In a long prose poem entitled “Hagia Sophia” (Holy Wisdom), Merton reminds us of the “feminine principle” in the universe. He reminds us that within the biblical and Western mystical tradition, the Divine Feminine has been recognized and honored.
Interestingly, the poem is arranged according to the hours that the Divine Office is sung each day in the monastery — Lauds, Prime, Tierce, and Compline. In this way Merton emphasizes the Wisdom tradition that is honored in the daily prayers of chanting the Psalms in the church and the monastery. Yet one fact rarely gets the attention it deserves: Wisdom is feminine in the Bible, and in both Latin and Hebrew, and as current scholarship has reminded us, the historical Jesus himself comes from the Wisdom tradition. The Psalms are a large part of the Wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Bible. To sing the Psalms daily in prayer, as the monastic tradition does, reminds us of our relationship to the journey of the sun and moon each day; the cosmos is attended to, and thereby we are assisted to move beyond anthropocentrism. Time does not come from the clock; it comes from the movement of the sun, which the clock merely records.
Merton tells us that he finished the poem “at Pentecost, 1961,” and that “it became a prose poem in honor of Sophia.” Originally born as a response to a friend’s painting of Mary crowning her Son, Merton tells us that “The Three Divine Persons each at the same time are Sophia and manifest her.” Merton compares Sophia, the wisdom of God, to “the Tao, the nameless pivot of all being and nature.” (The Tao is feminine and “the Great Mother” in the Chinese tradition.)
Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 160-162. See also: Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 3-18.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
How do you and we “attend to the cosmos” on a daily basis? Is meditating on the news from cosmologists and the pictures from Hubble Telescope and other places helpful to you in placing our existence within the context of the universe as a whole and thus moving us beyond anthropocentrism? What does it tell us about the sacredness of “Father Sky”?
A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey
In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism
Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart
Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.” — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.
The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine
To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature, to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God