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Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

Your Vision Is Your Home

John O’Donohue (as you can tell, O’Donohue has joined my array of spiritual writers such as Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Douglas Steere, Henri Nouwen, Andrew Murray, Macrina Wiederkehr, Anne Lamott, C. S. Lewis, Barbara Brown Taylor – the list goes on . . . so many good good writers who share spiritual wisdom and  inspire me – who make me want to be a better person).

. . . back to my original thought: John O’Donohue writes about thought in Eternal Echoes.  A short excerpt from the book:

Thought is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.  The way you see things makes them what they are.  We never meet life innocently.  We always take in life through the grid of thought we use.  Our thoughts filter experience all the time.  The beauty of philosophy is the way it shows us the nature of the layers of thought which always stand invisibly between us and everything we see.  Even your meetings with yourself happen in and by means of thinking. The study of philosophy helps you to see how you think.  Philosophy has no doctrines; it is an activity of disclosure and illumination.  One of the great tasks in life is to find a way of thinking which is honest and original and yet right for your style of individuality.  The shape of each soul is different.  It takes a lifetime of slow work to find a rhythm of thinking which reflects and articulates the uniqueness of your soul.

More often than not, we have picked up the habits of thinking of those around us.  These thought-habits are not yours; they can damage the way you see the world and make you doubt your own instinct and sense of life.  When you become aware that your thinking has a life of its own, you will never make a prison of your own perception.  Your vision is your home.  A closed vision always wants to make a small room out of whatever it sees.  Thinking that limits you denies you life.  In order to deconstruct the inner prison, the first step is learning to see that it is a prison.  You can move in the direction of this discovery by reflecting on the places where your life feels limited and tight.  To recognize the crippling feeling of being limited is already to have begun moving beyond it.  Heidegger said, “To recognize a frontier is already to have gone beyond it.”  Life continues to remain faithful to us.  If we move even the smallest step out of our limitation, life comes to embrace us and lead us out into the pastures of possibility.

. . . To think is to go beyond.  Thinking that deserves the name never attempts to make a cage for mystery.  Reverential thought breaks down the thought-cages that domesticate mystery.  This thinking is disturbing but liberating.  This is the kind of thinking at the heart of prayer, namely, the liberation of the Divine from the small prisons of our fear and control.  To liberate the Divine is to liberate oneself.  Each person is so vulnerable in the way he or she sees things.  You are so close to your own way of thinking that you are probably unaware of its power and control over how you experience everything, including yourself.  This is the importance of drama as a literary form; it provides you with the opportunity to know yourself at one remove, so to speak, without threatening you with self-annihilation.  Your thinking can be damaged.  You may sense this but put it down to how life is.  You remain unaware of your freedom to change how you think.  When your thinking is locked in false certainty or negativity, it puts so many interesting and vital areas of life out of your reach.  You live impoverished and hungry in the midst of your own abundance.

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seeing the holy in the ordinary

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Several years ago (probably 1999 or maybe 2000), I attended a Spiritual Retreat led by Macrina Wiederkehr.  I will never forget this retreat; it was special in every way and Macrina Wiederkehr spoke to my heart.

I’m re-reading her book,  A Tree Full of Angels , and I am revisiting the same feelings I had during that Very Spiritual Retreat.

Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB., is an author and spiritual guide and a Benedictine monastic of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She travels throughout the United States and Canada as a retreat director. In her retreats seekers are guided through experiences of silence, contemplation, and faith sharing. Many of her retreat themes come from her writings. She also draws extensively from literature and poetry and enjoys creating rituals.

From A Tree Full of Angels:

What God most longs to discover in us is our willingness to embrace ourselves as we are at our beginning–empty, little, and poor. . . . Acceptance of our littleness makes it possible for our greatness to emerge.  Our littleness is not a choice.  It is simply the way we are.  Our greatness, however is a choice.  When we choose to accept the life God has given to us, when we allow God to fill our emptiness, we are choosing greatness.

. . . We are not the only ones with an ache in our hearts.  God’s ache for us is immense.  Listen to God’s ache in my paraphrase of Hosea 11:3-4, 8:

I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I held them in my arms, but they did not know that I was crying for them, that I was leading them with human ties, with strings of love. . .. I was like someone lifting an infant . . . Ephraim, how could I part with you?  Israel, how could I give you up.

. . . To pray is to touch God and let God touch us.  It is a matter of presence and response.  Prayer does nothing to make God more present, for God is always present.  Prayer is our response to the presence of God in our lives.

Although I know of course  the importance of Bible reading, now and then I receive nourishment from writers such as Macrina Wiederkehr, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, C. S.Lewis, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Andrew Murray – the list goes on.

Every now and then I just need to stop, look, and listen for God in the here and now – and reading Macrina’s book helps to give me perspective and peace.

Good Friday

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The power of God’s mercy has taken hold of us and will not let go of us: therefore we have become foolish.  We can no longer love wisely.  And because we have emptied ourselves in this folly which He has sent upon us, we can be moved by His unpredictable wisdom, so that we love whom we love and we help whom we help, not according to plans of our own but according to the measure laid down for us in His hidden will, which knows no measure.  In this folly, which is the work of His Spirit, we must love especially those who are helpless and who can do nothing for themselves.  We must also receive love from them, realizing our own helplessness, and our own inability to fend for ourselves. . . . Mercy fulfills the whole law [Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, 181]

THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S MERCY AND LOVE

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. . . . One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”   He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:32, 39-43

Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent

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Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, 178-179:

SACRAMENTS OF MERCY

The chesed of God is a gratuitous mercy that considers no fitness, no worthiness and no return.  It is the way the Lord looks upon the guilty and with His look makes them at once innocent.  This look seems to some to be anger because they fly from it.  But if they face it, they see that it is love and that they are innocent.  (Their flight and their confusion of their own fear make them guilty in their own eyes.)  The chesed of God is truth.  It is infallible strength.  It is the love by which he seeks and chooses his chosen, and binds them to Himself.  It is the love by which He is married to mankind, so that, if humanity is faithless to Him, it must still always have fidelity to which to return: that is His own fidelity.  He has become inseparable from man in the chesed which we call “incarnation,” and “Cross” and “Resurrection.”  He has also given us His chesed in the Person of His spirit.  The Paraclete is the full, inexpressible mystery of chesed. So that in the depths of our own being there is an inexhaustible spring of mercy and love.  Our own being has become love.  Our own self has become God’s love for us, and it is full Christ, of chesed. But we must be to ourselves and to others signs and sacraments of mercy.

Friday in the Third Week of Lent – a prayer

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PRAYER

I offer you, Lord, my time, this gift of the fullness of life in time that I now experience in being united to you.  Help me to redeem time for others.  Help me to unburden their load of stress.  By your grace let me be an instrument of your call to freedom and creativity in the lives of all whom you redeem.  Let them hear your call to the only liberty that matters: to choose to follow you. ~ Thomas Merton

solitude

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each of us walks a solitary path

Thomas Merton writes that
“The contemplative has nothing to tell you except to reassure you and say that if you dare to penetrate your own silence and risk the sharing of that solitude with the lonely other who seeks God through you, then you will truly recover the light and the capacity to understand what is beyond words and beyond explanations because it is too close to be explained; it is the intimate union in the depths of your own heart, of God’s spirit and your own secret inmost self….”


Contemplation

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DAY 22

Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

UNION WITH CHRIST, UNION WITH THE CHURCH

The liturgy is, as the Fathers taught, a work of the active life.  It prepares us for contemplation, which is the final perfection of Christian personalism, since it is the intimate realization of one’s perfect union with Christ “in one Spirit.”  The highest paradox of Christian personalism is for an individual to be “found in Christ Jesus” and thus “lost” to all that can be regarded, in a mundane way, as his “self.”  This means to be at the same time one’s self and Christ.  But this is not to be ascribed solely to personal initiative, “private prayer” or individual effort.  Contemplation is a gift of God, given in and through His Church, and through the prayer of the Church.  St. Anthony was led into the desert not by a private voice but by the word of God, proclaimed in the Church of his Egyptian village in the chanting of the Gospel in Coptic–a classical example of liturgy opening the way to a life of contemplation!  But the liturgy cannot fulfill this function if we misunderstand or underestimate the essentially spiritual value of Christian public prayer.  If we cling to immature and limited notions of  “privacy,” we will never be able to free ourselves from the bonds of individualism.  We will never realize how the Church delivers us from ourselves by public worship, the very public character of which tends to hide us “in the secret of God’s face.”

THOMAS MERTON, SEASONS OF CELEBRATION, 26-27