Journey Through the Wilderness – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation
by Mark Votava
1. Through the wilderness
“The man who does not permit his spirit to be beaten down and upset by dryness and helplessness, but who lets God lead him peacefully through the wilderness, and desires no other support or guidance than that of pure faith and trust in God alone, will be brought to the Promised Land. He will taste the peace and joy of union with God. He will, without ‘seeing,’ have a habitual, comforting, obscure and mysterious awareness of his God, present and acting in all the events of life.”
2. Beyond the sphere of our natural powers
“But contemplation lifts us beyond the sphere of our natural powers.”
3. Interior activity
“…if God is the source of your interior activity, the work of your faculties may be entirely beyond conscious estimation, and its results may not be seen or understood.”
4. The courage to risk everything
“What you most need in this dark journey is an unfaltering trust in the Divine guidance, as well as the courage to risk everything… In many ways the journey seems to be a foolish gamble. And you may well make many mistakes… What matters in the contemplative life is not for you… to be always infallibly right, but for you to be heroically faithful to grace and to love…”
5. Below the surface
“Below the surface, the mind and will are drawn into the orbit of an activity that is deep and intense and supernatural, and which overflows into our whole being and brings forth incalculable fruits.”
6. Peace will establish itself in your soul
“If… you find positive peace and derive fruit from resting in a simple and faithful expectation of help from God, it would be better to do that than to persecute your mind and will in a vain effort to beat a few thoughts and affections out of them. For if you reflect on your state, you will easily see that your mind is absorbed in one vast, obscure thought of God and your will is occupied, if not haunted, with a blind, groping, half-defined desire of God. These two combine to produce in you the anxiety and darkness and helplessness which make lucid and particular acts at once so hard and so futile. And if you allow yourself to remain in silence and emptiness you may find that this thirst, this hunger that seeks God in blindness and darkness, will grow on you and at the same time, although you do not yet seem to find anything tangible, peace will establish itself in your soul.”
7. To remain at peace
“As soon as there is any reasonable indication that God is drawing the spirit into this way of contemplation, we ought to remain at peace… This waiting should be without anxiety and without deliberate hunger for any experience that comes within the range of our knowledge or memory, because any experience that we can grasp or understand will be inadequate and unworthy of the state to which God wishes to bring our souls.”
Have you journeyed through the wilderness?
My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!
“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism
My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!
“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