Happy Birthday, Thomas Merton!


I can’t let yesterday, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton, pass unremarked. He was, after all, probably the first mystic whose words I had encountered, an many of his words still resonate.

This morning, the sunrise inspired me to reblog a post featuring the song “Praise Song for a New Day,” which appears on the album Zero Church by Maggy and Suzzy Roche. Read more about that project here.

But it also inspired me to turn to Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours (2007), compiled by Kathleen Deignan, whom I had met at Iona College while I was a student at Manhattan College. In his journals, Merton often mentions his breviary, a compilation of the Catholic liturgies, including the Liturgy of the Hours. Monks would pray this liturgy at appointed times of the day. What I find relevant, and revelatory today is the “Closing Prayer” for “Sunday–Dawn,” (it being Sunday morning, after all) which Deignan draws from Merton’s book Turning Toward the World. I love this notion, because in his own biography, Merton descended the mountain of transcendent spiritual experience toward the very gritty problems of the world, which up until his death had been very salient in his writings: racism, war, and other forms of injustice. For that is where we live, “in the world,” yet contemplation can infuse our approach to the world. That is what is so appealing to me about Tantra, a householder practice.

With my hair almost on end and the eyes of the soul wide open I am present
without knowing it all, in this unspeakable Paradise,
and I behold this secret,
this wide open secret which is there for everyone, free,
and no one pays any attention.

O paradise of simplicity, self–awareness—
and self–forgetfulness—liberty, peace.

“Closing Prayer, Sunday—Dawn,” Kathleen Deignan (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2007) Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours

Other posts on Thomas Merton.

About Richard Hudak

I am Senior Adjunct Faculty in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and I have been a practitioner of Anusara™ yoga. I have completed 200 hours of teacher training within its diaspora community, consistent with its philosophy and alignment principles.
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