Inward Destitution – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The whole meaning of our life

“…as peace settles upon the soul and we accept what we are and what we are not, we begin to realize that this great poverty is our greatest fortune. For when we are stripped of the riches that were not ours and could not possibly endow us with anything but trouble, when we rest even from that good and licit activity of knowing and desiring which still could not give us any possession of our true end and happiness, then we become aware that the whole meaning of our life is a poverty and emptiness which, far from being a defeat, are really the pledge of all the great supernatural gifts of which they are a potency.”

2. Once we begin to find this emptiness

“Once we begin to find this emptiness, no poverty is poor enough, no emptiness is empty enough, no humility lowers us enough for our desires.”

3. Our greatest sorrow

“…our greatest sorrow is to find that we still attach importance to ourselves, still can be great in our own eyes, for we have begun to know that any shadow cast upon the transparency of a pure and empty soul is an illusion and an obstacle…”

4. The noise of our own temporal activity

“When the Gift of Understanding has opened our eyes in contemplation, we ought not to disturb God, in our souls, by the noise of our own temporal activity…”

5. Nourished by emptiness

“The contemplative, nourished by emptiness, endowed by poverty and liberated from all sorrow by simple obedience, drinks fortitude and joy from the will of God in all things.”

6. Unity and emptiness and interior peace

“But in the contemplative, all complexities have now begun to straighten themselves out and dissolve into unity and emptiness and interior peace.”

7. God is present to our deepest hunger

“The more our faculties are emptied of their desire and their tension toward created things, and the more they collect themselves into peace and interior silence and reach into the darkness where God is present to their deepest hunger, the more they feel a pure, burning impatience to be free and rid of all the last obstacles and attachments that still stand between them and the emptiness that will be capable of being filled with God.”

8. Hoping for hope

“And yet, strangely, it is in this helplessness that we come upon the beginning of joy. We discover that as long as we stay still the pain is not so bad and there is even a certain peace, a certain richness, a certain strength, a certain companionship that makes itself present to us when we are beaten down and lie flat with our mouths in the dust, hoping for hope.”

9. True peace

“God’s will enters into the depths of our own freedom… True peace is only found by those who have learned to ride and swim with the strong current of this stream. For them life becomes simple and easy. Every moment is rich in happiness. All events are intelligible, if not in their details at least in their relation to the great wholeness of life.”

How have you found emptiness to be valuable in your journey of life?

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