Faith – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

download (9)1. The beginning of contemplation

“The beginning of contemplation is faith. If there is something essentially sick about your conception of faith you will never be a contemplative.”

2. Our emphasis on the statements about God

“Too often our notion of faith is falsified by our emphasis on the statements about God which faith believes, and by our forgetfulness of the fact that faith is a communion with God’s own light and truth…”

3. Arguments, controversy, perplexity, hatred and division

“If instead of resting in God by faith, we rest simply in the proposition or the formula, it is small wonder that faith does not lead to contemplation. On the contrary, it leads to anxious hair-splitting arguments, to controversy, to perplexity and ultimately to hatred and division.”

4. A certain form of words

“Faith, then, is not just the grim determination to cling to a certain form of words…”

5. The eye of the heart

“But above all, faith is the opening of an inward eye, the eye of the heart…”

6. One receives God

“Faith is primarily an intellectual ascent. But if it were only the ‘argument of what does not appear,’ it would not be complete. It has to be something more than an assent of the mind. It is also a grasp, a contact, a communion of wills, ‘the substance of things to be hoped for.’ By faith one not only assents to propositions revealed by God, one not only attains to truth in a way that intelligence and reason alone cannot do, but one assents to God… One receives God. One says ‘yes’ not merely to a statement about God, but to the Invisible, Infinite God…”

7. Not an emotion, not a feeling

“…faith is not an emotion, not a feeling. It is not a blind subconscious urge toward something vaguely supernatural. It is not simply an elemental need in man’s spirt. It is not a feeling that God exists. It is not a conviction that one is somehow saved or ‘justified’ for no special reason except that one happens to feel that way. It is not something entirely interior and subjective, with no reference to any external motive. It is not just ‘soul force.’ It is not something that bubbles up out of the recesses of your soul and fills you with an indefinable ‘sense’ that everything is all right. It is not something so purely yours that its content is incommunicable. It is not some personal myth of your own that you cannot share with anyone else, and the objective validity of which does not matter either to you or God or anybody else.”

8. Not an opinion

“But also it is not an opinion. It is not a conviction based on rational analysis. It is not the fruit of scientific evidence. You can only believe what you do not know. As soon as you know it, you no longer believe it, at least not in the same way as you know it.”

What do you believe faith to be?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

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“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist