MertonSmile“I will not easily forget the thin sickle of old moon rising this morning just before dawn, when I went down to say Mass. Cold sky, hard brightness of starts through the pines, snow and frost, exaltation on the dark brightness of morning. In the cold of Advent, I recapture the lostness and wonder of the first days when I came here twenty-three years ago, abandoned to God, with everything left behind. I have not felt this for a long time here. Breaking off and living (to a great extent in the woods) brings me face to face with the loneliness and poverty of the cold hills and the Kentucky winter – incomparable. And the reality of my own life.”  {Thomas Merton, December 1, 1964, V.172}

This paragraph from his Journals is some of Merton’s best writing, I think.  I can feel the cold, taste the metallic tang of the early morning darkness as he walks through the woods to the monastery.  What captivates me is being able to insert myself into this frame.  Just a few miles away, I lay sleeping in my crib, 10 months old, swaddled against the cold in the Quonset hut that served as my parents married student housing at Western Kentucky University.  I believe Merton’s walk to the monastery, his prayers and the Mass he celebrated that morning are part of the reason I am who I am today. We are all wrapped up in the early morning prayers of the world.

If Mary had been filled with reason

There would have been no room for the baby  – Madeline L’Engle

Mary herself in these days would have been abandoned to God, with everything left behind, making their rugged way to Bethlehem. Mary and we face the poverty and the loneliness of the cold hills, depending on God alone for sustenance, comfort and wonder.

Can we, in this Advent season, leave reason behind us in order to be filled with the new life God has conceived in each of us?