LENTEN READING 3

SIMPLICITY AND SILENCE.  Beauty of the sunlight falling on a tall vase of red and white carnations and green leaves on the altar in the novitiate chapel. The light and shade of the red, especially the darkness in the fresh crinkled flower and the light warm red around the darkness, the same color as blood but not “red as blood,” utterly unlike blood. Red as a carnation. This flower, this light, this moment, this silence = Dominus est, eternity! Best because the flower is itself and the light is itself and the silence is itself and I am myself—all, perhaps, an illusion, but no matter, for illusion is nevertheless the shadow of reality and reality is the grace that underlies these lights, these colors, and this silence. The “simplicity” that would have kept those flowers off the altar is, to my mind, less simple than the simplicity that enjoys them there, but does not need them to be there.

What more do I seek than this silence, this simplicity, this “living together with wisdom?” For me there is nothing else. Last night, before going to bed, realized momentarily what solitude really means: when the ropes are cast off and the skiff is no longer tied to land, but heads out to sea without ties, without restraints! Not the sea of passion, on the contrary, the sea of purity and love that is without care, that loves God alone immediately and directly in Himself as the All (and the seeming Nothing that is all). The unutterable confusion of those who think that God is a mental object and that to love “God alone” is to exclude all other objects to concentrate on this one! Fatal. Yet that is why so many misunderstand the meaning of contemplation and solitude, and condemn it. But I see too that I no longer have the slightest need to argue with them. I have nothing to justify and nothing to defend: I need only defend this vast simple emptiness from my own self, and the rest is clear. (Through the cold and darkness I hear the Angelus ringing at the monastery.) The beautiful jeweled shining of honey in the lamplight. Festival!  -- Thomas Merton