Monday Morning with Merton: Lucidity and Peace

“The Mass is the most wonderful thing that has ever entered into my life. When I am at the altar I feel that I am at last the person that God has truly intended me to be.  About the lucidity and peace of this perfect sacrifice I have nothing coherent to say.  But I am very aware of the most special atmosphere of grace in which the priest moves and breathes at that moment – and all day afterwards!  True, this peculiar grace is something private and inalienable, but it springs also from the social nature of the Mass.  The greatest gift that can come to anyone is to share in the infinite act by which God’s love is poured out upon all men.  In this sense the supreme graces of solitude and of society coincide and become one – and they do this in the priest at Mass, as they do in the soul of Christ and in the Heart of Mary.” 

[The Sign of Jonas.  The Journal of Thomas Merton]  Taken from the entry for June 4, 1949:  The Vigil of Pentecost.  pgs. 195-196

9 thoughts on “Monday Morning with Merton: Lucidity and Peace

  1. How does he do it –captures the best of our Catholic life in one paragraph?! If I were not already cradle-Catholic and re-Catholic and ever-Catholic (of some rite joined to Peter’s own heart), this paragraph about the most mysterious (and world and demon-dwarfing) Love would (re)attract me this very day. One should attend the Merton School of Evangelization regularly, if one would show the beating Heart of the Church rapidly.

    Merci!

  2. “When I am at the altar I feel that I am at last the person that God has truly intended me to be.” said Fr Louis

    This just gave me a brief recall of the feeling of being HOME when I quietly sit before the altar and gaze at the crucifix before people begin to arrive for Mass on Sunday.
    It is a feeling of ‘being home’, of peace, of serenity and contentment even in the midst of stormy times.
    Fr. Louis was speaking of priests at the Consecration, but I can claim a tiny bit of that when I, a prodigal of sorts, walk in the door to MY Father’s House!

  3. Yes, Teresa! You’ve captured what I (and likely many others) mean by saying that Mass is the only place I feel at home. And amen to Fr. Louis’, “At last..”

    Since I am a slowpoke on Sunday morns, I’ve had to go to the church just up the street the past 2 wks. It has been instituting some changes that are so touching. Perhaps they are not so much changes as a return to traditional worship, I’m not sure. But the sweetness in it for the Lord overall, along with a new tenderness for those present. well, there is no end to this Spring’s “blossoms.” I am beginning to think that this past winter was worth every moment of suffering barrenness.

  4. The greatest gift that can come to anyone is to share in the infinite act by which God’s love is poured out upon all men.

    That line sums it all up for me. We can share in this wonderful sacrifice brought about by the actions of the priest, by the power vested in him. It is a gift to him and it is shared with us and we are happily united – through Him, with Him, in Him in the sacrifice of the Mass.

  5. I see we all have our favourite lines! Mine is the reality of the grace when solitude and society coincide, which I think we also have a share in, as well as the priest; and not only at Mass, but in the contemplative life, and also in contemplative prayer. It reminds me also of the essence of the relationship of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, solitude and society…

  6. My eyebrows just went into puzzle mode 3 times, G! Can you break that down for me? I want to understand. What grace is the reality “when solitude and society coinicide”? and whose solitude and to which society do you refer? And the last sentence–are you reiterating “solitude and society” there at the end, or is that part of a trinity which includes the Trinity? (Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s me–sometimes one has to draw it with charcoal on my cave wall. I nearly drove my cousin crazy one night while we played cards; no matter what she said for over 10 minutes, I still remained bewildered at a nearby matchbook cover’s ad, “Emblems for Pennies”.. Why would anyone want to put emblems on pennies?)

  7. Well, I cannot say with any assurance that I’m interpreting Merton in the way he meant it when he said “the supreme graces of solitude and society coincide”, but I’ll try and explain how I see it.

    For instance, during the sacrifice of the Mass, we have a personal relationship with our Redeemer, a solitude with Him in His death and resurrection, but at the same time we are experiencing this in union with all others at the Mass, with all others in the Mystical Body of Christ, and so we have the grace of perfect solitude and perfect society. The priest, in his ministerial priesthood experiences this, but we do also, as priests (in the sense of priests, prophets and kings, which we are all called to be by Baptism). So too in our lives as lay contemplatives; we are called to interior solitude while we live in the world but not of it, and as we work at it and also receive the grace in accordance with this calling, we find not so much a balance of the two, but a perfect integration of the two. It is the same in contemplative prayer itself; we are in solitude with the Lord, growing in personal sanctification, but through some mysterious means, our personal contemplative prayer in solitude benefits humanity; society. So with the Trinity; each Person is in perfect solitude contemplating the other Two Persons, yet they are also in Perfect Society, in constant communication with each other.

    So basically, as I see it, when perfect solitude and perfect society coincide, it is indeed the supreme grace, because there is no antipathy between the two, no distancing, no balancing act. It is rather like the One that you have mentioned at the Mary blog and elsewhere. That experience of One.

  8. “In this sense the supreme graces of solitude and of society coincide and become one – and they do this in the priest at Mass, as they do in the soul of Christ and in the Heart of Mary.”

    Wow! this struck me as most revealing. Though we are one with Jesus it must be expressed in the midst of the community! Amen!

  9. Cathy, that’s the line that struck me the most as well, and the one that left me pondering for quite a while. I really enjoyed discovering, through the comments here, the different themes in this one short passage that people really connected with.

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