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The first chirps of the waking day birds mark the “point vierge” of the dawn under a sky as yet without real light, a moment of awe and inexpressible innocence, when the Father in perfect silence opens their eyes. They begin to speak to Him, not with fluent song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn state, their state at the “point vierge.” Their condition asks if it is time for them to “be.” He answers “yes.” Then, they one by one wake up, and become birds. They manifest themselves as birds, beginning to sing. Presently they will be fully themselves, and will even fly.
Merton, Thomas. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. New York: Image Books, 1989, p. 131
Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. (NRSV Ps 69: 34)
Keep your eyes clean and your ears quiet and your mind serene. Breathe God’s air. Work, if you can, under His sky.
Merton, Thomas, New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions, 1961, p. 86
Oh God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. (NRSV Ps 71: 17)
“The life of contemplation implies two levels of awareness: first, awareness of the question, and second, awareness of the answer. Though these are two distinct and enormously different levels, yet they are in fact an awareness of the same thing. The question is, itself, the answer. And we ourselves are both. ”
Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books). p. 4
When I consent to the will and the mercy of God as it “comes” to me in the events of life, appealing to my inner self and awakening my faith, I break through the superficial exterior appearances that form my routine vision of the world and of my own self, and I find myself in the presence of hidden majesty.
Merton, Thomas, New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions, 1961, p. 41
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (NRSV Ps 27: 13)
This, then, is our desert: to live facing despair, but not to consent. To trample it down under hope in the Cross. To wage war against despair unceasingly. That war is our wilderness. If we wage it courageously, we will find Christ at our side. If we cannot face it, we will never find Him.
Merton, Thomas. Thoughts in Solitude. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999, p. 8
But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! (NRSV Ps 22: 19)
Our hearts and minds desire clarity. We like to have a clear picture of a situation, a clear view of how things fit together, and clear insight into our own and the world’s problems. But just as in nature colors and shapes mingle without clear-cut distinctions, human life doesn’t offer the clarity we are looking for. The borders between love and hate, evil and good, beauty and ugliness, heroism and cowardice, care and neglect, guilt and blamelessness are mostly vague, ambiguous, and hard to discern.
It is not easy to live faithfully in a world full of ambiguities. We have to learn to make wise choices without needing to be entirely sure.
Having given up all desire to compete with other men, they suddenly wake up and find that the joy of God is everywhere, and they are able to exult in the virtues and goodness of others more than ever they could have done in their own. They are so dazzled by the reflection of God in the souls of the men they live with that they no longer have any power to condemn anything that they see in another.
Merton, Thomas, New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions, 1961, p. 60
Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! (NRSV Ps 97:11-12)
We are all bound to seek not only our own good, but the good of others. Divine providence brings us in contact, whether directly or indirectly, with those in whose lives we are to play a part as instruments of salvation.
Merton, Thomas, Life and Holiness, New York: Image Books, 1963, p. 40
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (NRSV Ps 18: 2)
Faith alone can give us the light to see that God’s will is to be found in our everyday life. Without this light, we cannot see to make the right decisions.
Merton, Thomas. Thoughts in Solitude. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999, p. 38
I delight to do you will, O my God; your law is within my heart (NRSV Ps 40: 8 )
I just heard from Marilyn’s son, who sent me a copy of a handwritten poem that Marilyn left and requested be “passed on to her family and friends.” The poem was read at her memorial service. I thought some of you might like to see it.
Don’t be sad now that I have gone
My love for you will still live on,
All of the things that I hold true
I pass them now from me to you,
The mountains, the lakes, the
And nature’s wonders that I love,
Are yours to enjoy forever free
A passing gift to you from me.
Love m. j.