Monday, December 17, 2007

Merton on Advent

“The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen. …

“It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our market culture so easily harmonize with our tendency to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The Advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies nonexistent.”
Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishers, 1950: 88-89

“The human soul is still the image of God, and no matter how far it travels away from Him into the regions of unreality, it never becomes so completely unreal that its original destiny can cease to torment it with a need to return to itself in God, and become, once again, real.”
-Thomas Merton. The New Man. New York: Ferrar, Straus, Giroux Publishers, page 112


Michael Krahn said...


I just put up a series of posts about Thomas Merton that I think you’d enjoy at:

David Nybakke said...

Dear Michael,

Yes, I checked out the site - very nice. In studying WITH Merton (I really didn't feel that one studies Merton, but rather one begins to journey with Merton) I particularly liked listening to as many recordings (most of them poor at best) of his many lectures there at Gethsemani.

However, as a Girardian, I saw a much fuller and deeper explanation of this notion of a "self" that was much further deveoloped and really quite apart from where most of Merton and his followers are at. Though I struggle with some of James Alison's connecting the dots, he does a pretty good job of starting one into the path of reflection of 'self'. I have linked a recent talk/paper of his here if you are venturing into an anthropological introduction to the human.

Have you checked out my good friend Gerry Straub? He has a series of Merton reflections that he sends out virtually every Monday. You can check out his blog here. On the right hand sidebar he list some of his recent Mondays with Merton meditations.