Merton on Repose, Silence, and Advent, continued

Merton says that silence is necessary and churches should provide plenty of it: Let there always be quiet, dark places in which people can take refuge.  Places where they can kneel in silence.  Houses of God, filled with God’s silent presence….a place where your mind can be idle, and forget its concerns, descend into silence, and worship God in secret.  There can be no contemplating where there is no secret. 

Wandering and wondering in the midst of the dark and the silence of the journey. Photo by Lukas Godina on Unsplash.

We undergo silence and experience anew “man’s enormous want” when we encounter silence and a “house of nothing.” 

Fire, turn inward

To your weak fort,

To a burly infant spot,

A house of nothing.

O peace, bless this mad place:

Silence, love this growth.

O silence, golden zero

Unsetting sun

Love winter when the plant says nothing. 

Sister Lentfoehr, a fellow poet and close friend to Merton, elaborates on what Merton, building on Eckhart’s understanding of nothingness and the dark night, is meaning.  She writes:

It is when we lose the ‘self,’ according to Eckhart, ‘the persona that is the subject of virtues as well as visions, that perfects itself by good works, that advances in the practice of piety—that Christ is finally born in us in the highest sense.’  This is the pure, the perfect poverty, when one is no longer a ‘self,’ a concept that touches the ‘point of nowhereness,’ a point of nothingness in the midst of being.

It is here where the Christ is born. 

A guided meditation on “creative silence” based upon the teachings of Thomas Merton. Originally posted to YouTube by Mile Hi Church.

There too, Eckhart tells us, we “return to our unborn self” and become as free “as we were when they were not yet” and “in this poverty, people attain the eternal being that we once were, now are, and will eternally remain.”

Merton’s apologia for living in a hermitage in the woods incorporates the darkness of the night.

I live in the woods out of necessity.  I get out of bed in the middle of the night because it is imperative that I hear the silence of the night alone, and, with my face on the floor, say psalms, alone, in the silence of the night.

Silence requires courage and courage welcomes mystery. Photo by Amy Tran on Unsplash.

Notice how important the silence is—it is “necessary” and “imperative” and invites aloneness.

The silence of the forest is my bride and the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love and out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world.

Yes, nature is Merton’s bride.  And with nature comes darkness—not only at night but also in the winter, in advent.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 73-77, 60.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Making space for creativity and integration, the children of silence and stillness. Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

How does it feel to you to hear Merton say the silence of the forest is his bride and how we learn of secrets heard only in silence and the root of those secrets are being whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world?  What does that mean to you in this advent time?

Recommended Reading

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

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation

Facebook
Twitter
Email

Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations

Categories

Categories

Archives

Archives

Receive our daily meditations

9 thoughts on “Merton on Repose, Silence, and Advent, continued”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    In our meditation today we find that Merton says: “Let there always be quiet, dark places in which people can take refuge. Places where they can kneel in silence. Houses of God, filled with God’s silent presence….a place where your mind can be idle, and forget its concerns, descend into silence, and worship God in secret. There can be no contemplating where there is no secret.” Then Matthew shares a poem by Merton which speaks of turning inward, “To a burly infant spot, A house of nothing.” It also speaks of silence Unsetting sun [O please set!] and ends with: “Love winter when the plant says nothing.” He also speaks of Sister Lentfoehr, a close friend to Merton, wrote about how Eckhart influenced Merton in is understanding of nothingness. She writes: “when one is no longer a ‘self,’ a concept that touches the ‘point of nowhereness,’ a point of nothingness in the midst of being. It is here where the Christ is born”–or as Eckhart also said our “unborn self.” And after speaking of Merton’s joy in living in his hermitage, Matthew ends with: “Yes, nature is Merton’s bride. And with nature comes darkness—not only at night but also in the winter, in advent. And I do my whispering right here in the silence every night…

  2. Avatar

    Only in the darkness and silence of winter can the deepest love be formed and whispered in secret of Christ coming, Christ present and Christ to come.

  3. Avatar

    I really appreciated the video clip on Merton’s message of Creative Silence. Throughout this message I could hear Mathew’s teachings on the fourfold path of Creation Spirituality as well. Through this combination I began to understand more deeply the souls longing… to engage with this mysterious process of silence, solitude and repose itself, and how the movements of the Via Negativa and the Via Positiva lead ultimately to the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa.

    There seems to be a unique unfolding… of letting go… of exhaling all of our wants, fears and anxieties. In the in-be-tween space one slowly evolves from the place of doing… emerging into the exhale of simply being in the repose of resting in the essence and presence of stillness and the creative, transformative gifts of silence… a glimpsed moment of solitude… in which a sacred grace is bestowed… of becoming fully present to the presence of the Holy Spirit… in which the mystery of wholeness and oneness with the all and the everything is remembered. In this sacred awakening of union and solidarity with… the longing of our soul ceases… for but a moment in this wilderness landscape of space and time.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Today you write that you are understanding “more deeply the souls longing… to engage with this mysterious process of silence, solitude and repose itself, and how the movements of the Via Negativa and the Via Positiva lead ultimately to the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa.” Well, Jeanette, I think you’ve got it !!!

  4. Avatar

    Thanks for today’s DM on Merton, Advent, and the beauty of – and our need for – silence and repose. Who is the poet of the quoted lines: “Fire, turn inward”? Is it Sister Lentfoehr? These words, set to music, could make for a powerful and deeply moving choral work.

  5. Avatar

    Through years of clinical depression and many dark nights of my soul, this is what I sought after in Divine LOVE. When the institutional church failed to provide, I left and have not returned. I do not begrudge others, including my own family as they find their own spiritual needs there, but this is my place in this season. }:- a.m. (anonemoose monk)

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Patrick, You express perfectly what I saw once in the 1972 movie, “Jeremiah Johnson,” Staring Robert Redford. Where Jeremiah lived up in the mountains, he hunted for his food, and fought to protect himself from a certain native tribe that lived in the same mountains. There was another character who played a hunter who had shaved his head bald to protect himself from getting skinned by the natives. It was this character who said at one point in the movie when he and Jeremiah meet something along the lines of :”These here mountains are God’s Cathedral and this forest is his Church”–and he said it with such joy that you just had to believe he was in Church, there in the forest. As John Muir once said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

  6. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew and the DM team for this past week’s meditations on Contemplative Spirituality with its emphasis on the importance of Silent contemplative/meditative prayer on our inner~outer spiritual journeys. The enclosed short video – “Creative Silence- the Wisdom of Thomas Merton Meditation” – is full of the spiritual wisdom of Thomas Merton on healthy, creative silence and prayer.

  7. Avatar

    In the deepest, most solitary corners of ourselves, we slam into our fears, the secret terrors of our intellectual, egoic personas. These fears make walls that brace our egos up, a support and comfort, but also a cage. When we keep ourselves busy, doing, thinking, even actively meditating, we can feel safely supported while never stepping outside our gilded cages of ego-selves. Getting comfortable with going deeply within, relaxing into the unknown, is a crucial act in contemplation. Getting past our egoic safety zone is hard, a lifetime endeavor. Fears lurk deep, and there are many. One of the deepest fears is of unsolidity, un-support, abandonment, panic, chaos. The ego fears losing its walls of “self-ness”, but the True-self is bigger than those walls. Building foundations of understanding (integration of teachings), trust, and love help provide us with confidence for letting go, letting ourselves relax comfortably into our depths. We slowly learn to trust God, all the way down to the roots of our being. This is our Path, and it takes a lifetime, if we choose to walk it.

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: