Vigils Reading

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Vigils Reading

March 13, 2023

Our Struggle in Search of Truth2

from “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander” by Thomas Merton

Life is, or should be, nothing but a struggle to seek truth: yet what we seek is really the truth that we already possess. Truth is mine in the reality of life as it is given to me to live: yet to take life thoughtlessly, passively as it comes, is to renounce the struggle and purification which are necessary. One cannot simply open his eyes and see. The work of understanding involves not only dialectic, but a long labor of acceptance, obedience, liberty, and love. The temptation of monastic life is to evade this austere responsibility by falling back into passive indifference, thinly veiled resentment disguised as obedience and abandonment. Since in fact one need not positively accept what happens, one can be merely resigned and negative. Others make all the important decisions: but the most important decision always falls to me, and if I am in the habit of never deciding, I will evade it. The root decision to accept my own life and to obey its demands may challenge my understanding of those demands, my honesty in their regard. The worst temptation, and that to which many monks succumb early in their lives, and by which they remain defeated, is simply to give up asking and seeking. To leave everything to the superiors in this life and to God in the next–a hope which may in fact be nothing but a veiled despair, a refusal to live. And it is not Christian to despair of the present, merely putting off hope into the future. There is also a very essential hope that belongs in the present, and is based on the nearness of the hidden God, and of His Spirit, in the present. What future can make sense without this present hope?

Evil and falsity are unavoidable: but one does not bow down to them passively and without response. Resignation is not enough. God demands of us a creative consent, in our deepest and most hidden self, the self we do not experience, though it is always there. This creative consent is the obedience of my whole being to the will of God, here and now. The inner “word” of consent is the coincidence, in the Spirit, the identity of my own obedience and will with the obedience and will of Christ. Such is the depth of our Sonship and of the life of grace.

Gradually, by accepting our place in the world and our tasks as they are, we come to be liberated from the limitations of the world and of a restricted, halfhearted milieu: yet one is content with one’s moment of history and one’s obscure task in it. One must be detached from systems and collective plans, without rancor toward them, but with insight and compassion. To be truly Catholic is not merely to be correct according to an abstractly universal standard of truth, but also and above all to be able to enter into the problems and the joys of all, to understand all, to be all things to all persons. This cannot be done if we do not first completely and honestly accept ourselves, our own problems, our own defeats, with the creative consent and responsibility that unite us to God’s will and thus to the dynamism of history in its very source

2 Merton, Thomas. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. Doubleday & Co, 1966. 166-167.




March 13, 2023
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