Merton on Advent, Night and Repose as Feminine

There is something feminine and maternal about Advent and winter.  One reader of our daily meditations wrote in the Comments section a few days ago about “Repose in the womb of the Mother.” 

“Mother Earth.” Photo by Dion van Huyssteen on Flickr.

Gestation is a kind of repose in the womb of the Mother (but a very active repose because a lot is going on in those nine months of repose).  Clearly, there follows from repose and the expectant waiting the via creativa of birth.

Here too Thomas Merton has much to say.  In speaking of the Prometheus painted by Aeschylus (as opposed to the dour Prometheus of Hesiod), he sings about how Prometheus’s rebellion 

is the rebellion of life against inertia and death, of mercy and love against tyranny, of humanity against cruelty and arbitrary violence.  And Prometheus calls upon the feminine, the wordless, the tirelessly moving element to witness his suffering.  Earth hears him.   

Earth as mother hears the cry of the poor.  Patriarchy rarely does.  It is often too busy inflicting suffering and steeling itself against the cries of the victims of its sadism and compulsion to control.  Listening is invariably shallow in those circumstances—it does not want to go deep to hear the suffering of the afflicted.  It is very unmotherly therefore.

“Prometheus Bound.” Brief animated film based on Aeschylus’ play. Produced by Peter Dodd & Catrin Unwin of manateeidol.

But wisdom is different from that.  Wisdom listens deeply.  Merton writes about Hagia Sofia or Holy Wisdom this way: 

Hagia Sofia is the dark, nameless Ousia [being] of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, the incomprehensible, ‘primordial’ darkness which is infinite light….Hence Sophia is the feminine, dark yielding, tender part of the power, justice, creative dynamism of the Father.

He writes about a “nameless God” that he associates with rest and tenderness of the night.  

“Sophia.” Painting by Mary Plaster

The shadows fall.  The stars appear.  The birds begin to sleep.  Night embraces the silent half of the earth.  A vagrant and destitute wanderer with dusty feet, finds his way down a new road.  A homeless God, lost in the night, without papers, without identification, without even a number, a frail expendable exile lies down in desolation under the sweet stars of the world and entrusts Himself to sleep.   

There exists a universal slumbering and Wisdom comes bring sleep and also to awaken us from our sleep.  And God can be homeless and nameless and destitute and with dusty feet.  This too is advent.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 149f., 161-163.

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

Banner Image: “Homeless Christ” Icon by Kelly Latimore, Commissioned by Alex Spenik. To purchase, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you also experience Divinity as a dark, nameless one who is also homeless, destitute, without papers, in exile, and with dusty feet?  What follows from that?

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


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14 thoughts on “Merton on Advent, Night and Repose as Feminine”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You write today about “one reader of our daily meditations wrote in the Comments section a few days ago about “Repose in the womb of the Mother.” You then say that indeed, “Gestation is a kind of repose in the womb of the Mother (but a very active repose because a lot is going on in those nine months of repose). Clearly, there follows from repose and the expectant waiting the via creativa of birth. Then you speak of Merton’s discussion of the Myth of Prometheus–who defied the gods, and you show how Merton said that behind the Myth of Prometheus is the play of life and death or what Norman O. Brown called “Life against Death.” And Merton writes, “And Prometheus calls upon the feminine, the wordless, the tirelessly moving element to witness his suffering. Earth hears him.” Wisdom listens deeply, and so Merton writes about Hagia Sofia or Holy Wisdom. You ask us: “Do you also experience Divinity as a dark, nameless one who is also homeless, destitute, without papers, in exile, and with dusty feet?” Yes, from my experience with working with our homeless here in the states I find many with psychological issues, and/or addictions–unlike in India where homeless Sadhus are almost worshipped, given alms to, and are supported gladly because of the way their religious beliefs have taught them…

  2. Avatar

    “Holy Comfort in the Holy Mother – Divinity Always Has A Name”

    It was another tough day at the day job yesterday as it has been for a while now. Despite best efforts there has been considerable ‘backsliding’ and it has been increasingly difficult to see the ‘light’ in a darkened tunnel. I usually get ‘my energy and focus’ back to take on another day, with prayer, contemplation, writing, walking and hugs with those closest to me. Last night was a bit different. I just needed to rest ‘my mind and being’ in order to rest, get rest and let the day get behind me. I called on the Holy Mother for nothing more than comfort and comfort that Her presence can bring. I envisioned myself lying down on the foot of Her dress on the floor, just curled up, reassured and comfortable. All is well and will be well, and I fell asleep. Holy Comfort in the Holy Mother. Just what I needed and nothing else. Divinity always has a name.– BB.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Bill, I appreciate you sharing about your experience with “Holy Comfort in the Holy Mother.” I’m just curious to know if the Holy Mother for you is Mary, Kaun Yin, or a general Divine Feminine ???

  3. Avatar

    We attended an Our Lady of Guadalupe service last night. Observers find the Hispanic culture to be less “inhibited” in expressing loving kindness than general Caucasian church people. This has to do with ego. The Virgin of Guadalupe has had a great impact in progressing the divine feminine which is the open-hearted unconditional love of the Hispanic culture. Love is “generally” felt to a much greater intensity coming from Hispanics than Caucasians. The general “white” culture needs to realize that hearts are open to everyone no matter who they are. These meditations do much to propagate the grace of the divine feminine.

  4. Avatar

    REPOSE

    I still my mind
    and open my heart
    and invite you in for tea.

    I serve you warmth
    with great affection,
    grateful to just be.

  5. Avatar

    Dark cold night
    Silence stilled
    Shadowless moon
    Owl announces
    Sophia rising
    From black earth

    Casting threads
    Mantle unfolds
    Womb weaves
    Spiders webb
    Cosmic rhythms
    Traversing soul vines

    Sea of tears
    Purifying hearts
    Grist of sand
    Forming pearls
    Hidden wisdom
    Slowly emerges

    Eternal truths
    Long forgotten
    Yet never lost
    Spark into flame
    Kindling the fire
    Of enduring love

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      I don’t know how to thank two people at once on this site, but here goes. I want to thank CARMEN RUMBAUT and JEANETTE METLER for there poems today. They are evidence of the repose of the Via Negativa as well as your own use of poetry on the Via Creativa !!!

      1. Avatar

        Thanks for noticing, and especially that the poems were composed from both the “repose of the Via Negativa as well as your own use of poetry on the Via Creativa”.

  6. Avatar

    Integrating our masculine and feminine energies on the spiritual journeys of our eternal Souls is being consciously transformed towards Wholeness/Cosmic Christ Consciousness by the Divine Love~Wisdom~Peace~Justice~Mercy~Healing~Transformation~Creativity~
    Beauty~Joy~Compassion~Loving Diverse Oneness… Present within and among us in ongoing co-Creation~Evolution in our multiverse Cosmos….
    ????

  7. Avatar

    Matthew!
    I am reminded in today’s meditation of a story I read to my children when they were growing up called, Christkind’s Erdenreise. It is a story traditionally told in Austria where my children were born at Christmas time. Thanks for the reminder. I will read it to my grandchildren!
    Kathryn

  8. Avatar

    Advent is waiting, it is repose and it always includes darkness…I have known such times and seasons, they used to unnerve me, scare me, but now I embrace them, and Divine LOVE me. }:- a.m.

  9. Avatar

    I fell in love with the light in Merton and all of us, man or female. God say’s: “Stay in the Love”, when darkness approaches. I found that, when we reach the point of ascending, no matter our form, male or female, we’ll have God and all His Army to fight the darkness that will destroy our body if they can, but cannot destroy God’s will to take us home. Men also have the feminine, like Merton. They took his life, but never the love (God) in him.

    Mila

  10. Avatar
    Brigid Cannon, OP

    For me Advent is a time to just Be With the Divine Lover of my soul and surrender to His love in the silence, darkness and mystery.

    Thank you for all the contributions in these emails. They have changed my life.
    May Christ birth in each of us a Love so deep we cannot speak yet we know how deeply we are loved by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as Mary did.
    I hold you all deep in my heart and prayer.
    Blessings and peace and joy in all you are about today. Sr. Brigid, OP

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