Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
In November and December, we are releasing our brand new 7-day prayer cycle of morning and evening prayers on the theme of Soul of a Pilgrim. The audio podcasts for Day 5 morning and evening prayer are being released today on the theme of Being Uncomfortable and Embracing Mystery! This is one of the many free resources we offer to our community to help support your contemplative practice and prayer. (If you are able to support this work financially in any way, we gratefully accept contributions at this link.)
We continue our pilgrimage through the mystics next Saturday when we welcome Sophfronia Scott to lead an online retreat on Thomas Merton and the Transformative Power of Love.
Sophfronia wrote the beautiful book The Seeker and the Monk and this is an excerpt:
How do we escape the whirl of the marketplace? Turn off the app. Take off the armor. To love is to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to fall, and such willingness takes intention. Merton reflected that love is not something that just happens to you. He writes, “Our English expression ‘to fall in love’ suggests an unforeseen mishap that may or may not be fatal. . . . It reflects a peculiar attitude toward love and toward life itself – a mixture of fear, awe, fascination, and confusion.”
But so many people try to be cool and collected and not fall in love – or at least not admit it first. They play love as a big game of “Gotcha!” and are unwilling to say the words “I love you” just in case the sentiment isn’t returned. Most of them can’t win, though, because, as Merton writes, “the [person] who is constantly seeking an object worthy of love and constantly rejecting every object because he still wants to find one that is really worthy is perhaps in the end only pretending to seek and pretending only in order to dissimulate his own complete lack of love. For if one has love in him he will soon find an object worthy of love and will be able to love everyone and everything.”
Love is an expression of who we are within ourselves. This expression has value regardless of how it is received (or not) in the marketplace. Our capacity to love tells us who we really are. Why else would love show up as prominently as it does in the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments? If, by Jesus’s commandment to love one another, God is calling us to it, then love must be vital. Merton writes, “He who loves is more alive and more real than he was when he did not love. That is perhaps why love seems dangerous: the lover finds in himself too many new powers, too many new insights. When a person is undergoing that kind of inner cataclysm, anything might happen. And thank God, it does happen. The world would not be worth much if it didn’t!”
(Reprinted with permission from Broadleaf Books)
Join Simon and me tomorrow for our monthly contemplative prayer service and next Saturday join Sophfronia for a retreat and experiential encounter with Thomas Merton.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Dancing Monk Icon by Marcy Hall (Available for purchase on Etsy)