Thursday, December 03, 2009

Contemplation in Action (Thomas Merton)

Some extracts from the prologue to his 'Ascent to Truth' (1951) which I have just started reading, and which is doing me the world of good.

"The only thing that can save the world from complete moral collapse is a spiritual revolution. Christianity, by its very nature, demands such a revolution. If Christians would all live up to what they profess to believe, the revolution would happen."

"If Christianity is to prove itself in open rebellion against the standards of the materialist society in which it is fighting for survival, Christians must show more definite signs of that agere contra, that positive 'resistance', which is the heart of the Christian ascetic 'revolution'. The true knowledge of God can be bought only at the price of this resistance."

"If the salvation of society depends, in the long run, on the moral and spiritual health of individuals, the subject of contemplation becomes a vastly important one, since contemplation is one of the indications of spiritual maturity. It is closely allied to sanctity. You cannot save the world merely with a system. You cannot have peace without charity. You cannot have order without saints."

"The Truth man needs is not a philosopher's abstraction, but God Himself. The paradox of contemplation is that God is never really known unless He is also loved. And we cannot love Him unless we do His will. This explains why modern man, who knows so much, is nevertheless ignorant. Because he is without love, modern man fails to see the only Truth that matters and on which all else depends."

"It is useless to study truths about God and lead a life that has nothing in it of the cross of Christ. No one can do such a thing without, in fact, displaying complete ignorance of the meaning of Christianity."

In other words, right contemplation (worship) always of necessity bears fruit in right action (social justice). A commitment to social justice educates and informs right worship, yes, but I would say: the first commandment comes first.

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