Thoughts from Merton

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10:05 pm, June 10, 2009

I’ve been reading a bit from Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. It is painful for me at times, re-reading paragraphs and struggling to understand what he is saying. At times it feels like jumbled Zen jargon and is nothing more than words on a page. Other times I break through and begin to understand what he is unfolding for me. Here are some quotes that meant something to me, along with a prayer from Thoughts in Solitude.

“Contemplation is always beyond our own knowledge, beyond our own light, beyond systems, beyond explanations, beyond discourse, beyond dialogue, beyond our own self. To enter into the realm of contemplation one must in a certain sense die: but this death is in fact the entrance into a higher life.”

“Contemplation is also the response of a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are His.”

“Contemplation is carried away by Him into His own realm, His own mystery and His own freedom.” It is, you might say, an invitation to Heavenly vision as opposed to a worldview.

“Our external, superficial self is not eternal, not spiritual… Contemplation is precisely this awareness that this “I” is really “not I” and the awakening of the unknown “I” that is beyond observation and reflection and is incapable of commenting upon itself.”

“For the contemplative there is no cogito (“I think”) and no ergo (“therefore”) but only SUM, I AM. Not in the sense of a futile assertion of our individuality as ultimately real, but in the humble realization of our mysterious beings as persons in whom God dwells, with infinite sweetness and inalienable power.”

“It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us.”

“Every expression of the will of God is in some sense a “word” of God and therefore a “seed” of new life. The ever-changing reality in the midst of which we live should awaken us to the possibility of an uninterrupted dialogue with God. By this I do not mean continuous “talk,” or a frivolously conversational form of affective prayer which is sometimes cultivated in convents, but a dialogue of love and of choice. A dialogue of deep wills.” This is huge. I’ve never thought of prayer in this way, as a “dialogue of love and of choice.” I choose heaven every day, every moment. As I engage heaven, I tell God something. When I choose hell, I tell God something else. I speak to God not just in words, but in the choices I make every day.

“In all situations of life the “will of God” comes to us not merely as an external dictate of impersonal law but above all as an interior invitation of personal love.”

“By consenting to His will with joy and doing it with gladness I have His love in my heart, because my will is now the same as His love and I am on the way to becoming what He is, Who is Love.”

“The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self, and enter by love into union with the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.”

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It ‘consents’ so to speak, to His creative love… The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him. If it tried to be like something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give Him less glory.”

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny…we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom.”

“The secret of my full identity is hidden in Him. He alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be. But unless I desire this identity and work to find it with Him and in Him, the work will never be done… Not to accept and love and do God’s will is to refuse the fullness of my existence.”

Prayer from Thoughts in Solitude:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

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