Monday, October 31, 2011
A Year With Thomas Merton - October 31
The Smell of Night Under Cold Stars
The nights I have spontaneously been remembering the days when I first came to Gethsemani twenty-three years ago: the stars, the cold, the smell of night, the wonder, the Verlassenheit--abandonment (which is something else than despondency)--and above all the melody of the Rorate Coeli. The entire first Advent bore in it all the stamp of my vocation's particular character. The solitude inhabited and pervaded by the cold and mystery and woods and Latin liturgy. It is surprising how far we have got from that cold and the woods and the stars since those days.
My fiftieth year is ending and, if I am not ripe now, I never will be. It is the kairos, say the stars, says Orion, says Aldebaran, says the sickle moon rising behind the dark tall cedar cross. And I remember the words I said the Father Philotheus at St. Bonaventure's, which may have been in part a cliché, but they were sincere and I know at the time that I really meant them. And they were unpremeditated: the "I want to give God everything." Until now I really have not, I think. Or perhaps in a way I have tried to. Certainly not too hard! I cannot say my life in the monastery has been useless, or a failure. Nor can I say where or how it has had a meaning. Nor will I probably find where and how the hermitage has a meaning. It is enough that there is the same anguish and certitude, the same sense of walking on water, as when I first came to the monastery.
October 31, 1964, V.160