Monday Morning with Merton: Outlaws

“You realize that prayer takes us beyond the law.  When you are praying you are, in a certain sense, an outlaw.  There is no law between the heart and God.  The law is outside our intimate relationship with God and if you bring a law into the intimate relationships with God, you mess things up.  Between the soul and God there are no laws.  But that is not a natural situation; it is the result of redemption, the result of Christ.”

[Thomas Merton in Alaska:  The Alaskan Conferences, Journals and Letters


8 thoughts on “Monday Morning with Merton: Outlaws

  1. I love it!! “Between the soul and God there are no laws. But that is not a natural situation; it is the result of redemption, the result of Christ.”

    Indeed, it is only due to Christ’s redemption of us. Love, if it’s truly love, doesn’t need laws. One is living in the holiness of His given We. As St. Augustine said, “Love God (as instructed to), and do what you will.” (i.e., you won’t have to agonize over every little thing, as JustMe does.) But as Augustine knew by then, one has to remain in Him, or one’s love of Him and others will take a nose-dive before long.

    But again, what heart Merton gives. He cuts through all the stuff that says the Lord is too holy to be approached by mere mortal. What the heck, then, is He looking for — butterflies? He knows far more than we do that He is our help, and that we shall have no Beatific vision without His help, so Jesus issues a constant invitation. “Come, let Me show you God. Now, go and do likewise.”

  2. Pia, he went in the autumn of 1968, just before he went to Asia, where he died in Bangkok in Dec. 1968. Here is something out of the footnotes of “The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton”:

    “At the invitation of Archbishop Joseph T. Ryan, D.D., of Anchorage, Merton visited Alaska from September 18 to October 2, 1968. While one purpose of his visit was to conduct a workshop for the nuns at the Convent of the Precious Blood, he was also authorized by the Abbot of Gethsemani to explore various parts of Alaska for possible monastic sites or for a hermitage to be affiliated with Gethsemani, which he might himself use part of the year.” Brother Patrick Hart, in the Foreward of the same book, tells us that Merton was also instructed to explore the possibility of New Mexico and California, along with Alaska, partly because his hermitage at Gethsemani was being “invaded by visitors, noisy hunters, and friendly neighbors.”

    * * * * * * *

    JustMe, I was also thinking of St. Augustine’s line when I read this Merton quote. I think “Love God and do what you will” is one of the most misunderstood and abused phrases of all time. People take it as a license to do as they please, as long as they think they have a “good” relationship with God. But it is as you say. When one is in union with the Divine, acting totally within Divine Love, there is just no possibility of doing that which is outside of Divine Love, and the burden of worry is lifted. I also think of Jesus saying that the law would be written on our hearts. Love.

  3. Yep. He got as far as the “L” and the “O” when I became distracted by Dust and took a sneezing fit. But I have holy antihistamines within my reach, and He is waiting to finish.

    Indeed, Augustine’s is a most under-understood saying. To elaborate upon its deceptively simple depth, one might look to the statement St. Francis on his death”bed” after an exhausted lifetime of hard service in loving others and doing great penance, “Brothers, let us begin again, for until now, we have done little to nothing.”

  4. Maybe Merton is the boat we ought to sail Jesus in, to the young/old be-nihil-ed around us, for who hasn’t Fr. Louis touched? Boyhowdy, I am starting to LOVE Mondays.

  5. Plenty to think about here, Gabrielle. Merton sems to be one of those writers who can say an awful lot in just a few short lines that leave his readers thinking for hours.

  6. I have to agree with Ann….yes, he had/has that “gift” of language. He could see with his spiritual eyes, farther than most. Jesus said that he came to FULFILL the law, not to discard it. As that realization soaks into our souls, we are bound to Him and we can (miraculously) identify with Him. That becomes our “reality”. It is all about HIM. In those few brief words of this quote by Merton, there is SO MUCH to contemplate and to ponder (like an entire book, rather than one single paragraph). It washes over me in waves of gratitude and amazement. In some ways, it reminds me of some of your earlier quotes by Rumi: that field, that place of unknowing, beyond right and wrong….I will meet you there.

    Thank you, Gabrielle….you have (once again) opened the window and let in the light and fresh air (of Truth) today…(even tho it’s TUESDAY now!)


    P.S. There is another quote by a well-known preacher that goes like this: “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him”….sounds remarkably similar the words of St. Augustine… 🙂

  7. JustMe, of what you say about Francis’ deathbed statement, yes, and it speaks of the depth of his humility, doesn’t it, when looking back at even his own powerfully self-giving life in comparison with Divine Love. I think St. Augustine’s statement and Merton’s quote here also speak to us of the intense/immense freedom experienced when one is totally immersed in Divine Love. I’m glad you’re enjoying Monday Morning with Merton; I’m enjoying posting them!

    Ann, I agree 100%. Oh, had he lived, he might have had a blog! What a little piece of heaven that would have been!

    Kristin, you are right on target in your comment – the fulfillment of the law, not its abolishment – this is where the love is written on our hearts. And exactly the same spirit as the Rumi post of some months ago, as you say. Beyond the law, beyond right and wrong, living in the perfect freedom of Divine Love, where no wrong can exist. Lord, may we all arrive there in this lifetime, with Your Mercy.

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