet-smelling, in Buck Murfield’s dark shop. Some of the fields were still under water from the floods of the other day. Saturday was bright and glorious—exceptionally cool weather, lovely white clouds, dry and full of sun, clean, pure. Set up in the hermitage, with ikons over it, the altar is just right.
Mass about 4:30 or 4:45. Said it slowly, even sang some parts (of Gregorian Kyrie, Gloria, Preface, and other bits). It was a beautiful Mass, and I now see that having the altar here is a great step forward and a huge help.
Saying Mass up here changes the shape of the day, and eating dinner up here makes it completely leisurely. The best Sunday I can remember in a very long time.
The quiet of the morning, the singing birds, irreplaceable! But the fact of not being able to go anywhere at the moment, when everybody is on planes, means that I am inevitably out of touch with the full reality of my time. Or does it? Everybody on planes? Millions go nowhere—and those monks in Asian monasteries, where do they go? Perhaps going nowhere is better. I don’t know.
July 17 and 18, 1967, VI.265-66