BookNotes: Thomas Merton & The Celts

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Thomas Merton and the Celts
A New World Opening Up
By Monica Weis

Part 1 of the book notes

Definition and areas of overlap:

  • desert saints
  • scripture
  • pilgrimage
  • poetry
  • place
  • nature

Imagination fosters a distinctive way of seeing:

  • here and there
  • natural and spiritual
  • embraces a unity of natural (here) and spiritual (there)
  • landscape reveals the many faces of God
  • the “everywhere” God
  • John S Eriugena (C815-877) — God created all out of his essence therefore the world is a theophany
  • God’s presence makes the world
  • Holy “now moment”

Main Character of Celtic spirituality:

  • doctrine of creation (essential goodness)
  • doctrine of redemption (Christ is love incarnate)
  • Trinitarian
  • Incarnation
  • Held with vigor and clarity –> Christ the Word

Anamhara — soul friend, guide, not a mentor

  • periglour

A Celt is a entholiguist tribal society (societies) in central Europe during the Iron Age that migrated to the British Isles, southern France, Iberian Peninsula, and northern Italy.

  • the value of place
  • the value of tribe
  • the value of people
  • (i.e.: It is the Welsh in me that counts, page 12)
  • (leads to environmental responsibility as we learn the value of place)

Eremitic vs  Centobitic Monasteries:

  • eremitic — hermit monasticism (like St. Antony, 251-356), prayer work, spiritual work, reading
  • cenobitic — community living, communal, charity, humility, obedience, full spiritual lives. Village model, creation centered.
  • In Wales (Scotland and Ireland) when a chieftain became Christian, often the whole tribe became monks and the village became a monastery of sorts.
    • see Skellig Michael, Bangor, Derry, Durrow, Kildare, Clonfekt, Kells, etc
    • Iona and Lindisfarne both set up as village models.\
  • Celtic monasticism focused on allegiance to Abbot contrasted with Roman monasticism which focused on allegiance to Pope.
  • Whitby was
    • bishop vs abbot
    • date of easter
    • baptism
    • ACCD to Esther de Waal– not cataclysmic but local, took a long time to trickle down to all areas of “Celtic lands”

**Merton’s focus is on formation not information **

Celtic pilgrim: holy and insatiable curiosity, simplicity, practicality, tremendous endurance

Celtic Monasticism:

  • gentle way of life
  • retreats
  • sanctity and sweetness of life
  • significance of soul-friend
  • 3 labors of the day
    • prayer
    • work
    • reading
  • poetry
    • immediacy of the moment
    • simplicity
    • integrity of the spiritual
    • life purified from materialism in simple communion with nature
  • pilgrimage
    • a different way of seeing
    • peregrination — setting off on foot or in a small boat without a goal or destination, to discover the place of one’s resurrection
    • journey metaphor is deeply embedded in the human experience
      • exodus
      • odyssey
      • aeneid
      • divine comedy
      • Canterbury tales
      • etc
    • trasana — the crossing place, the divide, the challenge, between the familiar and the unknown
    • ethnic sense of romance and the lore of an ancient wonder-adventure
    • Phases of
      • the longing
      • the call
      • the departure
      • the pilgrim’s way
      • the labyrinth
      • the arrival
      • the bringing back of a “boon”
      • the new self-knowledge
      • the transformed self
    • The Voyage of Brendan
      • all creation is holy and everything is sacred because it is the very outpouring of God’s love.

How does one live out of a transfigured center?

  • cycles of time that revolve around the church calendar (and nature’s cycles)
  • spiritual creativity
  • travel (= aesceticism and discipline)
  • reckoning (=constantly watching so you stay on course)
  • constant care of vessel
  • See hymn — Be Thou My Vision
  • If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep walking
  • The earth, paradise, because we know in our inmost hearts that the earth was given to us in order that we may find meaning, order, truth, and salvation in it.

 

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