Thomas Merton: Love, Not Duty

“It is not dutiful observance that keeps us from sin, but something far greater: it is love. And this love is not something which we develop by our own powers alone. It is a sublime gift of the divine mercy, and the fact that we live in the realization of this mercy and this gift is the greatest source of growth for our love and for our holiness.”–Thomas Merton

Merton: ‘Contemplation Would Be Incomplete if Not Shared’

Snowy Road by Thomas Merton
Snowy Road by Thomas Merton

The Great Silence of thirty inches of snow in a city that never knows the quiet is a great gift. The cutting cold exposes our city’s social sins, shows us who we’ve allowed to die of exposure under bridges, in cars, in abandoned houses.

The ultimate perfection of the contemplative life is not a heaven of separate individuals, each one viewing his own private intuition of God; it is a sea of Love which flows through the One Body of all the elect, all the angels and saints, and their contemplation would be incomplete if it were not shared, or if it were shared with fewer souls, or with spirits capable of less vision and less joy.–Thomas Merton

From New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books 1961, p 65)

‘It is Love that Moves the Sun and Stars’

Reconstruction-of-Galileo-001This year marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope. This week, at an international gathering of astronomers, Pope Benedict gave an address titled: True Knowledge Is Always Directed to Wisdom. Here’s an excerpt:

Knowledge, in a word, must be understood and pursued in all its liberating breadth. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, yet if it aspires to be wisdom, capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be committed to the pursuit of that ultimate truth which, while ever beyond our complete grasp, is nonetheless the key to our authentic happiness and freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), the measure of our true humanity, and the criterion for a just relationship with the physical world and with our brothers and sisters in the great human family.

Dear friends, modern cosmology has shown us that neither we, nor the earth we stand on, is the centre of our universe, composed of billions of galaxies, each of them with myriads of stars and planets. Yet, as we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year — to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe — how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? Contemplating the starry sky, he cried out with wonder to the Lord: “When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?” (Ps 8:4-5). It is my hope that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator, and of that Love which is the underlying motive of his creation — the Love which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, “moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradiso XXXIII, 145). Revelation tells us that, in the fullness of time, the Word through whom all things were made came to dwell among us. In Christ, the new Adam, we acknowledge the true centre of the universe and all history, and in him, the incarnate Logos, we see the fullest measure of our grandeur as human beings, endowed with reason and called to an eternal destiny.–Pope Benedict XVI

Read the entire speech here.

Merton: Love and Solitude

mertonleanralpheugenemeatyardCatholic monk, author, and mystic Thomas Merton reflects here on the relationship between love and solitude. Our culture has put these two in opposition to each other–to be alone is to be loveless, to be loved is to never be lonely. Merton understand the connection quite differently.

All I know is that here I am, and the valley is very quiet, the sun is going down, there is no human being around, and as darkness falls I could easily be a completely forgotten person, as if I did not exist for the world at all. (Though there is one who remembers and whom I remember.) The day could easily come when I would be just as invisible as if I never existed, and still be living up here on this hill. … And I know that I would be perfectly content to be so.
Who knows anything at all about solitude if he has not been in love, and in love in his solitude? Love and solitude must test each other in the one who means to live alone: they must become one and the same thing in him, or he will only be half a person. Unless I have you with me always, in some very quiet and perfect way, I will never be able to live fruitfully alone. –Thomas Merton

From Learning to Love, edited by Christine M. Bochen (Harper SanFrancisco, 1997, p. 314-315)

“There Is A Candle” by Rumi

There Is A Candle

by Rumi

candleThere is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.
Invite Him to fill you up,
embrace the fire.
Remind those who tell you otherwise that
comes to you of its own accord,
and the yearning for it
cannot be learned in any school.