Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Advent, advent calendar, cistercian spirituality, spiritual journey, Thomas Merton
“In a time of drastic change one can be too preoccupied with what is ending or too obsessed with what seems to be beginning. In either case one loses touch with the present and with its obscure but dynamic possibilities. What really matters is openness, readiness, attention, courage to face risk. You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope. In such an event, courage is the authentic form taken by love.”
—THOMAS MERTON, “CONJECTURES OF A GUILTY BYSTANDER”
spiritual journey, political journey, physical journey, temporal journey
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: all saints day, avila, Carmelite Mystics, carmelite prayer, carmelite spirituality, cistercian spirituality, cistercian way, pilgrimage, teresa of avila, Thomas Merton
I have probably shared this before, but these Cistercian words speak very much to where I am after walking the Cistercian Way. I am sure it will speak to others as well:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
A good road to walk.
I made a physical journey today to the doctor’s surgery to get my knee checked over. It is hurting much less now and – obviously – I was able to complete that last important week of walking. Good news. It is some wear to the cartilage. Nothing to worry about or to stop me walking and cycling. If I get another acute episode, I am to go back and they will MRI scan it. It is healing. This gives me confidence.
Today is All Saints Day. I am reading a helpful and insightful book by Mark O’Keefe, The Way of Transformation: Saint Teresa of Avila on the Foundation and Fruit of Prayer. This looks at Teresa’s teaching and spirituality through the integral lens of moral theology; it’s about how praying transforms our living, and how living well transforms our praying. My insights are deepening.
As I walk on with all this, here is Santa Teresa striding out from The Encarnacion with her great and determined determination:
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: John O'Donohue, pilgrimage, poetry, prayer, rumi, Thomas Merton
The end of one of those weeks
a lot of very difficult, hard dark stuff
mixed in with a heap of creative possibility
and a great deal of faithful loving care.
Sounds a lot like life so much of the time.
Here are a few quotes I’ve been living out of:
“There comes a time when nothing is meaningful except surrendering to Love. Do It!” – Rumi
“Keep your eyes clean and your ears quiet and your mind serene. Breathe God’s air. Work, if you can, under His sky.” – Thomas Merton
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: darkness, end hunger fast, hagia sophia, Holy Week, John of the Cross, justice, love, night, poetry, Thomas Merton
I’m enjoying a little space this early evening mulling over preaching during the services of the next few days. I’m thinking quite a bit about night, darkness, love, justice. Tomorrow morning I will walk to Birmingham Cathedral along the canal or the River Rea to reach the Chrism Mass, being fed in all sorts of ways before feeding others.
Thinking of those at the End Hunger Fast Vigil in London this evening, those who will go to bed hungry this evening, those with the power to do something about this.
Two poems below. The last section of Thomas Merton’s Hagia Sophia, then some John of the Cross:
The shadows fall. The stars appear. The birds begin to sleep.
Night embraces the silent half of the earth. A vagrant, a destitute
wanderer with dusty feet, finds his way down a new road. A
homeless God, lost in the night, without papers, without
identifications, without even a number, a frail expendable exile
lies down in desolation under the sweet stars of the world and
entrusts Himself to sleep.
The Dark Night of the Soul
St John Of the Cross
On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.
In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.
In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.
The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.
I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Christmas, John of the Cross, Thomas Merton
Happy Christmas to you all.
The Advent Calendar is now complete
The Crib in Church has been blessed (and the Scratch Nativity at Brandwood may have been the only one to have included the Cat in the Hat in the characters).
Here are three quotations which have been in my mind as I have prayed my sermons for tonight and tomorrow:
There is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it (unknown author)
Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love (St John of the Cross)
Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of humankind for it is the image of God (Thomas Merton)
May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child this Christmas and for evermore.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Advent, poetry, Thomas Merton, waiting
Much fullness and busyness, not least with the utter importance of the funeral of a child.
I find myself with an unscheduled stop as my car breaks down and I wait while it is fixed.
Advent imposes itself
I think too of Thomas Merton who died on this day in 1968. Here is his poem:
Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect! Fly, vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your full!
The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.
Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent,
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.
Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our
You skies: and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Toward the planets’ stately setting,
Oh white full moon as quiet as Bethlehem!
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Advent, poetry, the annunciation, the quickening of st john the baptist, the visitation, Thomas Merton
Why do you fly from the drowned shores of Galilee,
From the sands and the lavender water?
Why do you leave the ordinary world, Virgin of Nazareth,
The yellow fishing boats, the farms,
The winesmelling yards and low cellars
Or the oilpress, and the women by the well?
Why do you fly those markets,
Those suburban gardens,
The trumpets of the jealous lilies,
Leaving them all, lovely among the lemon trees?
You have trusted no town
With the news behind your eyes.
You have drowned Gabriel’s word in thoughts like seas
And turned toward the stone mountain
To the treeless places.
Virgin of God, why are your clothes like sails?
The day Our Lady, full of Christ,
Entered the dooryard of her relative
Did not her steps, light steps, lay on the paving leaves
Did not her eyes as grey as doves
Alight like the peace of a new world upon that house, upon
Sings in the stone valley like a Charterhouse bell:
And the unborn saint John
Wakes in his mother’s body,
Bounds with the echoes of discovery.
Sing in your cell, small anchorite!
How did you see her in the eyeless dark?
What secret syllable
Woke your young faith to the mad truth
That an unborn baby could be washed in the Spirit of God?
Oh burning joy!
What seas of life were planted by that voice!
With what new sense
Did your wise heart receive her Sacrament,
And know her cloistered Christ?
You need no eloquence, wild bairn,
Exulting in your hermitage.
Your ecstasy is your apostolate,
For whom to kick is contemplata tradere.
Your joy is the vocation of Mother Church’s hidden children –
Those who by vow lie buried in the cloister or the hermitage;
The speechless Trappist, or the grey, granite Carthusian,
The quiet Carmelite, the barefoot Clare, Planted in the night of
contemplation, Sealed in the dark and waiting to be born.
Night is our diocese and silence is our ministry
Poverty our charity and helplessness our tongue-tied
Beyond the scope of sight or sound we dwell upon the air
Seeking the world’s gain in an unthinkable experience.
We are exiles in the far end of solitude, living as listeners
With hearts attending to the skies we cannot understand:
Waiting upon the first far drums of Christ the Conqueror,
Planted like sentinels upon the world’s frontier.
But in the days, rare days, when our Theotokos
Flying the prosperous world
Appears upon our mountain with her clothes like sails,
Then, like the wise, wild baby,
The unborn John who could not see a thing
We wake and know the Virgin Presence
Receive her Christ into our night
With stabs of an intelligence as white as lightning.
Cooled in the flame of God’s dark fire
Washed in His gladness like a vesture of new flame
We burn like eagles in His invincible awareness
And bound and bounce with happiness,
Leap in the womb, our cloud, our faith, our element,
Our contemplation, our anticipated heaven
Till Mother Church sings like an Evangelist.
– Thomas Merton
a small birthday present for the 18th December, which in the Mozarabic Kalendar is the Annunciation
remembering too Thomas Merton who is commemorated on 10th December
and thanks to Fr Gary Buckby for reminding me of this poem