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“We do not detach ourselves from things in order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we become detached from ourselves in order to see and use all things in and for God.
Detachment from things does not mean setting up a contradiction between “things” and “God” as if God were another “thing” and as if His creatures were His rivals.”
Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books) P 21
Spiritual life is not mental life. It is not thought alone. Nor is it, of course, a life of sensation, a life of feeling – “feeling” and experiencing the things of the spirit, and the things of God.
Everything must be elevated and transformed by the action of God, in love and faith.
Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude. (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux). P 15
If indeed the spiritual life is essentially a hidden life, how do we protect this hiddenness in the midst of a very public life? The two most important ways to protect our hiddenness are solitude and poverty. Solitude allows us to be alone with God. There we experience that we belong not to people, not even to those who love us and care for us, but to God and God alone. Poverty is where we experience our own and other people’s weakness, limitations, and need for support. To be poor is to be without success, without fame, and without power. But there God chooses to show us God’s love.
Both solitude and poverty protect the hiddenness of our lives.
One of the reasons that hiddenness is such an important aspect of the spiritual life is that it keeps us focused on God. In hiddenness we do not receive human acclamation, admiration, support, or encouragement. In hiddenness we have to go to God with our sorrows and joys and trust that God will give us what we most need.
In our society we are inclined to avoid hiddenness. We want to be seen and acknowledged. We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events. But as we become visible and popular, we quickly grow dependent on people and their responses and easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being. Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves.
Is it true to say that one goes into solitude to “Get at the root of existence”? It would be better simply to say that in solitude one is at the root. He who is alone and is conscious of what his solitude means, finds himself simply in the ground of life.
Thomas Merton. Love and Living. (New York: Harcourt) p 22
Thought for the Day: Can we not simply be ourselves without thinking about it? This is true solitude.
The largest part of Jesus’ life was hidden. Jesus lived with his parents in Nazareth, “under their authority” (Luke 2:51), and there “increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people” (Luke 2:52). When we think about Jesus we mostly think about his words and miracles, his passion, death, and resurrection, but we should never forget that before all of that Jesus lived a simple, hidden life in a small town, far away from all the great people, great cities, and great events. Jesus’ hidden life is very important for our own spiritual journeys. If we want to follow Jesus by words and deeds in the service of his Kingdom, we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life.
Quite a contrast between this message and the idea that once we know Jesus we must immediately begin our lives as “ministers of the gospel.”
While I was gone to visit my family in Joplin, MO,
I had two poems, “There’s “nothing new under the sun,” and Rail fanning,” published in Rusty Truck
I had a poetry reading in Joplin.
Popcorn and Poetry
4316 N. St Louis Avenue
Webb City, MO 64870
Friday, August 3, 2012 2:30 pm
Now we’re back. Do poets ever rest? 🙂
…True solitude is selfless. Therefore, it is rich in silence and charity and peace. It finds in itself seemingly inexhaustible resources of good to bestow on other people.
The true solitary must recognize that he is obliged to love other men and even all things created by God… Love is his solitude.
Thomas Merton. No Man Is An Island (New York: Harvest Book, 1983): 248, 251
Jesus’ whole life was a witness to his Father’s love, and Jesus calls his followers to carry on that witness in his Name. We, as followers of Jesus, are sent into this world to be visible signs of God’s unconditional love. Thus we are not first of all judged by what we say but by what we live. When people say of us: “See how they love one another,” they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced and are drawn to it as by a magnet.
In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.