LENTEN READING 5

IN ME GOD TAKES HIS JOY.  Yesterday, more truly spring, and this is a spring dawn today, cold, but with birds singing. First time I have heard the whistling of the towhee this year. And the cardinals up in the woods to the west. The promise grows more and more definite. I look up at the morning star: in all this God takes His joy, and in me also, since I am His creation and His son, His redeemed, and member of His Christ. Sorrow at the fabulous confusion and violence of this world, which does not understand His love—yet I am called not to interpret or condemn this misunderstanding, only to return the love which is the final and ultimate truth of everything, and which seeks all men’s awakening and response. Basically I need to grow in this faith and this realization, not only for myself but for all men. To go out to walk slowly in this wood—this is a more important and significant means to understanding, at the moment, than a lot of analysis and a lot of reporting on the things “of the spirit.”

In a Zen koan someone said that an enlightened man is not one who seeks Buddha, or finds Buddha, but just an ordinary man who has nothing left to do. And yet mere stopping is not to arrive. To stop is to stay a million miles from it, and to do nothing is to miss it by the whole width of the universe. Yet how close it is, how simple it would be to have nothing more to do—if I had only done it. Meanwhile I am more content than I have ever been here with this unripeness, and thus I know that one day it will ripen, and one will see there had been nothing there at all, except an ordinary person with nothing to do in the first place. The evening light. Purple coves and holes of shadow in the breasts of the hills and the white gable of Newton’s house smiling so peacefully amid the trees in the middle of the valley. This is the peace and luminosity William Blake loved. Today after dinner a hawk, circling the novitiate and the church steeple, designed a free flight unutterably more pure than skating or music. How he flung himself down from on high and swooped up to touch lightly on the pinnacle of the steeple and sat there, then fell off to cut lovely curves all around the cedars, then off like an arrow to the south.  — Thomas Merton