In honor of the anniversary of Thomas Merton‘s death (December 10th, 1968), I have decided to re-read New Seeds of Contemplation. It’s been a while, and I forgot how much I enjoy his writing. Here’s a bit from the first paragraph of the book:
Contemplation is the highest expression of [one’s] intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith. For contemplation is a kind of spiritual vision to which both reason and faith aspire, by their very nature, because without it they must always remain incomplete.
I like that idea that contemplation is the completion of reason and faith. It helps me to understand why God has been leading me the past several years out of my left-brained intellectual self and toward a more right-brained, mystical experience of who God is and who I am in God and because of God’s presence in my life. My college years were very much defined by St. Anselm‘s concept of faith seeking understanding. I expected my graduate years to be much the same, yet I found myself drawn to fringe classes like Power Encounter and Theology and Popular Culture. I discovered PIHOP and began an unexpected journey into the tangible experience of God. Instead of lining my bookshelves with academic volumes and commentaries, I filled a whole bookshelf with new and used titles from the Prayer & Spirituality section at the bookstore where I worked. Now, I’m excited to revisit New Seeds of Contemplation in light of my spiritual journey and see what new truths God has in store.