St. Gregory of Nyassa wrote that the contemplative life
cannot be lived in secular society
but St. Basil claimed it is possible while you work
to pray with your mouth/heart/mind.
At the monastery, Thomas Merton learned:
– how to pray while working as a laborer
– how to be a member of the human race
– that every other human being is no more crazy
and ridiculous than he claimed to be – than we all are.
Merton also learned and contemplated:
– fear is the awareness of one’s own finitude
– the possibility of one’s own nonbeing
– that anxiety is natural for mere mortals.
All these were great revelations to him.
Today extreme theological traditionalists
try to overcome anxiety by ignoring the past two centuries
while extreme theological progressives
subordinate Christianity to worldly philosophies.
The former flounder like fish-out-of-water in contemporary culture.
The latter flounder like fish-out-of-water in the church
and, despite their protests, are not Christian –
you have to draw the orthodox line somewhere.
The years when the religious right ordains
fundamentalist presidents always result in religious disaster –
alienating all young Americans
who hold completely different values
about women/homosexuality/poverty/climate change.
According to the great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel
the problem for both extreme right and left is: no awe.
After all, radical amazement lies in all reality:
not only in amazing things I can see – like the Milky Way –
that filmy white night banner overhead – but also in the fact that:
– I can see
– I can reflect on my ability to see
– I have a self that can reflect on things
– that this self is part and parcel of all that was/is/will be.
All these were great revelations to Heschel
and revelations always light up our footsteps on the path to God.