Saturday, September 12, 2009

Moonlight is in this prayer, stillness ...

Some great quotes and Merton insight from Jim Forest (thanks, Jim). I had never before seen those words from the Sign of Jonas. They may very well be my favorite of all of the Merton words. Take your time reading them.

from Jim:

A day or two ago I sent out to my Merton list this short passage from St. Gregory of Sinai:

Become what you are.
Find Him who is already yours.
Listen to Him who never ceases speaking to you.
Own Him who already owns you.

* * *

This reminded me of some of Merton's writings, for example these three:

* * *

As for this finding of God, we cannot even look for Him unless we have already found Him, and we cannot find Him unless He has first found us. We cannot begin to seek Him without a special gift of His grace; yet if we wait for grace to move us before beginning to seek Him, we will probably never begin.

-- Thomas Merton
No Man is an Island [1955]

* * *

In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going. In another sense we have already arrived. We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!

-- Thomas Merton
The Seven Storey Mountain
New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1948, p 419

* * *

And last of all there is this, partly as summarized in my Merton biography, “Living With Wisdom”:

Sitting on a cedar log under a tree in February 1952, gazing out at light blue hills in the distance, Merton saw his true self as a kind of sea creature dwelling in a water cavern which knows of the world of dry land only by faint rumor. When he got free of plans and projects — the first level of the sea with its troubled surface — then he lived
in the second level, in the deep waters out of reach of storms, where there was “peace, peace, peace.... We pray therein, slightly waving among the fish.... Words, as I think, do not spring from this second level. They are only meant to drown there. The question of socialization does not concern these waters. They are nobody’s property.... No questions whatever perturb their holy botany. Neutral territory. No man’s sea. I think God meant me to write about this second level.”

Still deeper down Merton was aware of a third level,

>> swimming in the rich darkness which is no longer thick like water but pure, like air. Starlight, and you do not know where it is coming from. Moonlight is in this prayer, stillness, waiting for the Redeemer.... Everything is charged with intelligence, though all is night. There is no speculation here. There is vigilance... Everything is spirit. Here God is adored, His coming is recognized, He is received as soon as He is expected and because He is expected He is received, but He has passed by sooner than He arrived, He was gone before He came. He returned forever. He never yet passed by and already He had disappeared for all eternity. He is and He is not. Everything and Nothing. Not light not dark, not high not low, not this side not that side. Forever and forever. In the wind of His passing the angels cry, “The Holy One is gone.” Therefore I lie dead in the air of their wings.... It is a strange awakening to find the sky inside you and beneath you and above you and all around you so that your spirit is one with the sky, and all is positive night.” ,,

– Thomas Merton
Sign of Jonas, pp 138-9

1 comment:

  1. In reading what you quote from Merton, Beth, I always feel challenged but also affirmed. He has this capacity with words to have me understand not only who I am but also the potential of who I am becoming. It is in the affirming of who I am that allows me to realize who I am becoming.

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