Monday, April 30, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 25

Loyal to the Truth

The Truth is a Way and a Person--and a Way and a Person have to be found and followed. Truth is to be lived. There are, in fact, no simple formulas that will suffice once for all. True, there are principles. But a principle is worthless if it is usually known and not applied. And if we apply it, we have to have regard for circumstances that make the principle true in a unique way in this unique case--or that perhaps calls into action some entirely different principle that gives the lie to the first.

How hard it is to be loyal to the Truth when most of the time you do not see any of it! Thus loyalty demands constant criticism, constant rejection of empty formulas, of words used to evade the struggle and to allay anguish, rather than to find Truth or express it. And can we use words simply to find Truth? Is this not an illusion?

There grows in me an immense dissatisfaction with all that is merely passively accepted as truth, without struggle and without examination. Faith, surely, is not passive, and not an evasion. And today, more than ever, the things we believe, I mean especially the things we accept on human faith--reported matters of "fact," questions of history, of policy, of interpretation, of wants--they should be very few. In great spheres we should believe little or nothing, except what is obviously and incontrovertibly true--that the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, for instance.

April 20, 1958, III. 192

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 24

Liberation Day
Evening. A full moon rising over the sharply outlined valley. Everything cool, green and very clear. I should have gone out for a long walk this afternoon but I had to write letters and then I have acquired a tape recorder and had to fool with it a little to make sure I know how to work it. It is a very fine machine and I am abashed by it. I take back some of the things I have said about technology.
I have made this day a sort of perplexed celebration--said Mass for M. and her fiancé and honestly hope they will get back in love again; in fact, by now, they probably are. And that they will be happy in marriage someday soon...and so on. I am sure there is no real problem. At least, I tell myself so. M. may want to hold on to me sentimentally in some way, but I am convinced that the real love is more or less over between us, though we shall always be fond of each other I am sure.
So in a way it is a liberation day--and I have made up my mind to be what I am supposed to be. (Finally!)
Actually it is a most happy evening--could not be more perfect. I have some bourbon (Tommie O'Callaghan brought some) and am playing an ancient Django Reinhardt record that brings back the thirties. (Regression?) Perhaps in a little while I shall go out and stroll around under the trees. And try to tell myself that I am not really sad at all.
April 22, 1967, VI.22-23

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 23

The Crooked Tree
As long as I do not pretend I suffer, as long as I do not trade in false coin nor camp too much upon flowers, nor claim that I have disappeared, my brothers' prayers can always mend me. The windows are open. Let the psalms fly in. Prime each morning makes me safe and free. The Day Hours sustain me with their economy. By night I am buried in Christ. At 3 a.m. I wear the old white vestments and say the Mass of the Blessed Virgin. Through the gaps in my own prayer come the psalms of the night office that I discovered again in the woods yesterday afternoon.
There, there is the crooked tree, the moss with my secrets, those pines upon that cliff of shake, the valley living with the tunes of diesel trains. Nobody knows the exact place I speak of, and why should I tell them? For every man is his own Jacob. He wakes up at the foot of his own ladder and see the angels going up and down, with God at the top of the ladder. And thus he wakes up in his own unrecognizable house, his gate of heaven.
April 22, 1951, II. 456-57

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 22

My Old Freedom in the Silence of "What Is"
Once again the old freedom, the peace of being without care, of not being at odds with the real sense of my own existence and with God's grace to me. Far better and deeper than any consolation of eros. A sense of stability and substantiality--of not being deceived. Though I know there was much good in our love--M.'s and mine--I also see clearly how deceptive it was and how it made me continually lie to myself. How we both loved each other and lied to each other at the same time. How difficult it must be to keep going in truth in a marriage. Heroic! For me the other truth is better: the truth of simply getting along with eros and resting in the silence of "what is." The deep inner sustaining power of silence. When I taste this again, so surely, after so long, I know what it means to repent of my infidelity an foolishness; yet at the same time I do not try to build up again anything that was properly torn down. It was good that (we) went through the storm: it was the only way to learn a truth that was otherwise inaccessible.
All the old desires, the deep ones, the ones that are truly mine, come back now. Desire of silence, peace, depth, light. I see I have been foolish to let myself be so influenced by the current trends, though they perhaps have their point. On the other hand, I know where my roots really are--in the mystical tradition, not in the active and anxious secular city business. Not that I don't have an obligation to society. This evening on the porch I sang the Alleluias and the Introit of tomorrow's Mass.
April 10 and 15, 1967, VI.217-18

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 21

The Paradise Season

It is already hot as summer. Everything is breaking into leaf, and the pine saw fly worms are all over the young pines.

This morning I sat in the monastery dentist's chair having my teeth cleaned and X-rayed, while the students banged and walloped next door demolishing the old library.

Early mornings are now completely beautiful--with the Easter moon in its last quarter high in the blue sky, and the light of dawn spreading triumphantly over the wide, cool green valley. It is paradise season!

Then yesterday
Flannery O'Connor's new book, Everything That Rises Must Converge, arrived, and I am already well into it, grueling and powerful! A relentlessly perfect writer, full of tragedy and irony. But what a writer! And she knows every aspect of the American meanness, and violence, and frustration. And the Southern struggle of will against inertia.

A pine warbler was caught in the novitiate scriptorium, beating against the window, and I got a good look at him letting him out. A couple of towhees are all around the hermitage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 20

God's Vestige in His Creatures
Yesterday I was sitting in the woodshed reading and a little Carolina wren suddenly hopped onto my shoulder and then onto the corner of the book I was reading and paused a second to take a look at me before flying away.
There is something you cannot know about a wren by cutting it up in a laboratory and that you can know only if it remains fully and completely a wren, itself, and hops on your shoulder if it feels like it.
A tame animal is already invested with a certain falsity by its tameness. By becoming what we want it to be, it takes a disguise that we have decided to impose upon it.
Even a wild animal merely "observed" is not seen as it really is, but rather in the light of our investigation (color changed by fluorescent lighting). But people who watch birds and animals are already wise in their way.
I want not only to observe but to know living things, and this implies a dimension of primordial familiarity that is simple and primitive and religious and poor. This is the reality I need, the vestige of God in His creatures.
April 5, 1958, III. 189-90

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 19

The Irrelevant Middle Ages?
I wonder if I have not said ill-considered things about Christian traditions--things that will only add to the present confusion, motivated by some obscure desire to protect my own heart against wounds by inflicting them myself (i.e., the wounds of loss and separation: as if I were saying, since the Middle Ages are no longer relevant to us, I might as well be the first to admit it and get it over with. But are the Middle Ages irrelevant? Of course not, and I have not begun to believe it! And it is part of my vocation to make observations that preserve a living continuity with the past, and with what is good in the past!).
The study of medieval exegesis is a way of entering into the Christian experience of that age, an experience most relevant to us, for if we neglect it, we neglect part of our own totality in Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs of Balthasar, etc. But it must not be studied from the outside. Same idea in Kitaro Nishida on Japanese culture and the Japanese view of life. I have a real sense this Easter that my own vocation demands a deepened and experiential stud, from within (by connaturality), of the medieval tradition as well as of, to some extent, Asian tradition and experiences, particularly Japanese, particularly Zen: i.e., in an awareness of a common need and aspiration with these past generations.
April 18 and 19, 1965, V.231-32

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 18

Taking Political Action
Bright noon sun and warmth. I left the refectory early and, as I was hurrying across the Night Pasture, I could hear the echo of Fr. Raymond's urgent shouts (he is reader in the refectory) relayed over a loudspeaker in the empty barns and in the farm building. It is characteristic of us that all our noise has to be heard everywhere.
To what extent is it simply a temptation for me to want to take some political position, as distinct from an ethical one? Are the two separable, for instance, where war is concerned? One thing is sure--it is beginning to be clear that opposition to nuclear war is something else than being simply a "pacifist." Also, opposition on the moral level demands some kind of open expression of one's position.
The question is--how to clearly, definitely and openly make such a stand without lending oneself to exploitation by one or another of the big power groups?
Reading Chuang Tzu. I wonder seriously if the answer, the only possible answer, does not lie hid far below the political and ethical levels. Ethics, and politics, certainly, but only in passing, only as a "night's lodging"? When all action has somehow become absurd, shall one act merely because at some other times action was once expected and significant? Like setting the dinner table in a time of starvation when you have no food, but setting it out anyway, out of habit?
April 8, 1961, IV.106-7


[This was written c. 1997, for a talk/homily/meditation presented at a youth event at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Orlando, Florida. The photo is of one of the boots that are the subject of this piece. My editor's fingers were twitching almost uncontrollably, but I have left the text exactly as written at the time. It represents where I was at that time and I think that needs to remain, including the "stage directions" to myself as speaker. I think the message still has value, especially in light of the Trayvon Martin case.]
These boots ended up being a little more than shoes for me {untie and remove shoes, placing them where everyone can see them}
Throughout history and, specifically, the history of God relating to humankind, shoes have been symbols, and sometimes sacramental symbols. For example, Moses took off his sandals when he approached the burning bush, and walked on the holy ground where you don't need any shoes because you are clothed in the presence of God. John the Baptist declared that there was a Messiah coming whose sandals he was not fit to untie. On Maundy Thursday, we take off our shoes and wash each other's feet to symbolize our attitude of servanthood toward one another. The Native Americans have a saying that you don't really understand a person until you've walked a mile in their moccasins.
It's actually this last image--that of walking in another person's moccasins--that I want to talk about tonight and tell you a personal story that really brought home that message to me.
As some of you remember from the Parish Retreat, Janet Wolf had us read passages from the Gospel and then spend some time imagining ourselves as one of the players in the stories. It was an especially interesting exercise for me, because I had the opportunity to put myself in the position of the religious authorities, and speak on their behalf, which is not a viewpoint I had often thought about.
Anyway, the retreat was May 17 & 18, and the very next day, May 19, I decided to go buy these shoes, these work boots you're looking at. I wanted some work boots to wear while working at the Habitat House, and they were on sale at Family Dollar for $11.99, so I couldn't pass that up. I looked at the sales flyer for the different locations of the store, and decided that the closest one to my house was in the 1300 block of West Gore Street. So, I get in the car and go west on Gore, and park my car in the parking lot, and...
...the second I walked into the store, something was a little different about this store. Mine was the only white face in the store. As I looked down each aisle, searching for the shoe section, my African American brothers and sisters looked up at me with some mixture of surprise and discomfort, and (I'm speculating) wondering what this white woman was doing at this store.
Well, that's when it happened.
The thought came to me at that moment, "What must it be like to wake up each morning and know that, when you go out in public,--whether it's to Family Dollar, or Publix, or the doctor's office or to church--you're going to be stared at or treated differently in some way just because of your skin color?"
I know. It's a simple thought. It's not like I couldn't have had it sooner. But, when I walked into that store, I didn't just think about it, I lived it. For the few minutes that I was in Family Dollar, I walked in someone else's shoes. I walked into that store to buy a pair of shoes; I walked out having worn someone else's moccasins.
So, every time I put these boots on, I can't help thinking about that moment. I can't help thinking that, in order to walk in someone else's moccasins, you have to take off your own shoes, and that maybe that's a time when you're walking on holy ground when you're walking from your space toward another human being. And I can't help thinking about how God put on human skin and knows how it feels to walk in our moccasins--thanks be to God.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 17

We Are All Afflicted with Illusion
My present view--provisionally:
a. "The world," in the sense of collective myths and aspirations of contemporary society, is not to be unconditionally accepted or rejected, because whether we like it or not, we are all part of it and there is a sense in which it has to be accepted.
b. But I refuse an optimism that blesses all these myths and aspirations as "temporal values" and accepts all projects of man's society as good, progressive, and laudable efforts in which all are to cooperate. Here one certainly has to distinguish. War in Vietnam--no; civil rights--yes; and a huge area of uncertainties, official projects dressed up in approved inanities.
c. I am convinced of the sickness of American affluent society. To bless that sickness as a "temporal value" is something I absolutely refuse. Love of "the world" in this case means understanding and love of the millions of people afflicted by the sickness and suffering from it in various ways: compassion for them, desire to liberate them from their obsessions (how can anyone do it? We are all afflicted), to give them some measure of sanity and authenticity.
d. The error is in rejecting the sick and condemning them along with the sickness.
e. The only right way: to love and serve the man of the modern world, but not simply to succumb, with him, to all his illusions about the world.
April 30, 1958, III.198

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 16

Death in the Newspapers

There is so much death in the newspapers that no one dies in them anymore and no one lives in them.  There are neither lives nor deaths in our press, only a stream of words passing over the living and the dead without ever touching them.

In the monastery, or at any rate in choir, I have been forgetting how to think--and only in the past few days have I woken up to the fact that this is very dangerous!  I mean the constant, habitual passivity we get into.  No matter how honest the surroundings and how clean the doctrine believed in them, no man can afford to be passive and to restrict his thinking to a new rehearsal, in his own mind, of what is being repeated all around him.

But we are not as honest as we think, and our doctrine is not as pure as we hope it is.  I least of all can afford to be passive in this place.

One must constantly be asking himself--"What do I mean by this?  Am I saying what I mean?  Have I understood what this implies?  Have I some notion of the consequences of what I am saying?"  I am particularly bad on the last question because usually I think on paper, that is, I often do not really know what I think until it is set out before me in black and white: then I can agree or disagree.

April 30 and May 2, 1958, III.198-99

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 15

A Nation of Fetishes

The great sin, the source of all other sins, is idolatry. And never has it been greater, more prevalent, than now. It is almost completely unrecognized—precisely because it is so overwhelming, total. It takes in everything. There is nothing else left. Fetishism of power, machines, possessions, medicine, sports, clothes, etc., all kept going by greed for money and power. The Bomb is only one accidental aspect of the cult. Indeed, the Bomb is not the worst. We should be thankful for it as a sign, a revelation of what all the rest of our civilization points to: the self-immolation of man to his own greed and his own despair. And behind it all are the principalities and powers whom man serves in his idolatry. Christians are as deeply involved in this as everyone else.

This is clearly one of the most important and inescapable messages of the Bible: that
unless man turns from his idols to God, he will destroy himself, or rather this idolatry will prove itself to be his destruction. (The idolater is already self-destroyed.) The other thing: man as a whole will not change. He will destroy himself. The Bible sees no other end to the story. But Christ has come to save from this destruction all who seek to be saved. In and through them He will recreate the world. By no means are we to interpret this to mean that enlightened ethics and polite good intentions are going to make technological society safe for man, and that the new creation will be in fact the technological paradise (plus a renewed liturgy!).

April 17, 1965, V.230-31

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 14

Bearing Witness to What Is Simple
Is there not a false eschatology of the "new heaven and new earth" which places its hope in the power of science to transform earth and heaven into places of happiness and bliss? (With God or without Him for that matter.) Is the true prospect rather that the stupidity and pride of man will ruin the earth, and that God will restore it through charity and the tears of the poor, the "remnant" and the saints? I am not saying this false eschatology is in the article of K. V. Truhlar's, which has excellent things in it--but theologians occupied with the Christian and the world are not sufficiently aware of what technology is doing to the world and, in failing to make distinctions, they tend to embrace all manifestations of progress without question in "turning to the world" and in "Christian temporal action." Hence inevitably we get Christians in the U. S. supporting a criminally stupid military adventure in Vietnam.
There is no question for me that my one job as monk is to live the hermit life in simple, direct contact with nature, primitively, quietly, doing some writing, maintaining such contacts as are willed by God, and bearing witness to the value and goodness of simple things and ways, and loving God in it all. I am more convinced of this than of anything contingent upon my life, and I am sure it is what He asks of me. Yet I do not always respond with simplicity.

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 13

Nothing Counts Except Love
One thing has suddenly hit me--that nothing counts except love; that a solitude that is not simply the wide-openness of love and freedom is nothing. Love and solitude are the one ground of true maturity and freedom. Solitude that is just solitude and nothing else (i.e., excludes everything else but solitude) is worthless. True solitude embraces everything, for it is the fullness of love that rejects nothing and no one, and is open to All in All.
After several days of rain the sky is clearing. Afternoons at the hermitage become once again possible. I walked a bit in the woods, under the pines, and again plan work, study, ideas, not to affirm myself but to give to others. Anything I have that is good is worth sharing. What is not worth sharing is not worth bothering about. What is "mine" is tolerated only insofar as I am willing to share it with everybody.
I see this as ambiguous though. It needs qualification.
I have got to be faithful, detached, obedient, concerned not only for my own life as I want to live it, but for God's will, which remains to be realized in and through me. That is all.
April 14, 1966, VI.40

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 12
Staying Found
Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus, the "Shepherd and Bishop" of our souls, gave me many graces appropriate to this day. "I know mine and mine know me" (John 10:14). "My sheep hear my voice." I read over St. John of the Cross's Cautions, which were the things I had in mind to keep when I made my solemn profession, and I see to my dismay how much I had forgotten them.
I went to Fr. Placid in the confessional and he told me I was too restless and that what I was looking for (union with God) was right in front of my nose and I couldn't see it. Also, there was no earthly reason why any amount of work should prevent my union with God, provided it is His will.
And all that is true. My mind is scattered among things, not because of my work, but became (sic) I am not detached, and I do not attend first of all to God. On the other hand, I do not attend to Him because I am so absorbed in all these objects and events. I have to wait on His grace. But how stubborn and slow my nature is. And how I keep confusing myself and complicating things for myself by useless twisting and turning.
What I need most of all is the grace to really accept God as He gives Himself to me in every situation: "He came unto His own and His own received Him not."
Good Shepherd, You have a wild and crazy sheep in love with thorns and brambles. But please don't get tired of looking for me! I know You won't. For You have found me. All I have to do is stay found.
April 11, 1948, II.198-99

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 11

My Art of Confession and Witness
The work of writing can be for me, or very close to, the simple job of being: by creative reflection and awareness to help life itself live in me, to give its esse an existent, or to find a place, rather, in esse by action, intelligence, and love. For to write is to love: it is to inquire and to praise, to confess and to appeal. This testimony of love remains necessary. Not to reassure myself that I am ("I write, therefore I am"), but simply to pay my debt to life, to the world, to other men. To speak out with an open heart and say what seems to me to have meaning. The bad writing I have done has all been authoritarian, the declaration of musts, and the announcement of punishments. Bad because it implies a lack of love, good insofar as there may yet have been some love in it. The best stuff has been more straight confession and witness.

April 14, 1966, VI.371

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 10

Relax and Live
Quiet, grey afternoon. It is warmer. Birds sing. There will be more rain. Cocks crowing in the afternoon silence, very distant.
A thunderstorm. The first I have sat through in the hermitage. Here you really can watch a storm. White snakes of lightning suddenly stand out in the sky and vanish.
The thunder cracks and beats. Rain comes flooding down from the roof eaves, and grass looks twice as green as before.
Not to be known, not to be seen.
Father Gabriel Sweeney, the little white-haired Passionist who is in the novitiate, who asked to leave before Easter, and was dissuaded by Reverend Father, stand with a piteous expression in the novitiate library reading Relax and Live. Sooner or later they come to that.
The evening sky over the valley. Long lines of clouds traveling in strong cold wind toward the east.
Janua Coeli: the Gate of Heaven. How different prayer is here at the hermitage. Clarity--direction--to Christ the Lord for the great gift--the passage out of this world to the Father, entry into the kingdom. I know what I am here for. May I be faithful to this awareness.
April 15 and 16, 1961, IV.107-8

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 9

The Peace of Submerged Dragons
A gay, bright, glorious day and a very fine Easter such as I do not remember for a long time. The Vigil was tremendous for me and the glory of Christ was in it. There has been splendor in everything (including the emptiness of Good Friday morning, when rain came down in torrents and I stayed in the hermitage).
Yesterday--reading bits of Dame Julian of Norwich and today I began Gregory of Nyssa's homilies on the Canticle.
"There is not a more dangerous tendency in history than that of representing the past as if it were a rational whole and dictated by clearly defined interest," say Huizinga. What about the present? An even greater error.
Fr. Sylvanus was in town to go to the doctor and brought back a newspaper story about a man in the Kentucky mountains, a former coal miner, who for thirteen years has been living as a hermit, with a dog, in a pitiful little shack without even a chimney and the an old car seat for a bed. "Because of all these wars." A real desert father, and probably not too sure why.
The hills are suddenly dark blue. Very green alfalfa in the bottoms. Yellow or mustard or sienna sage grass in my own field. Here there is no impatience. I am a submerged dragon. The peace of the Easter Alleluias.
April 2 and 7, 1961, IV.105-6

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 8 (Easter 2012)

A Task to Spiritualize the World
The task of a priest is to spiritualize the world. He raises his consecrated hands, and the grace of Christ's resurrection goes out from him to enlighten the souls of the elect and of them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. Through his blessing material creation is raised up and sanctified and dedicated to the glory of God. The priest prepares the coming of Christ by shedding upon the whole world the invisible light that enlightens every man that comes into the world. Through the priest the glory of Christ seeps out into creation until all things are saturated in prayer.
All week I have been thinking of the inestimable greatness and dignity of faith. Faith is higher and more perfect than all knowledge that accessible to us on earth. The only really valuable experience is a deepening and intensification of faith by love and the gifts of the Holy Ghost--an intensification that only simplifies our faith and makes it more clear by purifying it of every created image and species. So that the purest experience of all begins with the realization of how far faith transcends experience. Our only true greatness is in the humility of living faith. The simpler and purer our faith is, the closer it brings us to God, Who is infinitely great. That is why everyone who humbles himself shall be exalted, and everyone who exalts himself, in the appetite for great lights and extraordinary experiences and feelings and mystical consolations, shall be humbled. Because the richer he desires to be in these things, the poorer he will be in the sight of God, in Whose eyes greatness is nothing.
April 16 and 18, 1950, II. 431-32

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 7

A Speech Formed in Silence
The mystery of speech and silence is resolved in the Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost is the solution. The problem of language is the problem of sin. The problem of silence is also a problem of love. How can a man really know whether to write or not, whether to speak or not, whether his words and his silence are for good or for evil, for life or for death, unless he understands the two divisions of tongues--the division of Babel, when men were scattered in their speech because of pride, and the division of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost sent out men of one dialect to speak all the languages of the earth and bring all men to unity: that they may be one, Father, Thou in Me and I in them, that they may be one in Us.
The Acts of the Apostles is a book full of speech. It begins with tongues of fire. The Apostles and disciples come downstairs and out into the street like an avalanche, talking in every language. And the world thought they were drunk. But before the sun had set, they had baptized three thousand souls out of Babel into the One Body of Christ. At Pentecost we sing of Whom they spoke. The false Jerusalem, the old one that was a figure and had died, could not prohibit them from speaking (Acts 4). But the more they loved one another and loved God, the more they declared His word. And He manifested Himself through them. That is the only possible reason for speaking--it justified speaking without end, as long as the speech formed is from silence and brings your soul again to silence.
April 14, 1950, II.430-31

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 6

Easter's Clean Taste
The grace of Easter is a great silence, an immense tranquility and a clean taste in your soul. It is the taste of heaven, but not the heaven of some wild exaltation. The Easter vision is not riot and drunkenness of spirit, but a discovery of order above all order--a discovery of God and of all things in Him. This is a wine without intoxication, a joy that has no poison in it. It is life without death. Tasting it for a moment, we are briefly able to see and love all things according to their truth, to possess them in their substance hidden in God, beyond all sense. For desire clings to the vesture and accident of things, but charity possesses them in the simple depths of God.
If Mass could only be, every morning, what it is on Easter morning! If the prayers could always be so clear, if the Risen Christ would always shine in my heart and all around me and before me in His Easter simplicity! For His simplicity is our feast. This is the unleavened bread which is manna and the bread of heaven, this Easter cleanness, this freedom, this sincerity. Give us always this bread of heaven. Slake us always with this water that we might not thirst forever!
This is the life that pours down into us from the Risen Christ, this is the breath of his Spirit, and this is the love that quickens His Mystical Body.
April 9, 1950, II. 429-30

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 5

Baptized by Darkness

The darkness is thinning and expects the sun. Birds begin to sing. No Mass. Everything is waiting for the Resurrection.

At the end of night office, when the whole choir sank into the darkness of death and chanted without the faintest light, I thought of the darkness as a luxury, simplifying and unifying everything, hiding all the accidents that make one monk different from another monk, and submerging all distinctions in plain obscurity. Thus we are all one in the death of Christ. The darkness that descends upon us at the end of
Lauds hears us sing the Benedictus, the canticle of thanksgiving for the Light who is to be sent. Now He is sent. He has come. He has descended into the far end of night, gathered our Fathers, the Patriarchs and Prophets, to Himself in Limbo. Now we will all be manifest. We will see one another with white garments, with palm branches in our hands. The darkness is like a font from which we shall ascend washed and illumined, to see one another, no longer separate, but one in the Risen Christ.

April 8, 1950, II.428

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 4

An Ever-Ancient New Creation
The power of the Easter Vigil liturgy in part stems from the fact that so many vestiges of primitive nature rites are included and sanctified in it. Mystery of fire and mystery of water. Mystery of spring: Ver sacrum. Fire, water and spring made sacred and meaningful theologically by the Resurrection of Christ, the new creation. Instead of stamping down the force of new life in us (and turning it into a dragon), let it be sweetened, sanctified and exalted, a figure of the life of the Spirit which is made present in our heart's love by the Resurrection.
One unquestionable improvement in the liturgy of Holy Week is the recovery of the more ancient tone for the singing of the Passion. It is splendidly austere and noble. Tremendously moving, like great tolling Flemish bells stirring whole populations in medieval cities, or like the stone sides of the Cistercian churches of the twelfth century which echoed to these tones. The chant was a mighty and living presence, binding us together in mystery. A great eloquence and sobriety that has almost been lost from the world but has been recovered. This eloquence, though, is stubborn, it is in man, it will not go. Christ preserves it, as He preserves us, from our own vulgarity.
April 1, 1961, IV.104-5

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 3

A Time of Wordless Deepening
Yesterday, on orders from Brother Clement and Reverend Father, I marked the trees Andy Boone is to cut, down in the hollow behind the hermitage, where the spring is. What a tangle of brush, saplings, vines, fallen trees, honeysuckle, etc.! Marks of deer everywhere. A fire in there would be awful. I hope we can get a space of an acre or so good and clear between here and the spring, and keep it clear. And I can use the spring, for I need it. All this is the geographical unconscious of my hermitage. Out in front, the "conscious mind," the ordered fields, the wide valley, tame woods. Behind, the "unconscious"--this lush tangle of life and death, full of danger, yet where beautiful things move, the deer, and where there is a spring of sweet, pure water--buried!
Light rain all night. The need to keep working at meditation--going to the root. Mere passivity won't do at this point. But activism won't do either. A time of wordless deepening, to grasp the inner reality of my nothingness in Him Who Is. Talking about it in these terms seems absurd. Seems to have nothing to do with the concrete reality that is to be grasped. My prayer is peace and struggle in silence, to be aware and true, beyond myself, and to go outside the door of myself, not because I will it, but because I am called and must respond.
April 3 and 4, 1965, V.224

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Found today at the Gazebo. Must be *some* kind of sign...surely?

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 2

Our Responsibility Toward Creation
"Obedient unto death...." Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Christian obedience to God today concerns the responsibility of the Christian in a technological society toward God's creation and God's will for His creation. Obedience to God's will for nature and for man--respect for nature and for man--in the awareness of our power to frustrate God's designs for nature and for man--to radically corrupt and destroy natural goods by misuse and blind exploitation, especially by criminal waste. The problem of nuclear war in only one facet of an immense, complex and unified problem.
There are very grave problems in the implications of certain kinds of Christian outlooks on "the world." The crux of the matter seems to be what extent a Christian thinker can preserve his independence from obsessive modes of thought about secular progress. (Behind which is always the anxiety for us and for the Church to be "acceptable" in a society that is leaving us behind in a cloud of dust.) In other words, where is our hope? If in fact our hope is in a temporal and secular humanism of technological and political progress, we will find ourselves, in the name of Christ, joining in the stupidity and barbarism of those who are despoiling His creation in order to make money or get power for themselves. But our hope must be in God. And he who hopes in God will find himself sooner or later making apparently hopeless and useless protests against the barbarism of power.
April 15, 1965, V.227-28

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 1

Love Flowers When It Is Obedient
Dawn is beginning (5:30) on a mild spring morning. Holy Week is about to begin and I was never more conscious of its solemnity and its importance. I am a Christian, and a member of a Christian community. I and my brothers are to put aside everything else and recognize that we belong not to ourselves but to God in Christ. That we have vowed obedience, which is intended to unite us to Christ "obedient unto death--even the death of the Cross." That without our listening and attention and submission, in total self-renunciation and love for the Father's will, in union with Christ, our life is false and without meaning. But in so far as we desire, with Christ, that the Father's will may be done in us, as it is in heaven and in Christ, then even the smallest and most ordinary things are made holy and great. And then in all things the love of God opens and flowers, and our lives are transformed. This transformation is a manifestation and advent of God in the world.
One of the fruits of a solitary life is a sense of the absolute importance of obeying God--a sense of the need to obey and to seek His will, to choose freely to see and accept what comes from Him, not as a last resort, but as one's "daily super-substantial bread." Liberation from automatic obedience into the seriousness and gravity of a free choice to submit. But it is not easy to see always where and how!