Merton on Human Ambiguity

mertonIn his time with us here at Catholic Sensibility, Neil had some real gems to offer. I still return to his posts occasionally. Sometimes they come up as I search through our archives. Scanning these on the occasion of Thomas Merton’s passing into death on this day in 1968, turned up this post from the last decade.

One brief bit on prayer, which seems appropriate for the season. Also appropriate as I find myself with seasonal struggles:

To be in a fallen state is to be in a state where one’s heart is double, self-contradictory. Even though we’re baptized, and even though we are nourished with the bread of life, we maintain this state of ambiguity in spite of ourselves …

Advent has long been my favorite liturgical season. In these days I also find myself confronted with this ambiguity. My heart wants to be more still, to imitate the Trappist master and follow him into hermitage. But of course, I have responsibilities to family and in ministry. I can’t just leave home and parish at this time of year.

Even when I have time to pray, there are still “good” things to do. Thomas Merton explores two admissions:

It is God who calls us to prayer. So prayer, first of all, is a response to a call from God, a personal call from God, and I think we should look at it that way even though we don’t feel like praying. Let’s admit that very often we don’t feel like praying and that there are a lot of other things we’d rather do than pray.

What I read: it’s not up to me, plus, I can admit when I don’t feel like praying. There’s a thread of ambiguity in the season, too. Is it Christ coming the first time or the second? Do we pretend he is not yet here, yet acknowledge him in Word and Sacrament?

Perhaps it matters little. God calls me, as he calls each of us, to a certain encounter this time of year. To what are we led? Jesus beckons us to pray, to join him in speaking to the Father. We are fallen: this is true. But we are also lifted up, and beckoned to join in a great conversation? Does that make me feel any more inspired to take the time?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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