Without Violating Love – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s writings – Thomas Merton in Alaska: The Alaskan Conferences, Journals, and Letters

by Mark Votava

Thomas_Merton_In_Alaska1. The renewal of the contemplative life

“…we do want to experience this inner peace, this deep peace, and return to it. When that peace is disturbed and upset, STOP! Don’t push, don’t be too anxious to go ahead when peace is not present. Wait until God’s time. This is the general atmosphere that I think it is so important to remember when we are talking about renewal of the contemplative life, and really it is easy to return to that atmosphere all the time. When things get difficult, mixed-up and tense, then drop them and get back to the center of peace. God’s work in us is a very, very deep call which is heard in silence in the deepest part of our being. The renewal of the contemplative life is purely and simply an arrangement of our life in such a way that we can respond to this call easily and simply; there is nothing else to it.”

2. Called to peace and love and simplicity

“We are in the middle, called to peace and love and simplicity, called to this spirit of freedom… Somehow we have to learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit toward this freedom which can hardly be defined. And at the same time we are surrounded by conflict and by criticism. The attack on contemplatives is that they are not Christian, the contemplative life is not Christian, it is unchristian.”

3. Without violating love

“But it is a special gift of the Spirit to be free without violating the rights of others, and to fulfill love without violating love…”

4. Different ways of being right

“But let’s respect individual differences and let each one do what is best for him or her… But we tend too much towards a collective mentality and we are too much hung up on the idea that everybody has got to be doing the same thing. If it is right, then you should all do it, and if you should not all do it, then what is the matter with it? Is it wrong? We are not used enough to the idea that several people can be right in different ways, and there can be different ways of being right.”

5. The mystery of Christ

“…community and contemplation and understanding the mystery of Christ are all linked together.”

6. Community is very difficult

“The ultimate thing is that we build community not on our love but on God’s love, because we really do not have that much love ourselves, and that is the real challenge… It puts us in a position where sometimes natural community is very difficult. People are sent here and there, and often very incompatible people are thrown together. Groups of people who would never have chosen to be together in an ordinary human way find themselves living together. O.K. This is a test of faith. This puts God’s love to the test and it is meant to… It isn’t just a question of whether you are building community with people that you naturally like, it is also a question of building community with people that God has brought together.”  

Are you aware when you violate love toward yourself and others in the world?

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