Thomas Merton

Silence is the strength of our interior life

Silence is the strength of our interior life. If we fill our lives with silence, then we live in hope.

~ Thomas Merton with thanks to Susan Bower

Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life

Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware, that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that source.

~ from NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION by Thomas Merton

No escape from paradox

No escape from paradox: Wisdom manifests itself, and is yet hidden. The more it hides, the more it is manifest; and the more it is manifest, the more it is hidden. For God is known when apprehended as unknown, and is heard when we realize that we do not know the sounds of God's voice. The words uttered are words of full silence, and they are bait to draw us into silence. The truths manifested are full of hiddenness, and their function is to hide us, with themselves, in God from whom they proceed. If we hide the precepts of wisdom in our heart -- precepts of humility, meekness, charity, renunciation, faith, prayer -- they themselves will hide us in God. For the values which they give to us, are completely hidden from our eyes. They bring us to the source of a life that is unknown to the natural wisdom of the world, and yet from this source of nature itself proceeds, is nourished, and is sustained.

~ from SEASONS OF CELEBRATION by Thomas Merton

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all living things

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all living things which are all part of one another and involved in one another.

~ Thomas Merton

Interior silence

It is absurd to talk about interior silence when there is no exterior silence.

~ from THE SIGN OF JONAS by Thomas Merton

If we would return to God

If we would return to God, and find ourselves in God, we must reverse Adam and Eve's journey, we must go back by the way they came. The path lies through the center of our own soul. Adam and Eve withdrew into themselves from God and then passed through themselves and went forth into creation. We must withdraw ourselves from exterior things, and pass through the center of our souls to find God. We must recover possession of our true selves by liberation from anxiety and fear and inordinate desire.

~ from THE NEW MAN by Thomas Merton

The meaning of our life

"The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love ... by the one we love.
~ Thomas Merton

There must be a time of day

There must be a time of day when we who make plans forget our plans and act as if we had no plans at all. There must be a time of day that when we have to speak, we fall very silent ... and our mind forms no more propositions, and we ask: Did they have a meaning? There must be a time when we who pray go to our prayer as if it were the first time in our life that we had ever prayed; when we of resolutions put our resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and we learn a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill.

~ Thomas Merton paraphrased by Judith Hartley


CONTEMPLATIVES -- whether in monastic community or out in the marketplace -- not only help one another to grow grain and produce the bread of the body, but also bring one another to the spiritual ovens of solitude from which they are nourished with the hot, fresh Bread of the Spirit.

They not only press the grapes of their vineyards into material wine, but they lead one another to the eternal fountains of silence in which they drink the living waters and the rich wine of the Holy Spirit ... Thus, the Word of God comes silently into their midst, and eats and drinks with them.

~ from THE SILENT LIFE by Thomas Merton

The most important need in the world today

Advent is a season to ponder "all these things" in our hearts:

Thomas Merton calls us all to contemplation in his book of Contemplative Prayer ...

" ... the most important need in the world today is the inner truth nourished by the Spirit of contemplation -- the praise and love of God, the longing for the coming of Christ, the thirst for the manifestation of God's glory, truth and justice -- the Kingdom of God in the world."

~ from CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER by Thomas Merton & Thich Nhat Hanh
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