Monday Morning With Merton: Holy Beauty, Hopeless Passion


“But creatures remain untouchable, inviolable.  If God wants you to suffer a little, He allows you to learn just how inviolable they are.  As soon as you try to possess their goodness for its own sake, all that is sweet in them becomes bitter to you, all that is beautiful, ugly.  Everything you love sickens you.  And at the same time your need to love something, somebody, increases a hundred times over.  And God, Who is the only one who can be loved for His own sake alone, remains invisible and unimaginable and untouchable, beyond everything else that exists.

You flowers and trees, you hills and streams, you fields, flocks and wild birds, you books, you poems, and you people, I am unutterably alone in the midst of you.  The irrational hunger that sometimes gets into the depths of my will, tries to swing my deepest self away from God and direct it to your love.  I try to touch you with the deep fire that is in the center of my heart, but I cannot touch you without defiling both you and myself, and I am abashed, solitary and helpless, surrounded by a beauty that can never belong to me.

But this sadness generates within me an unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things, for they are pure and perfect and they belong to God and they are mirrors of His beauty.  He is mirrored in all things like sunlight in clean water:  but if I try to drink the light that is in the water I only shatter the reflection.

And so I live alone and chaste in the midst of the holy beauty of all created things, knowing that nothing I can see or hear or touch will ever belong to me, ashamed of my absurd need to give myself away to any one of them or to all of them.  The silly, hopeless passion to give myself away to any beauty eats out my heart.  It is an unworthy desire, but I cannot avoid it.  It is in the hearts of us all, and we have to bear with it, suffer its demands with patience, until we die and go to heaven where all things will belong to us in their highest causes.”

[Thomas Merton:  The Sign of Jonas, pg. 238, Sept. 14, 1949]

Dear friends, this will be my last post at Contemplative Haven. As I stated on my “Mary” blog, it is time now for me to slip back into a more contemplative life, offline. I want to thank you all for the years of friendship, fun, angst, joys, sorrows, humour and prayer – you have all sustained me – each and every one of you. May God bless you and keep you, and may you continue to flourish in your contemplative lives.
 

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