Sunday, November 29, 2009

" ... it is she who makes me write it down ..."

The following thoughts from Merton, sixty years ago, on the last day of Advent, while looking at a picture of Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation”.
December 23, 1949

Late Afternoon. The quiet is filled with an altogether different tonality. The sun has moved altogether around and the room is darker. It is serious. The hour is more weary. I take time out to pray, and I look at the Angelico picture, feeling like the end of Advent, which is today. ‘Ecce completa sunt omnia quae dicta sunt per angelum de Virgine Maria.’ – that was the antiphon after the Benetictus this morning. For a few minutes I stayed silent and didn’t move and listened to the watch and wondered if perhaps I might not understand something of the work Our Lady is preparing.
It is an hour of tremendous expectation.
I remember my weariness, my fears, my lack of understanding, my dimness, my sin of over-activity. What is she preparing: have I offended her? What is coming up? She loves me. I reject emotion about it. Her love is too serious for any emotion of which I might be capable. Her love shapes worlds, shapes history, forms an Apocalypse in and around me, gives birth to the city of God. I am drawn back again into liturgy by a sense of my great need. I look at the serene, severe porch where Angelico’s angel speaks to her. Angelico knew how to paint her. She is thin, immensely noble, and she does not rise to meet the angel. Mother, make me as sincere as the picture. All the way down into my soul, sincere, sincere. Let me have no thought that could not kneel before you in that picture. No image, no shadow. I believe you. I am silent. I will act like the picture. Ecce completa sunt. It is the end of Advent and the afternoon is vivid with expectancy.
She is here and she has filled the room with something that is uniquely her own, too clean for me to appreciate. She is here with the tone of her expectancy. There is nothing wrong in writing it, for it is she who makes me write it down.

- Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence, pp. 385-386

HT to my friend, Frank G.


  1. if merton was a female cyborg he might sound like this:

    wonder if this will work?)

  2. Nope didn't work: but you can cut and paste some of the text here:

    to hear the female robot voice

  3. a female cyborg??!!

    Life is definitely getting strange, but how strange it must have been for Mary, being visited by that angel?

  4. This is so beautiful I went to see if it might also be in "The Sign of Jonas", and it is, almost the same as here. This was written in the late afternoon, but there was an earlier entry from the same day. Merton was in the vault, and he was working with St. Augustine's "City of God", writing a preface for Random House. Among other things, he was looking at this picture of the Annunciation, which was on a postcard Clare Luce had sent him from Florence.

  5. I love it too, Gabrielle. I will look for the reference in the Sign of Jonas.


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