Day 26 – Forty Days with Thomas Merton

Day 26

The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty. One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction. One is content with what is. One does what is to be done, and the more concrete it is, the better. One is not worried about the results of what is done. One is content to have good motives and not too anxious about making mistakes. In this way one can swim with the living stream of life and remain at every moment in contact with God, in the hiddenness and ordinariness of the present moment with its obvious task.

At such times, walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods — all can be enriched with contemplation and with the obscure sense of the presence of God. This contemplation is all the more pure in that one does not “look” to see if it is there. Such “walking with God” is one of the simplest and most secure ways of living a life of prayer, and one of the safest. It never attracts anybody’s attention, least of all the attention of him who lives it. And he soon learns not to want to see anything special in himself. This is the price of his liberty.

It has been said that such people enjoy “graces akin to contemplation” because they are never fully conscious of their “contemplative state.” But it must not be thought that they cannot be real mystics. Indeed, a genuine mystical life may be lived in these conditions. The mystical graces given to such souls may be of an active character, but there is a strong undercurrent of contemplative intuition. This will remain pure and vital as long as one is careful not to lose himself in activity, not to become preoccupied with results, and not to lose his purity of intention. Whether in active or passive contemplation, purity of heart is always the guardian of contemplative truth.

— Thomas Merton in The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon


Today: In this meditation, we read Merton’s description of the contemplative life. It is a life that believes in the goodness of God and his constant presence. The contemplative life lives in the present, does the very best one can do, in the moment, with little anxiety and leaves the outcome to God. We can leave the outcome to someone else who is trusted. We are reluctant to turn over anything, let alone our lives, to someone we cannot trust. Consider your relationship with God. Do you truly believe he can be trusted?

+Ed Jansen, OSB

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