Tuesday, March 27, 2007

christ comes through the ruins

brush drawing by Thomas Merton
(image size: 8 1/2" h x 5" w, on gray card)

July 5, 1965. The greatest comfort is to be sought precisely in the Psalms, which face death as it is, under the eye of God, and teach us how we may also face it. They bring us, at the same time, into contact or rather communion with all those who have so seen death and accepted it before us. Most of all, the Lord Himself, who prayed the Psalms on the cross. (Dancing in the Water of Life, p. 265)

Slowly, slowly
Comes Christ through
the ruins
Seeking the lost disciple
A timid one
Too literate
To believe words
So she hides.
(The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, p. 449)

The monk who is truly a man of prayer and who seriously faces the challenge of his vocation in all its depth is by that very fact exposed to existential dread. He experiences in himself the emptiness, the lack of authenticity, the quest for fidelity, the “lostness” of modern man. … The monk confronts his own humanity and that of his world at the deepest and most central point where the void seems to open out into black despair. The monk confronts this serious possibility, and rejects it … The option of absolute despair is turned into perfect hope by the pure and humble supplication of monastic prayer. The monk faces the worst, and discovers in it the hope of the best. From the darkness comes light. From death, life. From the abyss there comes, unaccountably, the mysterious gift of the Spirit sent by God to make all things new, to transform the created and redeemed world, and to re-establish all things in Christ. (The Climate of Monastic Prayer, p. 25)

Notes from Roger Lipsey:
“ … the Celtic cross reflects what Merton once called Zen Catholicism – a phrase borrowed from Dom Ailred Graham, a Benedictine abbot and author whom Merton admired. This is a magnificent rendering, uncanny but still comfortable and settled in its fusion of freely brushed Zen calligraphy with the unique design of the Irish medieval cross. Here is the Zen brush-drawn circle yet again, at home in an unexpected place. …”
(Angelic Mistakes, The Art of Thomas Merton, by Roger Lipsey, pp. 48-49)


  1. I didn't see it as a Celtic cross. I saw the Zen circle, not in an "unexpected place", but as the raised arms of Christ, the Risen Christ, which we have seen on many crucifixes in recent years.

  2. I see the hands too, Gabrielle, now that you have mentioned them. Thank you!

  3. The poem by Merton stopped me in my tracks. I read it 10 times and it still didn't lose its power. Thank you Beth for yet another uncovering of his briliance.

  4. It spoke to me so profoundly that I changed the pronoun "he" to "she"!


2nd Sunday of Advent 2023

Photo by John P. Walsh F rom Alfred Delp S.J.,   Prison Writings , Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004: “So this Sunday we must again fol...