Today, December 10, is the anniversary of Thomas Merton’s entering the monastery in 1940 and also the 54th anniversary of his untimely death.
About the latter, significant research recently has pretty much concluded that he died a martyr for peace.* My own investigations came to the same conclusion, indeed, they culminated with my meeting a person a few months after my book on Merton came out who worked with the CIA as a young man in southeast Asia at the time and I asked him, “Did you guys kill Thomas Merton?” and he answered: “Yes we did. And I have spent the last 40 years of my life cleansing my soul from what I did working for the CIA as a young man.”
Merton had much to say about a healthy via negativa and therefore the season of Advent that we find ourselves in. One of his definitions of contemplation is this: “Contemplation is essentially a listening in silence, an expectancy.”
Surely Advent is both an expectancy and a listening in silence.
It is Merton who tells us to “love winter when the plant says nothing.” Nature is undergoing darkness and solitude and silence this time of the year after all. “Be in the midst of nature!” he advises. “The woods and nature should be part of your solitude.”
He elaborates on solitude this way:
If you see a heavenly light
I, Solitude, am your professor!
I go before you into emptiness,
Raise strange sounds for your new mornings,
Opening the windows
Of your innermost apartment…
For I, solitude, am thine own self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen!
Here Merton invokes the God of darkness:
My love is darkness!
Only in the Void
Are all ways one:
Only in the night are all the lost
In my ending is my meaning.
*See Hugh Turly & David Martin, The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation; and John Smelcer, Enacting Love: How Thomas Merton Died for Peace; and Fox, A Way To God, pp. 141f.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 68-71, 73.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “Greeting the dawn.” Photo by George Coletrain on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Do you find yourself expectant and listening in silence at this time? Do you sense others are doing the same? What are we expectant about?
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