I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Firmly rooted in life

"This is an age that, by its very nature as a time of crisis, of revolution, of struggle, calls for the special searching and questioning which are the work of the monk in his meditation and prayer....the monk abandons the world only in order to listen more intently to the deepest and most neglected voices that proceed from its inner depth." from Thomas Merton's Contemplative Prayer

I really appreciate a spirituality that is grounded. Even the monk who seems to have abandoned the world is for Merton merely listening more intently to its deepest needs.

"Meditation" and "revolution" are not typically two words discussed together, but I am intrigued by the correlation. What would a revolution look like, if it were born out of meditation, silence, reflection, and prayer? What might our solitary spiritual practices become if they were energized with revolutionary impulses?

Merton wrote Contemplative Prayer as a reflection for monks, but he also recognized that the contemplative path is embraced by individuals outside the monastery.

"Nothing is more foreign to authentic monastic and 'contemplative' tradition in the Church than a kind of gnosticism which would elevate the contemplative above the ordinary Christian by initiating him into a realm of esoteric knowledge and experience, delivering him from the ordinary struggles and sufferings of human existence, and elevating him to a privileged state among the spiritually pure, as if he were almost an angel, untouched by matter and passion, and no longer familiar with the economy of sacraments, charity and the Cross. The way of monastic prayer is not a subtle escape from the Christian economy of incarnation and redemption...

"The dimensions of prayer in solitude are those of man's ordinary anguish, his self-searching, his moments of nausea at his own vanity, falsity and capacity for betrayal."

Again, I really appreciate how Merton's spirituality is a means of going deeper into life and ordinary experience, not a means of rising above it or going beyond it. True spirituality is not a means to an end--it is not a way to escape from the individual struggles of our flesh and bone--true spirituality becomes more aware of its frailty and human struggle.

Merton puts all this in a concise way: "Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life."


tamie said...

Amen! I need to show you "Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude." Maybe you can read it at Acadia. I think you'd like it, and that would be a sweet context in which to read it!

Jonathan Erdman said...

I didn't realize you owned such a thing...how could it have slipped by my keen observatory powers....unless you hid it from me...