I’m reading through a book right now with selections and excerpts from various Christian writers throughout history. It’s meant to help me focus my mind on God and be a better follower of Jesus. One thing I always enjoy when I read the writings of others is that many of the struggles I face have been faced by people for centuries. When I read St. Augustine writing about his struggle with the fact that part of him wants to fully devote himself to God but the other part wants to hang on – it’s comforting (for lack of a better term). It’s also good to see that even many of these people who would be considered giants of the faith (or who have been declared Saints by the Roman Catholic Church) experience the kind of struggles that I have yet still have amazing insights into what it means to follow God.
I don’t have anything particularly stirring to say but I did want to share a couple of quotes from Thomas Merton. He’s a writer I’ve only marginally delved into but I have greatly enjoyed what I’ve read. From what I understand some of his writing and exploration had to do with what Christians could learn from some of the Eastern traditions. He got some flak for that from some, of course, but from what I can tell he wasn’t trying to copy their theology but rather wanted to engage those from others traditions and learn more about them and learn from them. Here are some of his thoughts with regard to meditation, the soul, and the search so many of us are on to find ways to get our spirituality and our life to match up. Each quote is a distinct one, they aren’t all next to each other like this in the book, I just picked a few that stuck out to me:
“There is a “movement” to meditation, expressing the basic “paschal” rhythm of the Christian life, the passage from death to life in Christ. Sometimes prayer, meditation, and contemplation are “death” – a kind of descent into our own nothingness, a recognition of helplessness, frustration, infidelity, confusion, ignorance. Note how common this theme is in the Psalms (see Pss. 39, 56)…”
“We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners.”
“Very often the inertia and repugnance which characterize the so-called ‘spiritual life’ of many Christians could perhaps be cured by a simple respect for the concrete realities of everyday life, for nature, for the body, for one’s work, one’s friends, one’s surroundings…”
“A false supernaturalism which imagines that ‘the supernatural’ is a kind of realm of abstract essences (as Plato imagined) that is totally apart from and opposed to the concrete world of nature offers no real support to a genuine life of meditation and prayer. Meditation has no point unless it is firmly rooted in life.”
- Thomas Merton, excerpts from Contemplative Prayer