Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Thomas Merton

I came upon this prayer while putting together the study on simplicity for the small group curriculum I'm currently writing. As I've said before in this forum, prayer is always poetry, and even though these words from Thomas Merton aren't in verse, they are no less poetic for that.

My own poem afterward stems -- like so many others over the past 18 months -- from the extraordinary trees here in Atlanta, and in particular the changing of the leaves over the past few weeks. My walk to and from campus each day (around 7:30 in the morning and 2:30 in the afternoon) includes a breathtakingly beautiful stroll beneath ancient limbs whose colors are at present like a peacock. As the cold slips away and I step into the library, it is all I can do to scribble down whatever foliage-inspired words are available for translation.

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A Prayer for the Simplicity of Life and Love

By Thomas Merton

Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with your fire. Shrine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service.

Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. I will hear Your voice and I will hear all harmonies You have created, singing Your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in Your service; I will give the rest to Your poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving You glory.

Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. Stamp out the serpent envy that stings love with poison and kills all joy.

Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice.

But give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for you alone.

For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and reward it, and that is You alone.

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The Beauty of Autumn

An autumn's beauty is
The beauty of dying

Browning leaves rot for our
Benefit in bitter
Winds of winter's mob, and
We all as one marvel
At that divine curtain
When the darkness comes to
Overtake the land—

The Sunday of spring peaks
Like a round stone through the
Falling rainbows of death
Promising a harvest
Of resurrection green

1 comment:

  1. Only Light Itself Is Come
    -A Merest Touch of Brightness
    Neither Mind Nor Body Can Deny.
    It is the Heart's Explanation of Reality.
    It is Reality, Plain Spoken To
    the Heart
    -and By the Heart Alone.
    It Is the Beautiful,Itself.