Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism - 7

p. 45: (St. Ignatius, focusing on running water) "the eyes of his mind were opened, not so as to see any kind of vision, but so as to understand and comprehend spiritual things..."

Matthew 9.30:

And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’

Mark 7.34:

Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’

Luke 24.31:

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism - 5

p. 33: "We must," says Plato in the 'Timaeus,' make a distinction of the two great forms of being, and ask, 'What is that which Is and has no Becoming, and what is that which is always becoming and never Is?"

Sounds like God (Is), and us (always becoming). I believe it is John Macquarrie whose name for this, and for God, is Letting-Be. It is the practice of mysticism that prepares us for our becoming, by the subtle (okay, sometimes not so subtle) I Am.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism - 4

p. 14: "It is no argument to say that most men see the world in much the same way and that this 'way' is the true standard of reality: though for practical purposes we have agreed that sanity consists of sharing the hallucinations of our neighbors."

p. 18: "Nescio! Nescio!"

How do we know what we know about mysticism? We are so entrenched in the scientific method as the way of knowing. How do we know the realities accessible in mysticism and how do we know that we know? Can the noetic sciences help us with this? What would Evelyn Underhill think of the noetic sciences? How do you measure that which is immeasurable?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism - 3

p. 10: "Some see Faith as Dante saw Beatrice: an adorable yet intangible figure, found in this world yet revealing the next."

"...must deliberately break with our inveterate habit of taking the 'visible world' for granted; our lazy assumption that somehow science is 'real' and metaphysics is not."

I hear in this sentence a hint of the kind of sight that mysticism gives you, i.e., an ability to look at what catches your attention in this world and see in it/them/her/him another piece of the revelation of the Real.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism - 2

p. 8 (definition of mysticism): "The expression of the innate tendency of the human spirit towards complete harmony with the transcendental order; whatever be the theological formula under which that order is understood."

No use trying to disprove spiritual experiences with the scientific method. It's a different sort of truth.


Psalm 34:18:

“Yahweh is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed
in spirit.”

I hope so.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Always We Begin Again

On May 1, 2011, while emotional cataclysm was excruciatingly fresh and raw, I wrote the following:

I have neglected this blog. Let's try again. Just began reading Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, a reward for having turned in my Spiritual Formation Immersion Experience spiritual autobiography. Ten pages of soul-searching, and now I plunge into Ms. Underhill's classic work that revived interest in and helped define that somewhat scary word "mysticism."

My first note on it comes from the introduction to the 12th edition: "the distinctness of the Spiritual Order." The truth expressed in spirituality is distinct and cannot be assessed by scientific methods.

Now that the year with A Year With Thomas Merton has completed its cycle, I return to Mysticism. My intention is to journal its reading, and to select quotations to highlight. I have enjoyed choosing photos to go with the Merton readings. If Mysticism lends itself to that in any way, I will do the same for it.

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 20

One Last Step

Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: "By devotion in work He knows me, knows what in truth I am and who I am. Then, having known me in truth, He enters into me."

The states of life. Brahmacharya: the life of the student in chastity under his Guru. Grhastha: the life of the householder begetting children, practicing Karma Yoga. Vanaprastha: the forest life. My present life. A life of privacy and quasi-retirement. Is there one more stage? Yes. Sanyasa: total renunciation. Homelessness, begging. The Sanyasin lives only on food given to him. He is freed from all ritual obligations. The sacred fire is kindled only within. No household shrine. No temple. He is entirely turned to deliverance, renouncing all activity and attachment, all fear, all greed, all care, without home, without roof, without place, without name, without office, without function, without reputation, without care for reputation, without being known.

May 16, 1968, VII.103

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 19

Accepting My Place in Creation

One lovely dawn after another. Such peace! Meditation with fireflies, mist in the valley, last quarter of the moon, distant owls--gradual inner awakening and centering in peace and in a harmony of love and gratitude. Yesterday I wrote to the man at McGill University who thought all contemplation was a manifestation of narcissistic regression! That is just what it is not. A complete awakening of identity and rapport! It implies an awareness and acceptance of one's place in the whole, first the whole of creation, then the whole plan of Redemption--to find oneself in the great mystery of fulfillment which is the Mystery of Christ. Consonantia and not confusio.

Jack Ford brought me a couple of loaves of pumpernickel from a Jewish delicatessen in Louisville Monday, and he also gave me some excellent tea, which I iced myself for supper tonight. Twining's Earl Grey. It was superb! And that was about all I had for supper with a can of mandarin oranges. Cool and pleasant. But it is still hot. The sky is cloudy. The birds still sing. Maybe there will be rain tonight.

At Mass I shall pray especially for the Buddhist Vo Tanh Minh, who has been fasting since March in Brooklyn in protest against the fighting in Vietnam. He will probably die, as there is little likelihood of a cease-fire. His calm and peace are completely admirable.

May 23 and 25, 1965, V.250-51

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 18

The Climate of My Corner of the Woods

There is a mental ecology, a living balance of spirits, in this corner of the woods. There is a place for many other songs besides those of birds. Of Vallejo, for instance. Or the dry, disconcerting voice of Nicanor Parra. Or there is also Chuang Tzu, whose climate is perhaps most the climate of this hot corner of the woods. A climate in which there is no need for explanations. There is also a Syrian hermit called Philoxenus. There is the clanging prose of Tertullian. There is the deep vegetation of that more ancient forest than mine: the deep forest in which the great birds Isaias and Jeremias sing. When I am most sickened by the things that are done by the country that surrounds this place, I will take out the prophets and sing them in loud Latin across the hills and send their fiery words sailing south over the mountains to the place where they split atoms for bombs in Tennessee.

There is also the nonecology: the destructive unbalance of nature, poisoned and unsettled by bombs, by fallout, by exploitation: the land ruined, the waters contaminated, the soil charged with chemicals, ravaged with machinery, the houses of farmers falling apart because everybody goes to the city and stays there. There is no poverty as great as that of the prosperous, no wretchedness as dismal as affluence. Wealth is poison. There is no misery to compare with that which exists where technology has been a total success. Full bellies have not brought peace and satisfaction but dementia, and, in any case, not all the bellies are full. But the dementia is the same for all.

May 1965, V.239-40

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 17

The Sea of My Paradise

"You deliver me from the gates of death that I might announce your praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion" (Psalm 9).

Marvelous vision of the hills at 7:45 a.m. The same hills as always, as in the afternoon, but now catching the light in a totally new way, at once very earthly and very ethereal, with delicate cups of shadow and dark ripples and crinkles where I had never seen them, and the whole slightly veiled in mist so that it seemed to be a tropical shore, a newly discovered continent. And a voice in me seemed to be crying, ""Look! Look!" For these are the discoveries, and it is for this that I am high on the mast of my ship (have always been), and I know that we are on the right course, for all around is the sea of paradise.

May 21, 1963, IV.321-22

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 16

A Prayer to the Father

Today, Father, the blue sky praises you. The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar praise you. The distant blue hills praise you, with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light. The bickering flycatchers praise you, with the lowing bulls and the quails that whistle over there, and I, too, Father, praise you with these creatures my brothers. You have made us all together and you have placed me here this morning in the midst of them. And here I am.

For a long time I prayed, in the years that are past, and I was in darkness and sorrow and confusion. And no doubt the confusion was my own fault. No doubt my own will was the root of my sorrow, and I regret it, O merciful Father. But whatever may have been my sin, the prayer of Your friends for me and my own prayers were answered, and I am here in this hermitage before You, and here You see me. Here You love me. Here You ask the response of my own love, and of my confidence. Here You ask me to be nothing else than your friend.

To be Your friend is simply to accept your friendship because it is your friendship. And this friendship is Your life, the Spirit of Your Son. You have called me here to be Your son: to be born over again, repeatedly, in Your light, and in knowledge, and consideration, and gratitude, and poverty, and praise.

May 20, 1961, IV.120-21

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 15

When Everything Is Wet

Nothing can spoil this morning. The rain has stopped. The birds sing and starlings pursue a crow across the grey sky. Clouds still hang low over the woods. It's cool.

The whiskey barrels by the woodshed stand or lie in wetness, one of them with wet weeds up the navel, others rolling in the smoked chips of wood and bark.

Someone has sawed a keg in half, and it is one of the most beautiful objects on the property at the moment. An example of wabi-sabi (simplicity) that Suzuki talks about. With joy, yesterday, I smelled the charred barrel. How beautiful to see it catch rain.

Yesterday I was bitter for a while, growling to myself. "Yes, we have the Holy Ghost all right--in a cage with His wings clipped." But later, during the Gospel, the "Let not your heart be disturbed" came through into my heart as if especially directed to me and I remembered there was no need to be bitter or to worry, or even to notice what appears to me to be senseless in our life here.

I do not have to react. It is useless. There are much better things to do. And to react is to become implicated--to become a prisoner of the same nonsense that I am compelled to condemn. Do not be compelled.

Here comes a small, shining rabbit. A kingbird gurgles and chortles in the cedars. Everything is wet.

May 18, 1959, III.281-82

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 14

I Am God's Utter Poverty

I am the utter poverty of God. I am His emptiness, littleness, nothingness, lostness. When this is understood, my life in His freedom, the self-emptying of God in me, is the fullness of grace. A love for God that knows no reason because He is the fullness of grace. A love for God that knows no reason because He is God; a love without measure, a love for God as personal. The Ishvara appears as personal in order to inspire this love. Love for all, hatred of none, is the fruit and manifestation of love for God--peace and satisfaction. Forgetfulness of worldly pleasure, selfishness, and so on, in the love of God, channeling all passion and emotion into the love of God.

Technology as Karma.

What can be done has to be done. The burden of possibility that has to be fulfilled, possibilities which demand so imperatively to be fulfilled that everything else is sacrificed for their fulfillment.

Computer Karma in American civilization.

Distinguish work as narcotic (that is, being an operator and all that goes with it) from healthy and free work. But also consider the wrong need for non-action. The Astavakra Gita says: "Do not let the fruit of action be your motive and do not be attached to non-action." In other words, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Work to please God alone.

May 16, 1968, VII.102-3

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 13

Perplexities and New Births

The sun is rising. All the green trees are full of birds, and their song comes up out of the wet bowers of the orchard. Crows swear pleasantly in the distance, and in the depths of my soul sits God, and between Him, in the depths and the thoughts on the surface of my mind, is the veil of an unresolved problem.

What shall I say this problem is? It is not a conflict of ideas. It is not a dilemma. I do not believe it is a question of choice. Is it a psychological fact? Any interior problem is a psychological fact. Is it a question that I can resolve? No.

This problem is my own personality, in which I do not intend at any time to take an unhealthy interest. But (I speak as one less wise) this problem is my personality or, if you like, the development of my interior life. I am not perplexed either by what I am or what I am not, but by the mode in which I am tending to become what I really will be.

God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when He intends to resolve them. He gives us needs that He alone can satisfy and awakens capacities that He means to fulfill. Any perplexity is liable to be a spiritual gestation, leading to a new birth and a mystical regeneration.

May 15, 1949, II.311


Happy Mother's Day, Mignonne.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dinner guest

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 12

Going On

It is like an English summer day, cool and cloudy, with deep green grass all around the hermitage and trees heavy with foliage. Occasional slow bursts of gentle sunlight that imperceptibly pass by. Shafts of light and great rooms of shadow in the tall tree-church beyond the cedar cross. The path of creek gravel leads into the shadows and beyond them to the monastery, out of sight, down the hill, across fields and a road and a dirty stream. All such things as roads and sewers are far from this place.

Knowing when you do not need any more. Acting just enough. Saying enough. Stopping when there is enough. Some may be wasted, natural is prodigal. Harmony is not bought with parsimoniousness.

Yet stopping is "going on." To cling to something and want more of it, to use it more, to squeeze enjoyment out of it. This is to "stop" and not "go on." But to leave it alone at the right time, this is the right stopping, the right going on. To leave a thing alone before you have had anything to do with it, if it is for your use, to leave it without use, is not "stopping," it is not even beginning. Use it to go on.

To be great is to go on.
To go on is to be far.
To be far is to return.

May 16, 1961, IV.118-19

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 11

On Being a Stranger

On being a stranger. I need more awareness of what it involves. And get some such awareness by the invitations I have to refuse.

Being "out of the world" does not mean simply being out of Las Vegas--it means being not on planes, not at the reunions, conferences, etc. Not in Hong Kong today and Lima tomorrow, not in the credit card, expense account, talk circuit where you are paid to be everywhere, and this to make news (because where you are paid to be, there the action is, since the action is that you are paid to be there).

The question is: do I really care? Do I resent being excluded from all this? Inevitably my being grounded in this corner of the woods, unable to move, able only to speak half-surreptitiously to a few who get through to me here, makes me a comic sort of intellectual. Inevitably I am a sort of reform-school kid w ho is punished by being taken off the street. And one who does not know the latest is not perfectly attuned to t he intonations and accents that convey the real message.

Certainly no point in mere resentment of modern society "bla bla."

Nor trying to pretend I am, after all, superior.

Nevertheless, the situation has unique advantages. Much of the real germinating action in the world, the real leavening, is among the immobilized, the outsiders (the vast majority, who have no credit card and never step on a plane), the Negroes, the Latinos, etc. In a way I am on their level. (But I don't have their grapevine!)

May 8, 1967, VI.231

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 10

Resurrection Is Our Destiny
In the night office, St. Ambrose: all must rise from the dead. Resurrection is our lot. Life is our destiny whether we want it or not. But to be risen and not want it, to hate life, is the resurrection of judgment. Man is not, and cannot be, a merely ephemeral thing. But if he wills to be evanescent, to remain in what is not, he is a living contradiction.
Thunder, lightning and rain all night. Heaviest rain for a long time. Floods in the bottoms. Water bubbling in under the basement wall of the washroom. Novitiate garden flooded in the NW corner. (One day the whole retaining wall will go if this keeps up.)
My love is
The fragrance of the orchid
And the sound of waters
says the Haiku on my lovely Zen calendar.
May 7, 1961, IV.116

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 9

My Hands Were Always Empty

Since Easter was early we are already on the threshold of Pentecost. Yesterday, in bright, blazing sun, we planted cabbage seedlings in the garden and, over the way, I could hear them mowing hay in St. Joseph's field, where probably tomorrow we will all be loading wagons.

Every time I have been in the woods to pray I have loved them more.

At once I remember all the afternoons I had been out in the woods, the dark afternoons in the gullies along the creeks and the rainy afternoons on top of the knobs and the day I sang the Pater Noster on one knob and then on another; the day I found the daffodils in an unexpected place, and the other day when I picked them in a place where I knew they would be; and the immense silence of last Good Friday, when I sat on a rotten log in a sheltered corner by a stream with a relic of the Holy Cross. It set the seal on all the silences in which I had found Him without seeming to find anything, and I knew (as I always guessed) that I had every time come home with something tremendous, although my hands were always empty.

May 7, 1951, 457-58

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 8

To Kiss It All Good-bye
Vigil of Pentecost. What do I look for tomorrow? Light? No. It is safer to travel in darkness. What I need is the grace to cease making any kind of fuss over anything: travel in darkness and do God's will. He will get me through the obstacles. I will never reach Him by my own efforts, my own wisdom. I give up all my plans, as if I had any in the first place. Forget what other people do; their virtues and their faults are none of my business. Be guided by obedience even if it seems to lead to the ruin of my aspirations. Easier to write it than to do it. I wonder if I mean it, too, to go on in this hopeless muddle of writing and activities and contacts with the world, and trust that that can bring me to God? Yes, that is what I have go to do.
It seems like going around in a circle and saying the same thing over and over again, but it is something that haunts me, and I can't seem to settle it.
I feel in my bones that I will never have any peace until I kiss everything good-bye, even my highest ideals and aspirations. God only tolerates one desire: perfectly doing His will and being annihilated for His glory.
May 23, 1947, II.76-77

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 7

Loving the Place and the Brothers

God brought me here, and I simply cannot be thinking of going anywhere else without putting myself in opposition to His will--barring the case where the spiritual life would become impossible here--and this is a fervent community, so that does not arise.

The only thing to do is to believe Him blindly, and I know in the marrow of my bones that is what He wants, that I should put myself entirely in His hands and trust Him to make me a contemplative, even though my own natural judgment tells me everything seems to be against it. Because my own judgment is darkness in the sight of God. That is all there is to it.

And this is the obstacle that has been robbing me of my peace.

Gethsemani--the place and the community--locus et fratres--is the spring where I am to drink the waters of life, and if I look somewhere else, it is to a broken cistern as far as I am concerned, because, no matter how excellent it may be in itself, another place is not God's will for me.

As soon as I acquiesced completely in this decision, which I did at once, peace came back to my soul, although I feel that God does not trust Himself to me completely--He knows what is in me. But He knows that I want to rest in His will and love His will alone. I believe in His love.

May 5, 1947, II.71-72

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 6 (Gretchen turns 54)

Every Day I Kill Isaac
Every day I get some idea of what is in myself, when I have to swallow my own ideas about chant, the interior life, solitude the Cistercian vocation, etc., etc. Every day I kill Isaac--my beautiful dream about a silent, solitary, well-ordered life of perfect contemplation and perfect monastic observance, with no intrusion from the world, no publicity, no best-selling books, just God and that nice, archaic little Carthusian cell!! I have to make that blind act of faith that God and our Lady are drawing me--per crucem--through the Cross--to something better, which I will probably never see this side of heaven.
At the beginning of May, I think: our Lady is coming gradually to be the whole of my interior life. The more I leave everything to her, the simpler everything becomes, and the easier I travel. And this morning I was reading marvelous things in Adam of Perseigne about Mary being "the way." She is that. Through her we come quickly to--everything.
At Mass I have hardly been able to think of anything but our Lady. Either that, or else I sink down into the depths where God is found alone. But to do that is to be occupied implicitly with her, for she is the way there. Yet I do not say I do all this easily--I am surrounded by distractions and yet drawn into this love of her in spite of them.
More and more I abandon anything of my own that might seem to be a "technique" of prayer and throw myself upon her mercy, leaving myself to be moved and guided by her, certain that she alone, by God's dispensation and decree, can help my helplessness.
May 1 and 5, 1949, II.307-8

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 5

The Return to Unity
Lightning, thunder and rain on and off all night. The lovely grey-green valley, misty clouds sweeping low over the hills and forest out there in the South, iron dark clouds heavy above them.
As I have been asked to write a piece on Paul the Hermit (died ca. 340), I reread his Vita by St. Jerome. A work of art, really, with plenty of monastic theology in its symbolism. A beautiful piece of writing, with deep mystical and psychological implications--so that whether or not it is "historical" is irrelevant. It awakens a kind of inner awareness of psychic possibilities which one so easily forgets and neglects. The return to unity, to the ground, the paradisial inner sacred space where the archetypal man dwells in peace and in God. The journey to that space, through a realm of aridity, dualism, dryness, death. The need of courage and of desire. Above all faith, praise, obedience to the inner voice of the Spirit, refusal to give up or to compromise.
What is "wrong" in my life is not so much a matter of "sin" (though it is sin, too), but a matter of unawareness, lostness, slackness, relaxation, dissipation of desire, lack of courage and decision, so that I let myself be carried along and dictated by an alien movement. The current of "the world," which I know is not mine. I am always being diverted into a way that is not my way and is not going where I am called to go. And only if I go where I must go can I be of any use to "the world." I can serve the world best by keeping my distance and my freedom.
May 14, 1967, VI.234-35

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 4

History and the Passion of Christ
The bombing goes on in Vietnam. The whole thinking of this country is awry on war: basic conviction that force is the only thing that is effective. That doubtless it is in many ways not "nice" but one must be realistic and use it, with moral justification so as not to be just gangsters as "they" are (the enemy). Thus there is determination to settle everything by force and to make sure one's force is verbally justified.
It is not altogether easy to make an act of faith that all of history is in God's hands. But history is in the hands of God, and the decisions of men lead infallibly to the full expression of what is really hidden in them and in their society. The actions of the U. S. in Asia are God's judgment on the U. S. We have decided that we will police the world--by the same tactics used by the police in Alabama: beating "colored people" over the head because we believe they are "inferior." In the end, an accounting will be demanded.
We have to see history as a book that is sealed and opened by the Passion of Christ. But we still read it from the viewpoint of the Beast. Passion of Christ = the passion of the poor, the underprivileged, etc. Viewpoint of the Beast: self-righteousness and cruelty of power. Hubris of human might and technological efficiency. But the same cruelty is bred by this hubris in the weak, who grow strong by resisting it and overcoming it--to be proud in their turn. Christ remains in agony until the end of time, and in His agony Christ triumphs over power.
May 22, 1965, V.249-50

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 3

Day of a Stranger

The hills are blue and hot. There is a brown, dusty field in the bottom of the valley. I hear a machine, a bird, a clock. The clouds are high and enormous. In them, the inevitable jet plane passes: this time probably full of fat passengers from Miami to Chicago, but presently it will be a plane with a bomb in it. I have seen the plane with the bomb in it fly low over me, and I have looked up out of the woods directly at the closed bay. Like everyone else, I live under the bomb. But, unlike most people, I live in the woods. Do not ask me to explain this. I am embarrassed to describe it. I live in the woods out of necessity. I am both a prisoner and an escaped prisoner. I cannot tell you why, born in France, my journey ended here. I have tried to go further but I cannot. It makes no difference. When you are beginning to be old, and I am beginning to be old, for I am fifty, both times and places no longer take on the same meaning. Do I have a "day"? Do I spend my "day" in a "place"? I know there are trees here. I know there are birds here. I know the birds in fact very well, for there are exactly fifteen pairs of birds living in the immediate area of my cabin and I share this particular place with them: we form an ecological balance. This harmony gives "place" a different configuration.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 2

Being in One Place

A cool and lovely morning, clear sky, ever-changing freshness of woods and valley! One has to be in the same place every day, watch the dawn from the same house, hear the same birds wake each morning to realize how inexhaustibly rich and different is "sameness." This is the blessing of stability, and I think it is not evident until you enjoy it along in a hermitage. The common life distracts you from life in its fullness. but one must be able to share this fullness, and I am not for a complete and absolute solitude without communication (except temporarily).

Yesterday was St. Bede's day (he died on Ascension Day, 735). He is one of the saints I most love, and the simple story of his life and death fill me with love and joy. The afternoon was peaceful and marvelous--a nice walk and meditation at St. Malachy's field, then came back and gave a conference on Philoxenus. The simplicity and innocence of the monks is a real joy, a shining joy, so evident one does not notice it. Yet I must say that concelebration in the morning did nothing to express the reality of love and oneness in Christ that is actually here. The singing was timid and depressing, and I must say that we are not anywhere nearly properly realizing and manifesting what it is all about.

The flycatchers, tamer and tamer, play about on the chairs and baskets on my porch, right in front of this window, and the are enthralling. Wrens come too, less frequently.

May 28 and 30, 1965, V.251-52


Third four-leaf clover in a month, two of them at the Gazebo.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - May 1

Learning Love's Language

I live in the woods out of necessity. I get out of bed in the middle of the night because it is imperative that I hear the silence of the night, alone, and, with my face on the floor, say psalms, alone, in the silence of the night.

It is necessary for me to live here alone without a woman, for the silence of the forest is my bride and the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love, and out of the heart of that dark warmth comes that secret which is only heard in silence, but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world. I have an obligation to preserve the stillness, the silence, the poverty, the virginal point of pure nothingness which is at the center of all other loves. I cultivate this plant silently in the middle of the night and water it with psalms and prophecies in silence. It becomes the most beautiful of all the trees in the garden, at once the primordial paradise tree, the axis mundi, the cosmic axle, and the Cross.

It is necessary for me to see the first point of light that begins to be dawn. It is necessary to be present alone at the resurrection of Day in solemn silence at which the sun appears, for at this moment all the affairs of cities, of governments, of war departments, are seen to be the bickering of mice. I receive from the eastern woods, the tall oaks, the one word DAY. It is never the same. It is always in a totally new language.

May 1965, .240-41

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 30

We Have Work to Accomplish
Most important of all--Man's creative vocation to prepare, consciously, the ultimate triumph of Divine Wisdom. Man, the microcosm, the heart of the universe, is the one who is called to bring about the fusion of cosmic and historic processes in the final invocation of God's wisdom and love. In the name of Christ and by his power, Man has a work to accomplish--to offer the cosmos to the Father, by the power of the Spirit, in the Glory of the Word. Our life is a powerful Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit, ever active in us, seeks to reach through our inspired hands and tongues into the very heart of the material world created to be spiritualized through the work of the Church, the Mystical Body of the Incarnate Word of God.
If I can unite myself, in my own spiritual life, the thought of the East and the West, of the Greek and Latin Fathers, I will create in myself a reunion of the divided Church, and from that unity in myself can come the exterior and visible unity of the Church. For if we want to bring together East and West, we cannot do it by imposing one upon the other. We must contain both in ourselves and transcend both in Christ.
April 25 and 28, 1957, III.85-87

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 29

Only One Unhappiness

Day of Recollection. If I were to make any resolutions, it would be the same old ones--no need to make them--they have been made. No need to reflect on them--it doesn't take much concentration to see how I keep them. I struggle along. It is useless to break your head over the same old details week after week and year after year, pruning the same ten twigs off the top of the tree. Get at the root: union with God. One these days of recollection drop everything and hide in yourself to find Him in the silence where He is hidden within you, and listen to what He has to say.

There is only one thing to live for: love. There is only one unhappiness: not to love God. That is what pains me on these days of recollection, to see my own soul so full of movement and shadows and vanities, cross-currents of dry wind stirring up the dust and rubbish of desire. I don't expect to avoid this humiliation in my life, but when will I become cleaner, more simple, more loving? "Have mercy on me, O God. My sin is always before me."

April 20, 1947, II.64-65

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 28

Walking Heaven's Ground
Heavenliness--again. For instance, walking up into the woods yesterday afternoon--as if my feet acquired a heavenly lightness from contact with the earth of the path. As though the earth itself were filled with an indescribable spirituality and lightness, as if the true nature of the earth were to be heavenly, or rather as if all things, in truth, had a heavenly existence. As if existence itself was heavenliness. The same--Mass, obviously. But with a new earthy and yet pure heavenliness of bread. The ikons, particularly of St. Elias and his great red globe of light, and the desert gold, the bird red on the mountain: all transformed!
April 24, 1964, V.99

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 27

Everything Transfigured
(Merton celebrates his first Mass in his hermitage's new Chapel on April 27, 1968)
The icon of St. Elias, which Jack Ford brought me from St. Meinrad's, and which yesterday I put up on the east wall of my hermitage. Fabulously beautiful and delicate and strong. A great red transparent globe of light, with angelic horses rearing in unison, and angels lifting it all up to the blackness of the divine mystery--from, below, the dark curve and shelves of the mountain from which Eliseus reaches into the globe to touch the mantle of the prophet, who stands in a little, finely drawn, very simple Russian peasant's cart (in the globe of fire!).
Below, Elias sleeps: that was before, when he had sorrow. The angel leans over him and mentions the hearth-cake to the sleeping prophet.
What a thing to have by you! It changes everything! Transfiguring everything!
Outside the door, a double bloom on one large violet iris, standing out of the green spears of the daylilies. And on the tongue of one bloom walks a great black-gold bee, the largest honeybee I ever saw. To be part of all this is to be infinitely rich.
April 24, 1963, IV.315-16

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - April 26

Heavenliness in the Nature of Things

Real spring weather--these are the precise days when everything changes. All the trees are fast beginning to be in leaf, and the first green freshness of a new summer is all over the hills. Irreplaceable purity of these days chosen by God as His sign!

Mixture of heavenliness and anguish. Seeing "heavenliness" suddenly, for instance, in the pure white of mature dogwood blossoms against the dark evergreens in the cloudy garden. "Heavenliness" too of the song of the unknown bird that is perhaps here only for these days, passing through, a lovely, deep, simple song. Seized by this "heavenliness" as if I were a child--a child's mind I have never done anything to deserve to have and which is my own part in the heavenly spring. Not of this world, or of my making. Born partly of physical anguish (which is not really there, though. It goes quickly). Sense that the "heavenliness" is the real nature of things, not their nature, but the fact they are a gift of love and of freedom.

April 23, 1964, V.99