December 11, 2019

Another Look: A spirituality “not pressed through the pores”

Another Look: A spirituality “not pressed through the pores”

A saint is capable of loving created things and enjoying the use of them and dealing with them in a perfectly simple, natural manner, making no formal references to God, drawing no attention to his own piety, and acting without any artificial rigidity at all. His gentleness and his sweetness are not pressed through his pores by the crushing restraint of a spiritual strait-jacket. They come from his direct docility to the light of truth and to the will of God. Hence a saint is capable of talking about the world without any explicit reference to God, in such a way that his statement gives greater glory to God than the observations of someone less holy, who has to strain himself to make an arbitrary connection between creatures and God through the medium of hackneyed analogies and metaphors that are so feeble that they make you think there is something the matter with religion.

• Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 24

Comments

  1. anonymous says

    !!!!!!! Dorothy Day !!!!!!

    “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

    • Christiane says

      a Dorothy Day lament:

      “Where are You? Why don’t You answer me? I need You!
      These brothers and sisters of Yours, the ones You want me to love, let me
      tell You something:
      They smell!
      They have lice and tuberculosis!
      Am I to find You in them?—Well, You’re ugly! You stink! You wet
      your pants! You vomit! How could anyone love You?”

      no wonder the Church calls this woman ‘A Servant of God’ . . . . no wonder 🙂

  2. “the observations of someone… who has to strain to make an arbitrary connection between creatures and God through the medium of hackneyed analogies and metaphors that are so feeble that they make you think there is something the matter with religion.”

    Ouchie.

    • Meh. The Bible is loaded with such metaphors, and Jesus used them all the time to relate his message or the Kingdom to things people were familiar with in his day. Yeah, so this was the one part of Merton’s blurb that didn’t necessarily resonate with me.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        But when an expression or metaphor becomes badly overused…

        • LOL. Yeah, there is that.

          Let’s see…how about…

          Jesus was like a football. He got kicked around a lot. We Christians will suffer through being kicked around like a football, too. But it is when we are kicked around that we will be launched into the air that so that others will see us, and see God in us! So make sure you’re a clean football, recently wiped of the grime and dirt of the football field.”

          Something like that…

  3. The one message I get from this, and maybe from the past few days, is that we Christians can “dial it back” and still be presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Unfortunately, “dialing it back” conflicts with Wretched Urgency.

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        It’s the wretchedness of the urgency that gets me. The whole premise is of a rescue mission desperately trying to save as many people as possible before God shuts it down and kills everybody. It makes the ultimate enemy of salvation God himself, and evangelicalism a race against the rage and cruelty of God. What no-one seems to notice is that the old fundangelical cliché about loving someone meaning stopping them stepping under a bus puts God in the bus’s driving seat running people down.

        • Rick Ro. says

          Great comment. As I’ve led some folks through a study in Isaiah, one of the things that has struck ALL of us has been that God is the initiator all right, but He’s the initiator of Love, Forgiveness, and Mercy, not Rage, Cruelty and Wrath. The “rinse and repeat” message of that book is pretty much, “Stubborn Israel…I really would like to blow them away…but I love them, I really do…so I’ll provide a Way Out yet again.”

          It’s all about Him coming OUR way FIRST–and doing so out of LOVE–not the other way around.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Stubborn Israel…I really would like to blow them away…but I love them, I really do…so I’ll provide a Way Out yet again.”

            Maybe I’ve been reading too much Coffee with Jesus, but does anyone else have the mental image of God doing a facepalm?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It’s the wretchedness of the urgency that gets me. The whole premise is of a rescue mission desperately trying to save as many people as possible before God shuts it down and kills everybody.

          Here’s what the original Internet Monk had to say about that:
          https://internetmonk.com/archive/thoughts-on-hell-house-an-evangelicalism-eager-to-leave

          During my time in-country during the Age of Hal Lindsay, I heard nothing else. Nothing. It was all Fire Insurance with the Armageddon Clock going tick tick tick tick tick tick tick….

          That Way Lies Madness.

    • Christiane says

      I guess from the viewpoint of those for whom ‘religion’ is a fearful, angry, finger-pointing exercise in self righteousness, this might be seen as ‘dialing it back’:

      ” . . . go forth, as missionaries, to bring the message of the Father’s tenderness, forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child ”

      I have a feeling that those ‘wretched urgency’ folks wouldn’t put the ‘gospel’ quite in those terms, no

      ‘wretched urgency’ is an ungospel about being fearful and there is very little room in it for a God of tenderness and mercy

    • I don’t think it’s so much about “dialing it back” as it is about a truly “religionless Christianity.” It’s about being human, about being myself and engaging people as they are.

      • Rick Ro. says

        That’s probably a better way to put it. If I was to rephrase it, maybe I’d go with “a relaxed Christianity.”

        Nonreligious people flocked to Jesus. Many of the religious couldn’t stand him. Probably because He was just as you say.

  4. thatotherjean says

    And that naturalness, that business of living a life without straining for holiness, but finding it anyway, is, I would imagine, why there are so few saints.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Your comment, and I guess today’s post and other comments, reminds me why I like the Message translation of Matthew 11:28-30 so much:

      “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

      That’s the kind of message and thinking that gets ME to a healthier place, thus putting me in a healthier mindset in presenting the Good News to others. If I’m “urgently frazzled” (my term), I’ll probably be of minimal earthly or spiritual good to anyone else.

  5. Burro (Mule) says

    Fear, I think, has a lot to do with our lack of sanctity. We are so scared of each other, scared of contamination, scared of disapproval, scared of not being sufficient Add to this not knowing ourselves very well, and you have a perfect petri dish for something that, if it isn’t capital-O Original capital-S Sin, it’s a damned good replacement.

    Between fear and sloth, I think…

  6. Robert F says

    A saint is capable of fully appreciating the world that God created, without constantly thinking and talking about God, either before herself or others, to justify her appreciation. That’s what I think Merton is straining toward expressing in this passage, though he is still too encumbered by technical religious thinking and language to do so with an easy mind, or without himself trying to justify what he’s saying by reference to how much superior it is for the glorification of God. Just a couple years later, through his practice of Zen, photography, and calligraphy, and starting his life as a hermit, he moved much closer to being able to love and see the world for itself without constant reference to the God who created it, and to being able to express that appreciation without the habitual use of the religious language and thinking of Thomism.