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.

 

BookNotes: The Way of the Heart

The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
by Henri Nouwen

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“Arsenius, flee from the world, be silent, pray always . . ”

Solitude — Silence — Prayer :: a summary of the spirituality of the desert.

Solitude:  

  • the furnace of transformation
  • Temptations that face
    • to be relevant
    • to be spectacular
    • to be powerful
  • The very first thing we need to do is set apart a time and place to be with God.

Silence:

  • Silence is the way to make solitude a reality.
  • Silence makes us pilgrims.
  • Silence guards the fire (Holy Spirit) within.
  • Silence teaches us to speak.
  • We speak a great deal, but what good does it really do.
  • “wordy unbelief”
  • A word with power comes out of silence. A word that bears fruit comes out of silence.
  • Divine silence in which love rests secure.
  •   . . .  how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.”

Prayer:

  • Pray always . . . solitude and silence are never separate from prayer. They create space for prayer.
  • Hesychia — the rest which flows from unceasing prayer.
  • Prayer isn’t just talking to God or thinking about God.
  • Hesychastic Prayer:
    • prayer of the heart
    • to descend with the mind into the heart and stand before the face of God
    • Heart = the source of all energies: impulses, feelings, mood, wishes, perception, understanding, will, plans, decision, PERSONALITY
  • Hide Nothing :: Surrender All
    • Happy are the pure in heart: they shall see God
  • Prayer — simple, unceasing, all-inclusive.

 

Easter

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with the you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.

 

Palm Sunday

It is right to praise you, Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. On this day he entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palm along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns in glory with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

–BCP, Page 271

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Ash Wednesday & Lent

It begins in ashes . . .. it journeys through darkness . . .it ends with celebration

Lent is the period of time between Ash Wednesday and carries on for 40 days, not counting Sundays. Sundays are not counted since they are the weekly celebration of the resurrection.

Ash Wednesday — Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.

In my faith tradition we begin Lent by hiding the allelujah and removing decorations from the sanctuary. We receive the ashes as a sign of our mortality, self-examination and repentance. We remember that it is only by his gracious gift that we are given everlasting life.

At home, my altar is covered with a gray cloth, I place a bowl in the center and each day as I do Vespers I place a paper of self-examination, repentance, or prayer for another into the bowl. I will burn these papers during the Great Vigil (Saturday night waiting for Easter Morning). I also like to use rocks and a smaller tea candle on my altar during this season.

I have seen people who make rough wooden crosses and literally nail their requests to the cross during Lent and then attach flowers to each nail on Easter morning. I like this idea, but prefer my quiet bowl, rocks, and candle.

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Reading: At Home in the World (M Guenther), Karneval in Köln (German), The Beautiful Mystery (Gamache)
Listening: Castle in the Air
Watching: Fringe, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries