A New Spiritual Companion
“Real spring weather–these are the precise days when everything changes. All the trees are fast beginning to be in leaf and the first green freshness of a new summer is all over the hills. Irreplaceable purity of these few days chosen by God as His sign!” Thomas Merton
Merton, Thomas, Dancing in the Water of Life, Harper Collins, SanFrancisco 1977
Thursday was one of those days to which Merton refers. Walking the grounds of the deCordova Sculpture Garden in Lincoln, bathed in sunlight, noticing the small columbine growing from between rocks, the blue of the pond peeking through tall trees, I was present to God’s glory. My friend and I breathed in the Easter season air and delighted in the beauty and mystery of spring in New England. I pray you also were able on Thursday to be outside, to notice small green shoots appearing from the ground, leaves beginning to unfurl on your trees. This is the day the Lord has made, and we can rejoice and be glad in it, by God’s mercy and grace. News of war and political turmoil at home and abroad constantly seeks our attention, brings us to our knees; but may we not miss these hopeful signs from God that the earth is a gift, beauty is here and offered to us as a gift of spring, of new life, to be enjoyed. Otherwise, we could not bear the pain and despair so rampant in our world.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) a Trappist monk and spiritual writer (whom I am getting to know as a spiritual companion) shared in his writings the importance of being present and aware of all aspects of our physical location. He imagines not only our connection to home, to the earth, but also our relationship to the weather! Thomas writes: “Perhaps we have a deep and legitimate need to know in our entire being what the day is like, to see it and feel it, to know how the sky is grey, paler in the south, with patches of blue…..I have a real need to know these things because I myself am part of the weather and part of the climate and part of the place, and a day in which I have not shared truly in all this is no day at all. It is certainly part of my life of prayer.”
In these spring days, and in every day, may God give each of us an awareness of ourselves as God’s beloved children. May we have the courage in that knowing to look out on our world, in all the storms and beauty that wash over us. May we, like Thomas, welcome the weather, see the new growth, breathe in hope, know ourselves and our community to be part of a larger vision–God’s vision–and pray with gratitude accordingly.
As I prepare for sabbatical in September, I am gathering some new spiritual companions, and invite you to join me. Thomas Merton took up photography in his later years to explore the world of heaven on earth. He saw the mystery of God in all things–simple objects, Shaker furniture, tree roots, stones. I hope to use my time away this fall to follow in his footsteps by exploring through photography, how the Word is revealed in images, in silence. For now, it begins with “hanging out” with Thomas through his photographs and his books. And using my iphone to take pictures and practice silence.
The Chapel porch awaits, stones laid long ago to make our house of worship in Concord. Christopher and I welcome the chance to see you for a chat, or for prayer, or simply to sit in silence and observe God’s beauty in this place.
Listen to the stones of the wall,
Be silent, they try
To speak your
World is secretly on fire.
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man
Be still or
Listen to all things burning?
How can he dare
To sit with them when
All their silence
Is on fire?