The Ordinary Way To Contemplation – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

7275781. Preparing for global suicide

“When I pray for peace I pray God to pacify not only the Russians and the Chinese but above all my own nation and myself. When I pray for peace I pray to be protected not only from the Reds but also from the folly and blindness of my own country. When I pray for peace, I pray not only that the enemies of my country may cease to want war, but above all that my own country will cease to do the things that make war inevitable. In other words, when I pray for peace I am not just praying that the Russians will give up without a struggle and let us have our own way. I am praying that both we and the Russians may somehow be restored to sanity and learn how to work out our problems, as best we can, together, instead of preparing for global suicide.”

2. We so separate the humanity and divinity of Christ

“If in our contemplation we so separate the humanity and divinity of Christ that we ‘pass beyond the humanity,’ to ‘rest in the divinity,’ we will tend to divide Christ into ‘A Man’ and ‘A Divine Person,’ whereas in actuality God and man… are completely indivisible and inseparable…”

3. Our true liberty must never be sacrificed

“Liberty, then, is a talent given us by God, an instrument to work with. It is the tool with which we build our own lives, our own happiness. Our true liberty is something we must never sacrifice… Our true liberty must be defended with life itself for it’s the most precious element in our being. It is our liberty that makes us Persons, constituted in the divine image…”

4. Acquire the agility and freedom

“The best thing beginners in the spiritual life can do, after they have acquired the discipline of mind that enables them to concentrate on a spiritual subject and get below the surface of its meaning and incorporate it into their own lives, is to acquire the agility and freedom of mind that will help them to find light and warmth and ideas and love for God everywhere they go and in all that they do. People who only know how to think about God during fixed periods of the day will never get very far in the spiritual life…”

5. The ordinary way to contemplation

“Let us never forget that the ordinary way to contemplation lies through a desert without trees and without beauty and without water. The spirit enters a wilderness and travels blindly in directions that seem to lead away from vision, away from God, away from all fulfillment and joy. It may become almost impossible to believe that this road goes anywhere at all except to a desolation full of dry bones – the ruin of all our hopes and good intentions.”

How do you experience the ordinary way to contemplation?

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