Unity and Diversity – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Springs of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

41uoFywPbuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Community is presence

“Presence is what counts.  It’s important to realize that the Church itself is presence…  Community is presence, not an institution.  We’ve been banking on the ability to substitute institution for the reality of presence, and it simply won’t work.”

2. To be silent together

“The justification of silence in our life is that we love one another enough to be silent together.  Once we get into the depths of community life, we realize that there is a very special duty and grace in being silent together, but we don’t arrive at this by excluding others or treating them as objects.  It happens gradually as we learn to love.”

3. Not at all impressed by mere words

“Since noise is increasing in all directions, the psychology of silence has taken on a special meaning.  We are already so adapted to an abundance of screeching sounds that we are surprised when stillness suddenly envelops us.  Not that this happens very often!  We begin to see that the whole question of our relation to the world, both positive and negative, centers in something like silence.  So our service to the world might simply be to keep a place where there is no noise, where people can be silent together.  This is an immense service if only because it enables people to believe such a thing is still possible.  Think of the despair of people who have given up all hope of ever having a real silence where they can simply be alone quietly.  To come to a place where silence exists, to realize there are people who are content to listen and to live in silence impresses people today who are not at all impressed by mere words.”

4. We listen to the depth of our own being

“This is where silence comes in.  We listen to the depth of our own being, and out of this listening comes a rich silence, the silence of God…”

5. Not compatible with love

“Cruelty in the name of community life – no matter who does it, the people needing to change or the people who don’t see the need – is simply not compatible with love.”

6. Unity and diversity

“A community really equals love.  And contemplation is not an individualistic matter, it takes place in a cultural context.  Community means a place in which it is most simple and easy for anybody who’s going to be a contemplative to be one, because of the community.  But community is not just a means.  It’s an end, too.  We each have our personal end and our communal end.  Unity and diversity.  Community is one end.  Then people have diversity of function in this community.”

7. Through our love

“Christ’s word is: Love one another.  Community.  Live in community, have community of love, let God dwell right here among you.  God is experientially present, and we are aware that God is with us.  This is contemplation, isn’t it, the experience of the nearness and closeness of God?  Therefore, if we love, the love which makes us love one another in community is that which makes us contemplatives.  Because we love, God is present.  Contemplation is presence.  The presence of love to one another goes with the presence of God to oneself.  It is in community that this Presence realizes itself through our love.  Love of God, love of one another…  Seeking God together, seeking God individually.”

Which quotes stand out to you?

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