Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

(Norfolk: New Directions, 1949), 201

My one joy should be to know: "Here is the thing that God has willed for me." (19)

1. Everything That Is, Is Holy

  • "A saint is capable of talking about the world without any explicit reference to God, in such a way that his statement gives greater glory to God." (21)
  • "The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own self-hood." (22)
  • "Until we love God perfectly, everything in the world will be able to hurt us." (22)
  • "To worship ourselves is to worship nothing." (23)

2. Things in Their Identity

  • "Each particular glory to God by being precisely what He wants it to be here and now." (25)
  • "For me to be a saint means to be myself...since God alone possesses the secret of my identity, He alone can make me who I am." (26)
  • "Not to accept and love and do God's will is to refuse the fullness of my existence." (27)
  • "I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in Him."

3. Pray for Your Own Discovery

  • "He looks at us from the depths of His own infinite actuality." (32)
  • "Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin." (35)
  • "This then is what it means to seek God perfectly: to withdraw from illusion and pleasure, from worldly anxieties and desires, from the works that God does not want, from a glory that is only human display; to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of His will; to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God; to cultivate an intellectual freedom from concepts and the images of created tings in order to receive the secret contact of God in faith; to love all men as myself; to rest in humility and to find peace win withdrawal from conflict and competition with other men; to turn aside from controversy and put away heavy loads, judgment and censorship and criticism and the whole burden of opinions that I have no obligation to carry; to have a will that is always ready to fold back within itself and draw all the powers of the soul down into its deepest center to rest in silent expectancy for the coming of God, posed in tranquil and effortless concentration upon the point of my dependence on Him; to gather all that I am and have and all that I can possibly suffer or do or be, and abandon them all to God in the resignation of a perfect love and blind faith and pure trust in God, to do His will. (37)

4. We Are One Man

  • "When a proud man thinks he is humble his case is hopeless." (40)
  • "Go into the desert not to escape other men but in order to find them in God." (42)
  • "In humility is the greatest freedom." (43)
  • "True joy is only possible when we have completely forgotten ourselves." (44)
  • "The only way to escape from this unhappiness is to be content that you are not yet a saint, even though you realize that the only thing worth living for is sanctity." (45)

5. A Body of Broken Bones

  • "Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things which men can do about the pain of disunion with other men. They can love or they can hate." (55)
  • "But if you try to escape from this world merely by leaving the city and hiding yourself in solitude, you will only take the city with you into solitude: and yet you can be entirely out of the world while remaining in the midst of it, if you let God set you free from your own selfishness and if you live for love alone. For the flight from the world is nothing else but the flight from selfishness. And the man who locks himself up in private with his own selfishness has put himself into a position where the evil within him will either possess him like a devil or drive hi out of his head. That is why it is dangerous to go into solitude merely because you happen to like to be alone." (57)
  • "We look for solitude in order to grow there in love for God and in love for other men." (58)

6. Solitude

  • "Solitude is an abyss opening up in the center of your own soul." (59)
  • Avoid consumption: "Do everything you can to avoid the amusements and the noise and the business of men...Do not read their newspapers, if you can help it...Do not complicate your life by looking at the pictures in their magazines. Keep your eyes clean and your ears quiet and your mind serene. Breathe God's air. Work, if you can, under His sky....But if you have to live in a city and work among not be upset, but accept it as the love of God and as a seed of solitude planted in your soul, and be glad of this suffering: for it will keep you alive to the next opportunity to escape from them and be alone in the healing silence of recollection and in the untroubled presence of God." (60-61)

7. The Moral Theology of the Devil

8. Integrity

  • "Humility consists in being precisely the person you actually are before God." (66)
  • "One of the first signs of a saint may well be the fact that other people do not know what to make of him." 69

9. The Root of War Is Fear

  • Writing: "If a witer is so cautious that he never writes anything that connot be criticized, he will never write anything that can be read. If you want to help other people you have got to make up your mind to write things that some men will condemn." (71)

10. Hell as Hatred

  • "When we love God's will we find Him and own His joy in all things." (75)

11. Faith

12. Tradition and Revolution

13. Through a Glass

  • "Souls are like wax waiting for a seal..." (read whole section on 98)

14. Quo Non Est Mecum

  • "A man who has been killed by one enemy is just as dead as one who has been killed by a whole army. If you are friends with one habit of mortal sin you live in death, even though you may seem to have all the other virtues." (104)

15. Humility Against Despair

  • "Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul." (109)
  • "A humble man is not disturbed by praise. Shine he is no longer concerned with himself, and since he knows where the good that is in him comes from, he does not refuse praise, because it belongs to the God he loves, and in receiving it he keeps nothing for himself but gives it all, with great joy, to his God...The humble man receives praise the way a clean window takes the light of the sun. The truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass." (111-112)

16. Freedom Under Obedience

  • "The secret of all this is perfect abandonment to the will of God in things you cannot control, and perfect obedience to Him in everything that depends on your own volition, so that in all desire only one thing, which is the fulfillment of His will." (116)

17. What Is Liberty

  • "Only the man who has rejected all evil so completely that he is unable to desire it at all, is truly free." (121)

18. Detachment

  • Against business and ceaseless motion (127-129)

19. Mental Prayer

  • "The purpose of a book of meditations is to teach you how to think and not to do your thinking for you." (134)
  • "Above all, enter into the Church's Liturgy and make the liturgical cycle part of your life—let its rhythm work its way into your body and soul." (135)
  • Twofold function of meditation (136-137):
    • Give you control over your mind and memory to withdraw from exterior things
    • Teach you how to become aware of the presence of God
  • "Feed your mind with reading and the liturgy." (139)

20. Distractions

  • "If you allow your prayer to degenerate into a period of simple spiritual reading you are losing a great deal of fruit." (141)
  • Don't have a stressful job (143)
  • "It is the will to pray that is the essence of prayer." (143)

21. The Gift of Understanding

  • "Contemplation is the reason for our creation by God." (144)

22. The Night of the Senses

  • Pray "best of all in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, but also out in the woods and under the trees." (160)

23. The Wrong Flame

24. Renunciation

  • "If you want to follow St. John of the Cross, follow him all the way." (166)
  • "One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business." (169)
  • "It is in this darkness that we find liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure." (172)
  • "Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for JOY." (172)
  • "So keep still, and let Him do some work." (175)

25. Inward Destitution

26. Contemplata Tradere

27. Pure Love

  • "This tranquility is learned most of all from the Blessed Eucharist." (191)

Source: The Power of Silence


New Words

  • vitiate: to corrupt morally; debase (124)

Created: 2021-10-22
Updated: 2022-12-31-Sat