Thursday, October 20, 2022

Awake and Alive


This book wasn’t what I was expecting either.

I haven’t bought a Merton book for awhile. I suppose it was the title that attracted me. Being “awake” is something that I look for in a spiritual guide. Someone who is HERE, fully alive. This is what I reach for in my own life, so I gravitate toward writers who might show me the way, or some shortcuts. 

Merton said once that he felt closer to the writers and artists around the world that he corresponded with than with his fellow monks at the abbey. I suppose that he meant that he felt closer to fellow artists in thought and spirit with what he was trying to do with his life. As a monk AND as an artist. This book gives voice to what Merton’s fellow monks thought of Merton. 

Having just finished “Dearest Sister Wendy”, I could see Merton through the eyes of someone who took her monastic vocation seriously. Sister Wendy didn’t give Merton much slack. Neither do his fellow monks. They are kind, and they give Merton credit for his efforts to teach and guide the novices. But they don’t idolize Merton. 

In some off the cuff and unedited remarks (probably transcribed for oral interviews) from some of the men (now old men) who had been novices while Merton was Novice Master (the 1950s and early 1960s) we hear honest portrayals of a complex and flawed man, nothing really special. Just one of us. 

As a super Merton fan (just look at this blog), I found this refreshing. I think that Merton, himself, would too. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Sister Wendy, Contemplative


Sister Wendy Becket, Icon by William Hart McNichols

I knew her as the art nun, but I also knew that she lived alone as a hermit. When I caught wind that a book was coming out about her (“Dearest Sister Wendy”, Robert Ellsberg) I was intrigued. 

The book was not what I expected. I was expecting to enhance my appreciation of art, at least a little. Wasn't art the love of her life? But there is very little art commentary in this book, or spiritual insight into the art world. 

Instead, there is personal honesty: a deep look at the inner world of an odd and holy woman who is called to a solitary life of prayer. And her miraculous opening out and sharing of herself in an almost daily correspondence with Robert Ellsberg during the last 2 years of her life. 

It turns out that God is the love of Sister Wendy's life. 

Sister Wendy is delightfully funny. And odd. And very smart. And humble. I'd almost say that she had no ego. Those 7 hours of daily praying must have been at a high order of meditation. And yet, in so many words, without words, she lets you know about this simple prayer of hers.

I’ve been intrigued with solitary monastic life for awhile, most of my life. When I was a child it was the Carmelite monastery in Louisville that most caught my attention. What did the nuns do in that walled and silent place? I’m odd, too - introverted - so I sort of can identify with and understand Sister Wendy.

Sister Wendy knew her way early in life. She joined an order of teaching nuns when she was just 16 years old. She never doubted this move or looked back. She followed the rules; she obeyed. Her life was totally in the hands of God and she trusted that the circumstances of life would guide her to where God wanted her to be. And they did. 

After about 20 years in a teaching role Sister Wendy had a physical breakdown of sorts. Seizures that were diagnosed as epilepsy. She was given permission to live as a consecrated virgin and hermit. Secluded in a trailer on the grounds of a Carmelite monastery in Quidenham, England, Sister Wendy lived her life alone and in prayer. She went to the monastery for Mass every day, but otherwise she was in her little trailer, praying for at least 7 hours a day. She read - about art, about religion, about Thomas Merton, Pope Francis, and others. 

Sister Wendy took the rules of monasticism seriously, which is probably one of the reasons she had such a hard time with Merton. Merton talked a lot about the monastic life, but he broke most of the rules. His engagement with “the world” was relentless. She wondered why his writing did not convey much joy in his life. 

Reading Sister Wendy’s takes on Merton is revealing. Even at 88 years old and in failing health, her mind is still sharp and penetrating. Her insights in to what is happening in the world are compassionate and wise. Most of her life has been spent in silent prayer, away from the world. Not talking to people. When her correspondence with Mr. Ellsberg begins, Sister Wendy is hesitant. How does one speak of a life of silent prayer? There are no words. Nothing, as she would say. 

And yet, over the course of 2 years and possibly for the first time in her life, Sister Wendy relates from a deep and authentic place in herself who she is and who God is for her.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

the new person

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Ilia Delio (The Hours of the Universe) talks about “the new person” emerging in evolution, who is embracing pluralities of gender, race and religion; who is called into a “new type of consciousness where things are first seen together and then as distinct within this togetherness.” (The Hours of the Universe, p. 98.) She affirms that we are being rewired for belonging to the cosmic whole. We are more and more aware that we are one earth community; we have a planetary consciousness that, according to Ilia, evokes a deep concern, especially in younger generations, for the planet and for those who are impoverished or marginalized. She calls younger generations – many of you – “digital natives” because they (you) were “born into a networked world and … think across lines of relationships.” In fact, Ilia says, “we are beginning to see that systems in nature do not work on principles of competition and struggle but on cooperation and sympathy.”

An excerpt from the acceptance speech by Marie Dennis chosen as the “Teacher of Peace 2022” by Pax Christi USA at its 50th Anniversary National Conference, August 7, 2022.


Monday, August 8, 2022

Merton's letter to the Mayor of Hiroshima, August 9, 1962

60 years ago near the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Thomas Merton wrote the Mayor of Hiroshima, Japan:

"In a solemn and grave hour for humanity I address this letter to you and to your people... The events or August 6th 1945 give you the most solemn right to be heard and respected by the whole world. But the world only pretends to respect your witness. In reality it cannot face the truth which you represent. But I wish to say on my own behalf and on behalf of my fellow monks and those who are like minded, that I never cease to face the truth which is symbolized in the names of Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Each day I pray humbly and with love for the victims of the atomic bombardments which took place there. All the holy spirits of those who lost their lives then, I regard as my dear and real friends."

I am the utter poverty of God

This came to me via the Facebook International Merton Society site, who got it from the "Spiritual ... But Not Religious" blog site.  

...The most influential contact Thomas Merton made was with the Buddhist teacher, Chatral Rinpoche, a monk who had spent more than thirty years in the solitary contemplation that was Merton's only real home in this world.

It was Chatral Rinpoche who identified Merton as a pratyekabhudda, and with whom Merton would take a variant of the Boddhisatva's vows, in which he dedicated himself to do all he could to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, in this lifetime or the next.

Merton was already far along that path, as the following entry written in his journal several months before he set out to Asia demonstrates:

"I am the utter poverty of God," he wrote.

"I am His emptiness, littleness, nothingness, lostness.

"When this is understood, my life in His freedom,
the self-emptying God of me, is the fullness of grace.
Love for all, hatred of none, is the fruit and manifestation
of love of God, peace and satisfaction."

Chatral Rinpoche identified Merton as an independently enlightened being. In doing so, they highlight the Buddhist acceptance of ultimate teachings, irrespective of what religious or spiritual tradition in which they arise.

The Buddha consistently said that his path was not the only path to enlightenment, and that every being must find his own path. His teachings, he noted, were meant only to be guides, and he encouraged all to investigate for him or herself the truth of what he said, rather than merely taking his word for it."

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

 Map of Matter in the Universe

Full sky map from ESA Plank mission showing matter between the earth and the edge of the observable universe.

The bread that Jesus handed to you, to us, is real bread, and if you can eat real bread you have real life. But we are not able to eat real bread. We only try to eat the word bread or the notion of bread. Even when we are celebrating the Eucharist, we are still eating notions and ideas. “Take, my friends, this is my flesh, this is my blood.” Can there be any more drastic language in order to wake you up? What could Jesus have said that is better than that? You have been eating ideas and notions, and I want you to eat real bread so that you become alive. If you come back to the present moment, fully alive, you will realize this is real bread, this piece of bread is the body of the whole cosmos.

If Christ is the body of God, which he is, then the bread he offers is also the body of the cosmos. Look deeply and you notice the sunshine in the bread, the blue sky in the bread, the cloud and the great earth in the bread. Can you tell me what is not in a piece of bread? The whole cosmos has come together in order to bring to you this piece of bread. You eat it in such a way that you become alive, truly alive. . . . Eat in such a way that the Holy Spirit becomes an energy within you and then the piece of bread that Jesus gives to you will stop being an idea, a notion. 

- Thich Nhat Hanh, Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers (New York: Riverhead Books, 1999), 106–107

HT: Richard Rohr OFM

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A dreadful hatred of life

cover of the Manifesto pamphlet

On this Earth Day, I post a Merton writing that was never published in America, indeed not much known about. It appeared in a small pamphlet published in England in the summer of 1966.

Since factory farming exerts a violent and unnatural force upon the living organisms of animals and birds, in order to increase production and profits, and since it involves callous and cruel exploitation of life, with implicit contempt for nature and for life, I must join the protest which is being uttered against it. It does not seem that these methods have any really justifiable purpose except to increase the quantity of production at the expense of quality: if that can be called a justifiable purpose. However, this is only one aspect of a more general phenomenon: the increasingly destructive and irrational behaviour of technological man. Our society seems to be more and more oriented to overproduction, to waste, and finally to production for destruction. Its orientation to global war is the culminating absurdity of its inner logic, or lack of logic. The mistreatment of animals in “intensive husbandry” is the part of this larger picture of insensitivity to genuine values and indeed to humanity and to life itself – a picture which more and more comes to display the ugly lineaments of what can only be called by its right name: barbarism.

Monica Weiss SSJ, unearths the origins and context of this writing in an article in The Merton Seasonal HERE. Monica is the author of the forthcoming book, The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton.

"Here once again, Thomas Merton is in the forefront of eco-justice, encouraging us to develop an ecological consciousness. How is it that Merton, with his propensity for contemplation and the hermit life, can envision the negative ramifications of apparently salvific and cutting-edge human activity? If ever we doubted that Merton was ahead of his time or supposed that he was prophetic only on the dangers of nuclear war, this issue of factory farming should dispel any doubt." - Monica Weiss SSJ

Monday, April 18, 2022

still as trees in Spring

Line engraving by R. Strange, 1773, after himself, 1764, after G.F Barbieri, il Guercino, Guercino, 1591-1666, Date 1773

“Consolation of Mary with Christ Arisen” by Rainer Maria Rilke

What they felt then: is it not 

before all secrets sweet and yet still earthly: 

as he, a little pale still from the grave, 

relieved stepped up to her: 

at every point arisen.

O to her first. How were they then

Inexpressibly being healed.

Yes, they were healing, that was it. They had no need 

firmly to touch each other.

He laid for a second 

scarcely his soon to be 

eternal hand to her womanly shoulder.

And they began, 

still as trees in Spring, 

infinitely together, 

this season of their ultimate communing.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

the Lord of History


The tomb where Jesus's body is believed to have been laid, inside the Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem


    "He is risen . . . he is not here. He is going before you to Galilee." (Mark 16:6-7)

    Christ is risen. Christ lives. Christ is the Lord of the living and the dead. He is the Lord of history.

    Christ is the Lord of a history that moves. He not only holds the beginning and the end in his hands, but he is in history with us, walking ahead of us to wherever we are going. He is not always in the same place.

    The cult of the Holy Sepulchre is Christian only insofar as it is the cult of the place where Jesus is no longer found. But such a cult can be valid only on one condition: that we are willing to move on, to follow him to where we are not yet, to seek him where he goes before us -- "to Galilee".


Read the rest at the link below ...

Short booklet, "He is Risen", written by Merton in 1967 is HERE

He is Risen

Sunday, April 10, 2022

conscious suffering

Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, 1842-1848 - Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin

"There is a piece of suffering which is a river that flows through the human condition and is part and parcel of our arising itself. Eckhart Tolle talks about it as the 'collective pain body of humanity.' Conscious awakening does not put a final end to suffering, but rather, allows us to bear it in a way that is luminous, generous, and ultimately sacramental. Through our prayers and our presence, we take our part in bearing the cost of this precious divine finitude, in which and through which infinite love is revealed. 

"What we do know is that great injustice, cruelty, physical pain, or betrayal, when consciously accepted and generously borne, can give rise to a peculiarly luminous and healing quality of love, and that this love radiates out from the site of the pain as a source of healing and hope for the entire cosmos."

Palm Sunday, Cynthia Bourgeault from 'Conscious Suffering'

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Annunciation


Fra Angelico
Annunciation by Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,

almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.


Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.


She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,


Merton with Wendall Berry & Denise Levertov, photo probably by Gene Meatyard

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Time of No Room


"The Time of the End is the Time of No Room"

from Raids on the Unspeakable

~Thomas Merton 

We live in the time of no room, which is the time of the end.  The time when everyone is obsessed with lack of time, lack of space, with saving time, conquering space, projecting into time and space the anguish produced within them by the technological furies of size, volume, quality, speed, number, price, power, and acceleration...

As the end approaches, there is no room for nature.  The cities crowd it off the face of the Earth.

As the end approaches, there is no room for quiet.  There is no room for solitude.  There is no room for thought.  There is no room for attention, for the awareness of our state.

In the time of the ultimate end, there is no room for man.

Into this world, this demented inn,

in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all,

Christ has come uninvited.

But because He cannot be at home in it,

because He is out of place in it,

His place is with those others for whom there is no room,

His place is with those who do not belong,

who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak,

those who are discredited,

who are denied the status of persons,

who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated.

With those for whom there is no room,

Christ is present in the world.

He is mysteriously present

in those for whom there seems to be nothing

but the world at its worst. . . .

It is in these that He hides Himself,

for whom there is no room.

Christian Action in World Crisis

Excerpts from Merton's essay, "Christian Action in World Crisis", published in 1962.

Merton's challenge is to build a culture of peace by doing the daily work of justice.  

"Two things are clear, first, the enemy is not one side or the other. The enemy is not just Russia, or China, or Communism, or Castro, or Krushchev, or capitalism, or imperialism. The enemy is both sides. The enemy is in all of us. The enemy is war itself, and the root of war is hatred, fear, selfishness, lust…As long as we arm only against Russia, we are fighting for the real enemy and against ourselves. We are fighting to release the monster in our own soul, which will destroy the world. We are fighting for the demon who strives to reassert his power over mankind. We have got to arm not against Russia but against war. Not only against war, but against hatred. Against lies. Against injustice. Against greed. Against every manifestation of those things, wherever they may be found, above all in our selves.

"…We must avoid two extremes: seeing all good on our side and all evil on their side, or, on the contrary, dismissing both sides as totally evil…

"…we must defend freedom and sanity against the bellicose fanaticism of all warmakers, whether “ours” or “theirs”…we must strive to do so not with force but with the spiritual weapons of Christian prayer and action. But this action must be at once non-violent and decisive. Good intentions and fond hopes are not enough.

"…We oversimplify. We seek the cause of evil and find it here or there in a particular nation, class, race, ideology, system. And we discharge upon this scapegoat all the virulent force of our hatred, compounded with fear and anguish, striving to rid ourselves of our fear by destroying the object we have arbitrarily singled out as the embodiment of all evil. Far from curing us this is only another paroxysm which aggravates our sickness…

"What is needed now is the Christian who manifests the truth  of the Gospel in social action, with or without explanation. Clear and decisive Christian action explains itself, and teaches in a way that words never can…

"Christians have got to speak by their actions. Their political actions must not be confined to the privacy of the polling booth. It must be clear and manifest to everybody. It must speak loudly and plainly the Christian truth, and it must be prepared to defend that truth with sacrifice, accepting misunderstanding, injustice, calumny, and even imprisonment or death. It is crucially important for Christians today to adopt a generally Christian position and support it with everything they have got. This means an unremitting fight for justice in every sphere – in labor, in race relations, in the “third world” and above all in international affairs."

(Passion for Peace, excerpts from p.81-84)

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Mark of the True Revolutionary - The Young Gandhi


One of my Facebook friends posted this photo and story about the young Gandhi. Look at the clarity of his eyes, and his keen insight into the nature of human delusion and roots of racism. He had already found the path and courage of Nonviolence.

When Mahatma Gandhi was studying law in London, a professor named Peters had a bad attitude … but student Gandhi never lowered his head and they met very often.

One day Peters was having lunch at the university canteen, Gandhi came with his tray and sat down next to him.

The very arrogant professor said to him, “Student Gandhi, you don’t understand!” “Pig” and “bird” don’t sit down to eat together. “

Gandhi replies, “Be calm, Professor, I will fly!”

And the situation has changed. Professor Peters, filled with rage, because he understood that the student had called him “Pig”, decided to take revenge on the next exam …

But the student answers all the questions brilliantly.

Then the teacher asks him the following question: “Gandhi, if you walk down the street and find two bags, one with wisdom and the other with money, which of the two will you take?”

Gandhi replied without hesitation, “Probably the money, Professor.” ‘’

The smiling teacher tells him, “I would grab wisdom in your place, don’t you think?”

Gandhi replies, “Everyone takes what they don’t have, Professor.”

The already hysterical professor writes “IDIOT” on the exam sheet and returns it to the young man. Gandhi takes the sheet and sits down … after a few minutes he turns to the teacher and says, “Professor Peters, you signed the sheet, but you didn’t write my grade …”

~ If you let something hurt you … It will hurt you. But if you do not allow it, the thing will return to where it came from. ~


The following is from an essay by Lawrence S. Cunningham, a professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame and a frequent writer about Merton. The entire essay, "Alone Among Many", is HERE.

"Nearly a half century ago, Thomas Merton wrote "Notes on a Philosophy of Solitude," an extended essay in which he pointed out that a person who enjoys solitude, by which he meant the quiet possession of the self, is the one less likely to be beguiled by mass movements, collective passions, the false siren of advertising and the lust for the ephemerally fashionable. True solitude (as opposed to individualism or "going it alone") is the cultivation of the sense of the self that permits us to adjudicate the cry of the mob and resist the lure of the moment.


Such self-possession is both a gift and a risk. It is most often a risk when acting against the consensus; such acts can earn scorn or, at worst, actual physical harm. Decades ago Ignazio Silone, the Italian political novelist, said that the first lethal blow against fascism came when the first brave person in a village chalked a large NO on the wall of the town square. Interior solitude has always been the mark of the true revolutionary. It was the inner force of Gandhi's resistance; it was the inner strength of a Solzhenitsyn whose inner life could not be broken by the horrors of the Gulag.

At a deeper spiritual level the cultivation of solitude is a necessary matrix out of which comes authentic prayer. By that is not meant that one must seek a solitary place (even though that may be a good thing to do on occasion) or go to a monastery for a retreat (also a good thing) or give up one's ordinary pattern of living. What it does mean is that if we are to pray, as opposed to saying prayers, we need the capacity to slow down, get in focus and become re-collected, albeit for a short period of time. The Bible describes that capacity as watchfulness, the alertness that brings our interior attention toward a single One. God says, through the psalmist, that we are "to be still and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:11). That stillness is the defining element of solitude."

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Two monks


Thich Nhat Hanh died yesterday. 

So many of my teachers connect to each other, going way back. It must be a wavelength that we find and recognize in each other, and then ride it together.

"... One of the persons Nhat Hanh had long hoped to meet while in the United States was Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk whose widely read books had done so much to revitalize contemplative spirituality. Merton was by then also known for his opposition to the war and also for his deep respect for Buddhism. In late May 1966, Merton welcomed Nhat Hanh, plus John Heidbrink of the Fellowship of Reconciliation staff, to the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky for a two-day visit.

The two monks stayed up late into the night in Merton’s hermitage, sharing the chants of their respective traditions, discussing methods of prayer and meditation, comparing Christian and Buddhist aspects of monastic formation, and talking about the war.

Afterward, Merton said to his fellow Trappists, “Thich Nhat Hanh is a perfectly formed monk,” and that he regarded his guest’s arrival as an answer to a prayer. “In meeting Thich Nhat Hanh,” Merton said, “I felt I had met Vietnam.” Merton also wrote of their visit, calling Nhat Hanh his brother: “He is more my brother than many who are nearer to me in race and nationality, because he and I see things exactly the same way.”

- from "When America Met Thich Nhat Hanh", by  Jim Forest, Winter 2021 edition of Tricycle magazine.

Two monks. 

Thich Nhat Hanh references in louie are HERE

The Miracle of Walking on the Earth Is In The Here and In The Now ♡ Thich Nhat Hanh

From the NY Times:

“People talk about entering nirvana, but we are already there,” said the Buddhist monk, who died on Saturday. Here is a short selection of his remarks.  

This body is not me. I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
And I have never died.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Only the rice loves you

Plum Village Tribute to Jim Forest

Remembering Jim Forest - By Sister Chan Khong

Jim Forest was a true man of peace, of reconciliation, and of love. Jim gave me—and continued to give me—a lot of inspiration since we first met him at the office of the Buddhist Peace Delegation at Maison Alfort near Paris, while we were working to call for peace in Vietnam. Thanks to his deep background as a real man of Peace, Jim understood and absorbed everything our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (“Thay”) shared with him, and he wrote many wonderful articles on Thay’s message and teachings, in particular in the Fellowship Of Reconciliation magazine. Jim always had a deeply attentive look and seemed to “drink in” everything we shared; we never felt disappointed when we read his summaries and reports for readers. With his talent in writing Jim reported so many of Thay’s teachings during that challenging time, and he shared and commented on them in a profound and sometimes very humorous way for the reader, as in the wonderful article “Only the rice loves you.” 

Jim also helped publish the English translation of Thay’s theater script, “The Path of Return Continues the Journey.” Many of Jim’s earlier peace writings were printed in the Fellowship of Reconciliation magazine, and he shared with the wider American audience many deep exchanges about Sister Nhat Chi Mai (one of the first and profound students of Thay, who immolated herself for peace) as well as the story of the four social workers of the School of Youth for Social Service who were assassinated on the bank of the Saigon River. He also introduced to the community of the Fellowship Of Reconciliation Thay’s pioneering and accessible book on mindfulness practice: The Miracle of Mindfulness. In Jim’s memoirs, Eyes of Compassion: Learning from Thich Nhat Hanh, published last year by Orbis, Jim shared his profound and insightful experience of our teacher. Jim captured with clarity, compassion, and a historian’s eye for detail, many pivotal moments in Thay’s peace work during the 1960s and 70s. Jim’s love, integrity, friendship and open-hearted learning shine through in his writing and light up the way for others to follow.   

Only the rice loves you.   

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Peacemaker - Love is the state of being Radically Awake

Photos by Robert Ellsburg

Jim Forest's funeral today in the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam.
At the very first conference of the Thomas Merton Society Great Britian and Ireland held in Southampton in May 1996 ‘Your Heart Is My Hermitage’, Jim Forest took part in the round table discussion between Merton’s friends and he also gave the Sunday homily.

Jim described love as a state of being radically awake:

'We can imagine that what will be strangest about heaven is how it is at once so familiar and yet so different. It will seem to us that in the first part of our lives, we were more asleep in the day than in the night. Our eyes were open but we saw so little. We heard so little. We understood so little. We loved so little. Not only our eyes but our souls were bricked over most of the time. Opposing love is fear. Recall Merton's insight: “The root of war is fear.” Still more important, recall the many times in the Gospel we hear the words, “Be not afraid.” We are not speaking here about fear of God; this is in fact that fear which should cure us of all our petty fears. But how often do we allow fear to prevent us from reaching out to others, to divide us from others, to make us into enemies of others, even to decide what we will do with our lives and with whom we will spend our lives? But in moments of love, we see more clearly and are able to live without fear in the freedom of the Resurrection. What freedom that is! As we sing throughout the Easter season in the Orthodox Church, the words falling on us like heavy rain on dry fields: “'Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.”'

Deep wisdom, being radically awake. Fear of reaching out to the other which is hedged with all sorts of ego concerns. Sometimes silence is a way to get through. Simply being with the other. Allowing space for all of us to be in our broken state.

Jim's funeral, below, live-streamed today from the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas of Myra in Amsterdam. A day of great sadness and joy.


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