December with Thomas Merton – week 2

In the second week of December 1948 Merton writes in his Journal that he is beginning the eighth year in the community at Gethsemani.

‘One of the things that makes me happiest is that, by some miracle, I have been able to get out into the woods a few times this month to the common work. The work has never, as far as I remember, been so far away: more than two miles out, and on the other side of the knobs.’

Merton wonders about the last seven years:

‘I think – where did the time go? I caught myself thinking: have I changed? Not that it matters. I have and I haven’t. I’m balder. Somehow I have more of an interior life, but I’d have a hard time trying to say how.’

Thomas Merton lists some of the things that have led to his changes: taking solemn profession, theology and the trials he has had with people here and there to do with writing, singing, and contemplation. He sees these little crosses as always the very best thing about the life in the monastery. There’s an irony as they seem so small – but they do their work.

‘How God works on your soul by these obscure and unremarkable sufferings that cleanse and drain your wounds. I am glad of every cross I have had and thank God in advance for all those that are to come.’

There are other graces too: the minor orders, the writing work and he includes in this the books and hours of prayer and through these Merton feels that God has taught him to find himself more in God, and, to lose himself more which, he says, comes to the same thing.

‘I am richer, now that I am poor, than I ever was when I was a bourgeois with a well-to-do grandfather … And the most precious thing I had today was an hour of silence behind the church. It has been warm and damp and the knobs are hidden in mist… I escaped to my

silence and stood out there all alone, drugged and    happy, with a book under my arm.’