Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - September 13

Returning to the World

In a sense, a very true and salutary sense, coming to the hermitage has been a "return to the world," not a return to the cities, but a return to direct and humble contact with God's world, His creation, the world of poor men who work. Andy Boone is more physically my neighbor than the monastery. It is his sawmill I hear, not the monastery machines. His rooster crows in my morning, his cows low in the evening.
I do not have the official "space"--sanctified, juridically defined, hedged in with elaborate customs--of the monastery as my milieu. To be out of that is a great blessing. It is a space rich with delusions and with the tyranny of willful fabrication. My space is the world created and redeemed by God. God is in this true world, not "only" and restrictively a prisoner in the monastery. It is crucially important for the monastery to abandon the myth of itself as a purely sacred space--it is a disaster for its real "sacredness." Curiously, the move to the hermitage is getting out in rumors. Though the situation is partly understood and partly not, it is interpreted with shock as my "leaving the monastery." This is true. The general reproach is then that I am not clinging, in spite of reason, grace and everything else, to something God no longer wills for me--clinging to it just because society expects me to do so! My life is a salutary scandal, and that is another proof of the reality of my vocation, I believe. Here I see my task is to get rid of the last vestiges of a pharisaical division between the sacred and the secular, to see that the whole world is reconciled to God in Christ.

September 11, 1965, V.293-94

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