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Mon 20 Oct 2014 @ 15:18

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Silent Action

Engagements with Thomas Merton

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Publisher: Fons Vitae,US
ISBN-13: 9781891785788
Published: 30/09/2011
Product description
Thomas Merton’s life, especially once he had become a monk, was to a great extent one of dialogue with people who were either distant or dead (many saints and writers of past centuries). Rowan Williams looks closely at two such relationships in Merton’s life—first with the Orthodox theologian, Paul Evdokimov, and then with Karl Barth, the Reformed theologian who, by a surprising providence, died on the same day as Merton. Rowan also takes note of the impact on Merton’s thought of books by Hannah Arendt, Dostoevsky, Vladimir Lossky, Olivier Clément, Bonhoeffer, Boris Pasternak, and St. John of the Cross.

Not the least of the many meeting points for Merton and Rowan is their Orwell-like awareness of the abuse of language, so easily used for magical (that is to say, manipulative) ends. Thus war is described and justified in words that mask its actual purposes, de- humanize the adversary, and cloak its actual cost in human agony. The problem extends to religious words as well—ways of speaking about God that flatten rather than unveil.

We also see in these several essays that Rowan, no less than Merton, regards Christian life without a contemplative dimension as incomplete and also recognizes that the contemplative life is accessible not only to those living in monasteries but to anyone who seeks an ‘interiorized’ monasticism, for ‘contemplative prayer is the vocation of every believer.’

For the Orthodox Christian, it is often noted, there are ‘at least’ seven sacraments. On the long list that can be attached to the seven, surely one is the mystery of friendship: an enduring relationship held together not only by affinity, shared questions and common interests, but the awareness that each can help the other in a quest- a partnership in pilgrimage. As the bond between Rowan Williams and Thomas Merton bears witness, not all friendships depend on being of the same generation or even being simultaneously alive.
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