For a paper, I read a Thomas Merton book: “Contemplation in a World of Action.” I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite passages of the book. They are a bit lengthy, but worth it. And please forgive Merton for constantly giving God the male pronoun…(there are other ways to describe God…I’m just saying…).
“But the need for spiritual liberation, the need for vision, the hunger and thirst for that perfect ‘justice’ which is found in total surrender to God as love to the Beloved: these are the only real justifications for the monk’s wilderness life and his desert pilgrimage. If these are systematically frustrated, and if institutional formalities are everywhere substituted for the inner desire of holiness and union, monks will not remain in the monastery. If they are true to themselves and to God they will be compelled to look elsewhere. This is the real problem of monastic renewal: not a surrender to the ‘secular city’ but a recovery of the deep desire of God that draws a man to seek a totally new way of being in the world” (43).
“The real point of the contemplative life has always been a deepening of faith and of the personal dimensions of liberty and apprehensions to the point where our direct union with God is realized and ‘experienced.’ We awaken not only to a realization of the immensity and majesty of God ‘out there’ as King and Rule of the universe (which He is) but also a more intimate and more wonderful perception of Him as directly and personally present in our own being. Yet this is not a pantheistic merger or confusion of our own being.
On the contrary, there is a distinct conflict in the realization that though in some sense He is more truly ourselves than we are, yet we are not identical with Him, and though He loves us better than we can love ourselves we are opposed to Him, and in opposing Him we oppose our own deepest selves…To reach a true awareness of Him as well as ourselves, we have to renounce our selfish and limited self and enter into a whole new kind of existence, discovering an inner center of motivation and love which makes us see ourselves and everything else in an entirely new light. Call it faith, call it (at a more advanced stage) contemplative illumination, call it the sense of God or even mystical union: all these are different aspects and levels of the same kind of realization: the awakening to a new awareness of ourselves in Christ, created in Him, redeemed by Him, to be transformed and glorified in and with Him” (175-176).