Part of my private devotion is to read Thomas Merton before bed. The book is compiled from his journals. The Intimate Merton has been important to be reading as I learn to live a solitary life on top of Beech Mountain.
His work speaks to me as a spiritual person who is also a writer. It’s been interesting to see Merton’s growth as a monastic and as his writing grows through the process. The other thing that has been valuable is his addressing the political climate of things happening in the 60s. Many of those things could speak the hearts of many people of faith.
My last blog here was to talk about the grief of loss and change. That too is addressed in how his life changes as he moves to the hermitage. The thing that struck me in my reading last night was a discovery he made in December of 1964.
December 9, 1964
Last night after a prayer vigil in the novitiate chapel…went to bed late at the hermitage. All quiet….Cold. Lay in bed realizing that I was, was happy.Said the strange word “happiness” and realized that it was there, not as an “it” or an object. It simply was. And I was that. This morning, coming down, seeing the multitude of stars above the bare branches of the wood, I was suddenly hit as it were with the whole package of meaning of everything: that the immense mercy of God was upon me, that the Lord in infinite kindness kindness had looked down on me and given me this vocation out of love, that he had always intended this, how foolish and trivial had been all my fears and twistings and desperation. No matter what anyone else might do or say about it, however they might judge or evaluate it, all is irrelevant in the reality of my vocation to solitude….
The only response is to go out from yourself with all that one is which is nothing, and pour out that nothingness in gratitude that God is which is nothing, and pour out that nothingness in gratitude that God is who He is. All speech is impertinent; it destroys the simplicity of that nothingness before God by making it seem as if it had been “something.”
Here in this place, as I contemplate the glory of creation, happiness just is. I usually speak of it in terms of joy, because I believe joy can bloom in the midst of grief and loss. That has certainly been the case in my life.
20 Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
John 16:20 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The last time I had so much loss, a dear friend encouraged me just to keep my eyes on the light. That simple message helped me to move to a better place. While this loss has been hard in my life, I was in a better place to begin with. The light is strong in my life. I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in my local church, family, friends, and through the writings of greats like Merton.
Epiphany is a celebration of following the light towards some type of soulful revelation. There is much darkness in our world as is evidenced in our world events and the contentions among all people. Choose the light. Change the conversation to talk of the light. In that place, God is.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Music for remembering light Leave the Light On – Robin’s Radio
Merton Quote – Merton, Thomas, et al. “Part V: Seeking Peace in the Hermitage 1963-1965.” The Intimate Thomas Merton: His Life from His Journals, Lion Publishing, 2000, pp. 229-230.