Those who seek the throne of grace Find that throne in every place; If we live a life of prayer, God is present everywhere. In our sickness and our health, In our want, or in our wealth, If we look to God in prayer, God is present everywhere. When our earthly comforts fail, When the woes of life prevail, ‘Tis the time for earnest prayer; God is present everywhere. Then, my soul, in every strait, To thy Father come, and wait; He will answer every prayer: God is present everywhere. Oliver Holden, 1765-1844
The Kingdom remembers you, T.M.
Fifty three years ago today, Thomas Merton departed this earthly plane. We are fortunate that he left us so much. The imagined presence of the naughty monk with a twinkle in his eye has kept me company over the last couple of years – years that have been characterised by unquantifiable human stupidity, undisguised global authoritarianism and, at least for some, edifying solitude. Of the five books from his giant oeuvre of works that I have thus far read, two in particular stand out: ‘No Man Is An Island’ and ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’. A thousand searing challenges rise from the pages of these books, and a thousand pennies have dropped as a result.
"Do you imagine that you will discover God by winding yourself up in a cocoon of spiritual and aesthetic pleasures, instead of renouncing all your tastes and desires and ambitions and satisfactions for the love of Christ, Who will not even live within you if you cannot find Him in other men?" - New Seeds of Contemplation.
I dare not write in detail for fear of diluting the purity of his message. The depth and breadth he offers is beyond the scope of any summary that I could give. So I encourage you to read these books. Personally speaking, Merton has helped me to bring scripture into relationship with silence and pain into kinship with purpose. He has shown me how to infuse prayer with more faith and less desire. If you let his inspired words into your heart, they become a unifying force.
"God's will is not an abstraction, not a machine, not an esoteric system. It is a living concrete reality in the lives of men, and our souls are created to burn as flames within His flame. The will of the Lord is not a static centre drawing our souls blindly toward itself. It is a creative power, working everywhere, giving life and being and direction to all things, and above all forming and creating in the midst of an old creation, a whole new world which is called the Kingdom of God." - No Man Is An Island.
Setting Sail – Emily Dickinson
EXULTATION is the going Of an inland soul to sea, - Past the houses, past the headlands, Into deep eternity! Bred as we, among the mountains, Can the sailor understand The divine intoxication Of the first league out from land?
No One Lives His Life – Rilke
Disguised since childhood, haphazardly assembled from voices and fears and little pleasures, we come of age as masks. Our true face never speaks. Somewhere there must be storehouses where all these lives are laid away like suits of armour or old carriages or cloths hanging limply on the walls. Maybe all paths lead here, to the repository of unlived things. Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours, Book 2
To Whom we must give account
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.Hebrews 4:12
My suffering is not my own
When I see my trials not as the collision of my life with a blind machine called fate, but as the sacramental gift of Christ’s love, given to me by God the Father along with my identity and my very name, then I can consecrate them and myself with them to God. For then I realise that my suffering is not my own. It is the Passion of Christ, stretching out its tendrils into my life in order to bear rich clusters of grapes, making my soul dizzy with the wine of Christ’s love, and pouring that wine as strong fire upon the whole world.”No Man Is An Island, Thomas Merton
Peace of Mind – Kathleen Raine
If the pool were still The reflected world Of tottering houses, The falling cities, The quaking mountains Would cohere on the surface And stars invisible To the troubled mind Be seen in water Drawn from the soul's Bottomless well.
Night Thought – Kathleen Raine
My soul and I last night Looked down together. I said, 'Here we are, come To the worst. Look down That chasm where all has fallen, The rose-bush and the garden And the ancestral hills, Every remembered stone. Of that first house There is no trace, none. You'll never cross that burn, Again, nor the white strand Where lifted from the deep Shells lie upon the sand Or among sea-pinks blown, Never hear again those wild sea-voices call, Eider and gull rejoicing. Turn away, turn From the closed door of home, You live there no longer, Nor shall again. You have no place at all Anywhere on earth That is your own, and none Calls you back again.' Soul said, 'Before you were I spanned the abyss: Freedom it is, unbounded, Unbounded laughter, Come!'
Going up in smoke
The soul that projects itself entirely into activity, and seeks itself outside itself in the work of its own will is like a madman who sleeps on the sidewalk in front of his house instead of living inside where it is quiet and warm. The soul that throws itself outdoors in order to find itself in the effects of its own work is like a fire that has no desire to burn but seeks only to go up in smoke.Thomas Merton
The longest night,
a seed in soil.
Turn the blade of discipline
to your own undoing.
Somerset, England, Winter Solstice 2019