Learning Not To Be Astonished – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Opening the Bible

by Mark Votava

 415577AR6VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. A full realization of our own identity

“…we are to understand life not by analyzing it but by living it in such a way that we come to a full realization of our own identity.  And this of course means a full realization of our relatedness to those with whom life has brought us into an intimate and personal encounter.”

2. An intimate personal knowledge of the love that rises up in you

“Find yourself in love of your brother as if he were Christ (since in fact he ‘is Christ’)…  That is to say: if you live for others you will have an intimate personal knowledge of the love that rises up in you out of a ground that lies beyond your own freedom and your own inclination, and yet is present as the very core of your own free and personal identity.  Penetrating to that inner ground of love you at last find your true self.”

3. Learning not to be astonished

“There is, in a word, nothing comfortable about the Bible – until we manage to get so used to it that we make it comfortable for ourselves.  But then we are perhaps too used to it and too home in it.  Let us not be too sure we know the Bible just because we have learned not to be astonished at it, just because we have learned not to have problems with it.  Have we perhaps learned at the same time not to really pay attention to it?  Have we ceased to question the book and be questioned by it?  Have we ceased to fight it?  Then perhaps our reading is no longer serious.”

4. A better position to enter into dialogue and struggle

“Those who do not believe, and who think themselves impervious to the supposed irrationality of belief, are in a better position to enter into dialog and struggle with the Bible than believers themselves.  To begin with, once they work up enough interest in the book to take it seriously, they are not afraid to fight it.  They are not held back by guilt feelings.  They do not hesitate to admit that they find the sacred book ambiguous.  They make no bones about doubting that it is ‘the word of God.’  Reading it as the word of man and that only, they may proceed more freely and more intelligently than the believer who is so intent on good and reverent manners that he perhaps unconsciously closes himself to the book by his very devotion – as if he were afraid to find in it something incredible.”

5. Not simply mental agreement with abstract propositions

“…any serious reading of the Bible means personal involvement in it, not simply mental agreement with abstract propositions.  And involvement is dangerous, because it lays one open to unforeseen conclusions.  That is why we prefer if possible to remain uninvolved…”

6. The poor, the burdened, the oppressed, the underprivileged

“We must never overlook the fact that the message of the Bible is above all a message preached to the poor, the burdened, the oppressed, the underprivileged…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.