Thomas Merton on Isaiah

Day Fifteen of “Through Advent with Isaiah”

Thomas Merton wrote in The Waters of Siloe, pp. 295-296:

The whole harmonious structure of the simple observances, the monastic life we have been discussing, the simple round of prayer and labor and reading, the life of the cloisered cenobite, far from the activities of the world, close to nature and with God in solitude — all this was saturated in Scripture and the liturgy.  . . .

In other words, the Cistercian really worked his way through the liturgy of the fundamental seasons — Advent, Christmas, Septuagesima, Lent, Easter, and post-Pentecostal — in all their fulness. The mighty lessons taught by the Church in every Nocturn and every Mass had a chance to work themselves right into the blood and marrow of the monk’s existence. In Advent he virtually lived and breathed Isaias. The words, which he knew by heart, sang themselves over and over in his mind and soaked themselves into the landscape of the season and its weather and its every aspect, so that when December came around, the very fields and bare woods began to sing the Conditor alme siderum and the great responsories of the night offices.

Waters of Siloe

An aged dust cover on the hardcover printing of “The Waters of Siloe” by Thomas Merton (Garden City, NJ: Garden City Books, 1951). The book was originally published two years earlier by Harcourt, Brace & Company. It is a history of the Trappists (the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) – the monastic order that Merton had joined in 1941 – that he was commanded to write by his superiors at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani.

About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Canadian. Husband. Father. Christian. Recovering Settler. A priest of the Church of England, Diocese in Europe, on the island of Crete in Greece. More about me at
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