Hymn 25 – Symeon the New Theologian

–But, Oh, what intoxication of light, Oh, what

movements of fire!

Oh, what swirlings of the flame in me, miserable one

that I am,

coming from You and Your glory!

The glory I know it and I say it is Your Holy Spirit,

who has the same nature with You and the same

honor, O Word

He is of the same race, the same glory,

of the same essence, He alone with Your Father

and with You, O Christ, O God of the universe!

I fall down in adoration before You.

I thank You that You have made me worthy to know,

however little it may be,

the power of your divinity.

I thank You that You, even when I was sitting in

darkness,

revealed Yourself to me, You enlightened me,

You granted me to see the light of Your countenance

that is unbearable to all.

I remained seated in the middle of the darkness, I

know,

but, white I was there surrounded by darkness,

You appeared as light, illuminating me completely

from Your total light.

And I became light in the night, I who was found in

the midst of darkness.

Neither the darkness extinguished Your light

completely,

nor did the light dissipate the visible darkness,

but they were together, yet completely separate,

without confusion, far from each other,surely not at

all mixed,

except in the same spot where they filled everything.

So I am in the light, yet I am found in the middle of

the darkness.

So I am in the darkness, yet I am in the middle of

the light.

–How can darkness receive within itself a light

and, without being dissipated by light

it still remains in the middle of the light?

O awesome wonder which I see doubly,

with my two sets of eyes, of the body and of

the soul.

From Maloney and de Catanzaro’s translation of The Discourses (The Classics of Western Spirituality)

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Short and Sweet.

Some good stuff from Merton and others.

The Jewishness of the Bible

One has either got to be a Jew or stop reading the Bible. The Bible cannot make sense to anyone who is not ‘spiritually a Semite.’ The spiritual sense of the Old Testament is not and cannot be a simple emptying out of its Israelite content. Quite the contrary! The New Testament is the fulfillment of that spiritual content, the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, the promise that Abraham believed in. It is never therefore a denial of Judaism, but its affirmation. Those who consider it a denial have not understood it.

Merton, CJB, 14.

Believe in order to be.

We believe, not because we want to know, but because we want to be.

Merton, CJB, 15.

Reunion begins in oneself.

If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and Latin Fathers, the Russians with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians. If we want to bring together what is divided, we can not do so by imposing one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other. But if we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ.

Merton, CJB, 21

The Natural is Sacred or Profane. We choose which it will be.

Whatever is done naturally may be either sacred or profane, according to our own degree of awareness; but whatever is done unnaturally is essentially and irrevocably profane.

A.K. Coomaraswamy, in CJB, 25.

If I have not love, but all the knowledge in the world, then I am a clanging gong.

Gandhi once asked: “How can he who thinks he possesses absolute truth be fraternal?”

Commenting on Gandhi, Merton writes:

Only he who loves can be sure that he is still in contact with the truth, which is in fact too absolute to be grasped by his mind. Hence, he who holds to the gospel truth is afraid that he may lose the truth by a failure of love, not by a failure of knowledge…Knowledge expands a man like a balloon, and gives him a precarious wholeness in which he thinks that he holds in himself all the dimensions of a truth the totality of which is denied to others. It then becomes his duty, he thinks, by virtue of his superior knowledge, to punish those who do not share this truth. How can he ‘love’ others, he thinks, except by imposing on them the truth which they would otherwise insult and neglect?

Merton, CJB, 44.

Christians are a minority. Now get over it.

Christians stand to gain more in the long run by accepting their minority position and looking for quality rather than quantity.

Christopher Dawson, in CJB, 55.

Frivolous News is nothing New.

Every time [President] Kennedy sneezes or blows his nose an article is read about it in the refectory.

Merton, CJB, 58.

Oil: The Sacrament of American Folk Religion. The car: the chalice that contains it.

We waste our natural resources, as well as those of undeveloped countries’ iron, oil, etc. in order to fill our cities and roads with a congestion of traffic that is in fact largely useless, and is a symptom of the meaningless and futile agitation of our own minds. The attachment of the modern American to his automobile and the symbolic role played by his car, with its aggressive and lubric design, its useless power, its otiose gadgetry, its consumption of fuel, which is advertised as having almost supernatural power…this is where the study of American mythology should begin.

Merton, CJB, 76.

A Merton Miscellany – Raids on the Unspeakable

Eschatological Christianity

Eschatology is not an invitation to escape into a private heaven: it is a call to transfigure the evil and stricken world. It is a witness to the end of this world of ours with its enslaving objectifications.

Nicholas Berdyaev quoted in Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable.

The practical conclusion derived from this faith [eschatological Christianity] turns into an accusation of the age in which I live and into a command to be human in this most inhuman of ages, to guard the image of man for it is the image of God.

Nicholas Berdyaev quoted in Merton, RU.

Continue reading

A Reading Miscellany – Merton, Bonhoeffer

Some interesting ideas from today’s readings.

Honouring God with a mature wordliness.

I am sure we honour God more if we gratefully accept the life he gives us with all its blessings, loving it and drinking it to the full, grieving deeply and sincerely when we have belittled or thrown way any of the precious things in life…than we do if we are insensitive toward life.

Bonhoeffer, Ethics

Humaneness and the Gospel are not mutually exclusive.

Pope John could very well have called the world to peace purely and simply in terms of the Gospel of Peace. Instead he called it to peace in the name of humanity and reason. But was this a contradiction of the Gospel? No. Since Christ is fully and truly man, since the world, society, humanity, human and social life have been taken up and sanctified in the Incarnation, the Church can speak to the world in terms of humaneness, a reason, a compassion which both the Church and the ‘world’ are capable of understanding, but of which the Church also has a much deeper, theological understanding than the world.

Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Merton on ‘Religion’

Merton sympathizes with the effort to resituate Christianity in the world as a “religionless religion” (Bonhoeffer’s term). Religionless Christianity critiques the

“‘religious’ tactic that tries to cajole and pressure modern man, scientific and technological man, into having religious needs which he does not have. This ‘religionness’ is negative, ambiguous, and moralizing: it preaches on one hand that one must run to God and the Church as to a refuge from life, yet once one has given the sacred its due, one can be unashamedly secular as regards [to] making money and enjoying the good things of life, provided one maintains a rigid and negative set of standards in the matter of sex. One need not worry too much about things like war, civil rights, and so on, regarded as moral issues. One leaves such things to the secular authorities, and one prays for those concerned to get the right answers.

Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Merton on not being concerned with ‘getting into heaven’

I would even say that, like most modern men, I have not been much moved by the concept of ‘getting into heaven’ after muddling through this present life….[in the Christian tradition] I  find the strongest warrant for this immediate and direct access to God in everyday Christian life, which is to be regarded not merely as a moral preparation for a heavenly existence but…the very beginning of eternal life.

Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

The Sin of Bad Theology: To call others ‘anti-Christs’

The sin of bad theology has been precisely this–to set Christ up against man, and to regard all flesh and blood men as ‘not-Christ.’ Indeed to assume that many men, whole classes of men, nations, races, are in fact ‘anti-Christ.’ To divide men arbitrarily according to their conformity to our own limited disincarnate mental Christ, and to decide on this basis that most men are ‘anti-Christ’–this shows up our theology. At such a moment, we have to question not mankind, but our theology. A theology that ends in lovelessness cannot be Christian

Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

On a sidenote, I will have to read this to my DSO who mentioned John’s use of the term anti-Christ to refer to those who don’t believe in the Incarnation (cf. 1 John). I wrestled with that term on the drive home this morning.