Seven great Merton quotes

About being judged by Christ (in chapter 22 “Life in Christ):

Souls are like wax waiting for a seal. By themselves they have no special identity. Their destiny is to be softened and prepared in this life, by God’s will, to receive, at their death, the seal of their own degree of likeness to God in Christ.

And this is what it means, among other things, to be judged by Christ.

The wax that has melted in God’s will can easily receive the stamp of its identity, the truth of what it was meant to be. But the wax that is hard and dry and brittle and without love will not take the seal: for the hard seal, descending upon it, grinds it to powder.

Therefore if you spend your life trying to escape from the heat of the fire that is meant to soften and prepare you to become your true self, and if you try to keep your substance from melting in the fire–as if your true identity were to be hard wax–the seal will fall upon you at last and crush you. You will not be able to take your own true name and countenance, and you will be destroyed by the event that was meant to be your fulfillment.


About Mary (in chapter 23 “The Woman Clothed with the Sun”):

As a matter of fact, this is precisely her greatest glory: that having nothing of her own, retaining nothing of a “self” that could glory in anything for her own sake, she placed no obstacle to the mercy of God and in no way resisted His love and His will. Hence she received more from Him than any other saint. He was able to accomplish His will perfectly in her, and His liberty was in no way hindered or turned from its purpose by the presence of an egotistical self in Mary. She was and is in the highest sense a person precisely because, being “immaculate,” she was free from every taint of selfishness that might obscure God’s light in her being. She was then a freedom that obeyed Him perfectly and in this obedience found the fulfillment of perfect love.


On humility (in chapter 25 “Humility Against Despair”):

The joy of the mystical love of God springs from a liberation from all self-hood by the annihilation of every trace of pride. Desire not to be exalted but only to be abased, not to be great but only little in your own eyes and the eyes of the world: for the only way to enter into that joy is to dwindle down to a vanishing point and become absorbed in God through the center of your own nothingness. The only way to possess His greatness is to pass through the needle’s eye of your own absolute insufficiency.


On the distinction between self-confidence and faith  (in chapter 25 “Humility Against Despair”):

Self-confidence is a precious natural gift, a sign of health. But it is not the same as faith. Faith is much deeper, and it must be deep enough to subsist when we are weak, when we are sick, when our self-confidence is gone, when our self-respect is gone. I do not mean that faith only functions when we are otherwise in a state of collapse. But true faith must be able to go on even when everything else is taken away from us. Only a humble man is able to accept faith on these terms, so completely without reservation that he is glad of it in its pure state, and welcomes it happily even when nothing else comes with it, and when everything else is taken away.

If we are not humble, we tend to demand that faith must also bring with it good health, peace of mind, good luck, success in business, popularity, world peace, and every other good thing we can imagine. And it is true that God can give us all these good things if He wants to. But they are of no importance compared with faith, which is essential. If we insist on other things as the price of our believing, we tend by that very fact to undermine our own belief. I do not think it would be an act of mercy on God’s part simply to let us get away with this!


On freedom  (in chapter 27 “What is Liberty?”):

The mere ability to choose between good and evil is the lowest limit of freedom, and the only thing that is free about it is the fact that we can still choose good.

To the extent that you are free to choose evil, you are not free. An evil choice destroys freedom.

We can never choose evil as evil: only as an apparent good. But when we decide to do something that to us seems good when it is really not so, we are doing something that we do not really want to do, and therefore we are not really free.

Perfect spiritual freedom is a total inability to make any evil choice. When everything you desire is truly good and every choice not only aspires to that good but attains it, then you are free because you do everything that you want, every act of your will ends in perfect fulfillment.


On the difference between pleasure and joy (in chapter 35 “Renunciation”):

Life in this world is full of pain. But pain, which is the contrary of pleasure, is not necessarily the contrary of happiness or joy. Because spiritual joy flowers in the full expansion of freedom that reaches out without obstacle to its supreme object, fulfilling itself in the perfect activity of disinterested love for which it was created.

Pleasure, which is selfish, suffers from everything that deprives us of some good we want to savor for our own sakes. But unselfish joy suffers from nothing but selfishness. Pleasure is restrained and killed by pain and suffering. Spiritual joy ignores suffering or laughs at it or even exploits it to purify itself of its greatest obstacle, selfishness.


On those who desire to please God (in chapter 38 “Pure Love”):

They are the only ones capable of understanding joy. Joy would kill anyone but these meek. They are the clean of heart. They see God. He does their will, because His will is their own. He does all they want, because He is the One Who desires all their desires. They are the only ones who have everything that they can desire. Their freedom is without limit.


(All from New Seeds of Contemplation: pages 161, 171, 182, 187ff, 199, 259, & 288, respectively.)

This entry was posted in Beatitudes, Faith, Pure of Heart, Suffering, The Meek, Theological Virtues and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Seven great Merton quotes

  1. Pingback: New Seeds of Contemplation | Men's Spiritual Reading List

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s