Monday Morning with Merton: Good Vibrations

“Saint Gregory Nazianzen calls the soul of the spiritual man – the mystic – an instrument played by the Holy Spirit:  organum pulsatum a Spiritu Sancto.  The Holy Ghost draws from this instrument harmonies and a melody of which reason and the will of man alone could never even dream.  It is this music vibrating on the well-tuned strings of a perfect human personality that makes a man a saint.  It is when special harmonies are wrung from a human instrument that the Holy Ghost makes a man a contemplative.  What part has reason in this silent song that God sings for Himself and for His elect in the soul of a mystic?  It is the function of reason not to play the instrument but only to tune the strings.  The Master Himself does not waste time tuning the instrument.  He shows His servant, reason, how to do it and leaves him to do the work.  If He then comes and finds the piano still out of tune, He does not bother to play anything on it.  He strikes a chord, and goes away.  The trouble generally is that the tuner has been banging on the keys himself all day, without bothering to do the work assigned to him:  which is to keep the thing in tune.”

[The Ascent to Truth:  Chapter XII, pgs. 181-182]

6 thoughts on “Monday Morning with Merton: Good Vibrations

  1. This strikes a chord with me. (Seriously.) I want to be Played, but could He get even “Chopsticks” out of this poor instrument?

    One marvels that Merton wondered if he pleased the Lord.

  2. To be in tune, to be ready to produce harmonies….a lovely thought for any day, but especially for the start of the week day.

  3. I can totally identify with this Merton Monday post!
    Tuning strings..particularly speaking of those of thinner gauge..it takes stretching them to the limit!

    Pain was the first word that came to my mind…..such a vivid spiritual application here. At times His stretching to get me in tune is very painful.

    What strings are those which sound the most beautiful when given the melody?…the thinner gauge high, thin strings…..those which are the most delicate to tune and require meticulous,careful, guided ‘stretching’. If my LIFE is to be one of glorious praise to Him, I need to surrender my will.
    Thanks for Merton Monday(even though I am reading this on Thurs this week!)

  4. Hello, my friends. I’m very sorry for the delay in getting here; I’ve been a busy bee (no posts inbetween two Mertons – gasp) and I’m sure you all have been very busy too!

    This Merton snippet was a bit longer than usual, but still didn’t quite catch the whole context of the section from which I took it. Merton was exploring “the precise relation of reason to the mystical life”. Teresa, as a musician you express an immediate and similar identification to the metaphors that Merton is using. He went on to say, “It takes much discretion and delicacy of soul to keep this instrument in tune. The strings must not be pulled too tight, or left too slack”. You relate it to the pain of spiritual growth, and Merton to asceticism. He writes, “Reason must judge the right measure of self-denial that will keep all the faculties of the soul responsive to the keys when they are struck by God.” He goes on to say that reason could not do this without grace or the infused virtues. He tells us that reason judges and rejects the movements of disordered passion and ill-regulated instinct. Like a Houselander or a von Speyr, every paragraph here is rich in insights and metaphors. “Reason disposes the soul for passive union with God”; reason becomes “illuminated with grace and perfected by all the acquired and infused virtues”.

    C.O., as long as we are striving to grow in virtue and are open to all the graces He pours into our lives through our Blessed Mother, our strings are being finely tuned, and surely something better than Chopsticks will be the result. Maybe, Heart & Soul? 🙂

  5. Yeah..🙂 I gotta go Google the lyrics, now, but yeah..

    Or maybe He can get Unchained Melody from me –the lyrics were Composed in a different Gethsemani, and I think He waits to hear it sung right back. Or at least Colour My World..

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