Perhaps to pray -- to really pray -- is the most radical act a human being can engage in, for to pray is to admit, at least on some intuitive level, that one always stands before the Infinite Mystery in need. This awareness of one's ontological poverty -- of being finite -- is the true beginning of life -- not our first breath... To be aware, though, does not necessarily imply that one has awakened into the "more" of finitude...
Awakening does not mean giving internal assent to a collective myth, nor does it mean external obedience to a collective culture. To awaken into the "mystic" or Infinite Mystery of One Love necessitates becoming in some sense an "outlaw" to both the collective myth and the collective culture... of coming to view the world through the clear inner lens of contemplation and serving the world through a new life of solidarity-action...
Then suddenly, one finds herself on center stage with the illustrious "Outlaw Band": Yeshua, Rumi, Francis, Hildegard, Mirabai, John of the Cross, Gandhi, Merton, Dorothy, Martin, Cesar, and a host of others... Every attempt by the collective mind to control and dominate (whether political, religious, economic, or cultural) is resisted: sometimes by defiance, sometimes by solitude, sometimes by comedy, sometimes by active subversion, and sometimes by music, poetry, and art... and most of all, by contemplative prayer in the midst of life's struggles...
Photo: Thomas Merton
"Lord of Mountains and Rivers,
and of Lovers and Dreamers,
thank You for the gift of Love
alive in my heart! Whew! What a gift!
Thank You, too, for the gift of my hands
to swing a mop,
to shake a hand,
to scrub a toilet,
to make a sandwich,
and to be held in restraint by handcuffs!
Bless my heart
and bless my love-in-action
with Your glance and with Your loving touch..."
Awakening means to pray and to walk at the same time. Awakening means to rise every morning and to plant one's feet upon the path of love -- wherever one is at. Awakening means to give away a daily-love that has been liberated from every cultural / collective limitation, and to dare approach the threshold of the Infinite with one's head in one's hand! Awakening means to "graduate" from "lover" to Love, from "service" to Solidarity, and from "self" to Other...
Finally, awakening means to embrace the perfect freedom of kneeling or jumping for joy before the Holy One... to enthusiastically clap for the beauty of the moon at night, and organize for social justice in the morning... to awaken is to be love now: as the divine human being one was born to become... in relationship to every other human being as equal revelations of the divine...
A Few Stunning Quotations from Master Thomas Merton:
Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening and an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.
There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves.
Paradise has been lost insofar as we have become involved in complexity and wound up in ourselves so that we are estranged from our own freedom and our own simplicity. Paradise cannot be opened to us except by a free gift of the divine mercy. Yet it is true to say that Paradise is always present within us, since God Himself is present, though perhaps inaccessible.
God's love is like a river springing up in the depths of the Divine Substance and flowing endlessly through His creation, filling all things with life and goodness and strength.
Love means an interior and spiritual identification with one's brother, so that he is not regarded as an "object" to "which" one "does good."
Love takes one's neighbor as one's other self, and loves him with all the immense humility and discretion and reserve and reverence without which no one can presume to enter into the sanctuary of another's subjectivity.
Love demands a complete inner transformation -- for without this we cannot possibly come to identify ourselves with our brother. We have to become, in some sense, the person we love. And this involves a kind of death of our own being, our own self.
Perhaps... the determination to be uncommon is key to the mystic-life of the sacred activist...
What do you think?
The Cloister Walk / Kathleen Norris
Poustinia / Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Holy Daring / Tessa Bielecki
The Cistercian Way / Andre Louf
Paths To God / Ram Dass
The Sabbath / Abraham Joshua Heschel
Satisfying Our Innate Desire To Know God / Roy Eugene Davis
The Bhagavad Gita / tr. Eknath Easwaran
The Way of a Pilgrim / tr. Olga Savin
The Asian Journal / Thomas Merton