"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, January 30, 2015

Faith Filled Friday: “After the Night Office” by Thomas Merton

January 31st 2015, tomorrow, marks the one hundredth anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birth.  I have not read much of Merton, and his much acclaimed autobiography The Seven Story Mountain has been on my to read list for a while.  I was surprised to read in his Wikipedia entry that he had published “more than 70 books.”  Given he lived to only 53, that’s impressive.  A Catholic convert, a mystic, a proponent for interfaith discourse, an advocate for social justice, poet, writer, and of course Trappist Monk, he led an interesting life to say the least.  In surveying some of his poetry, I particularly thought highly of this one.  Let this be in commemoration of tomorrow.

After the Night Office – Gethsemani Abbey
By Thomas Merton

It is not yet the grey and frosty time
When barns ride out of the night like ships:
We do not see the Brothers, bearing lanterns,
Sink in the quiet mist,
As various as the spirits who, with lamps, are sent
To search our souls’ Jerusalems
Until our houses are at rest
And minds enfold the Word, our Guest.

Praises and canticles anticipate
Each day the singing bells that wake the sun,
But now our psalmody is done,
Our hasting souls outstrip the day:
Now, before dawn, they have their noon.
The Truth that transubstantiates the body’s night
Has made our minds His temple-tent:
Open the secret eye of faith
And drink these deeps of invisible light.

The weak walls
Of the world fall
And heaven, in floods, comes pouring in:
Sink from your shallows, soul, into eternity,
And slake your wonder at their deep lake spring.
We touch the rays we cannot see,
We feel the light that seems to sing.

Go back to bed, red sun, you are too late,
And hide behind Mount Olivet—
For like the flying moon, held prisoner,
Within the branches of the juniper,
So in the cages of consciousness
The Dove of God is prisoner yet:
Unruly sun, go back to bed.

But now the lances of the morning
Fire all their gold against the steeple and the water-tower.
Returning to the windows of our deep abode of peace,
Emerging at our conscious doors
We find our souls all soaked in grace, like Gideon’s fleece.

Without too much analysis let me highlight that he captures that moment after evening prayer, but it’s what the prayer has done that is the focus of the poem.  It has opened his mind (“The Truth that transubstantiates the body’s night/Has made our minds His temple-tent”) so that “The weak walls/Of the world fall/And heaven, in floods, comes pouring in.”  Every stanza has a reference to mind or consciousness either to set up that flood from heaven or to describe the effect, especially the “Dove of God” that becomes trapped in the conscious.  That is a really engaging poem. 


  1. Manny, as you probably know, unless I know a little about some of the stuff that you write, I usually let it go cause on occasions, you are serious but after having visited,


    many from there would want us to think that it is not a blessing for Catholics and even Christians to read a lot of what Merton has written... well after having read a lot of what has been said about him there.. long story short after you having invited us from there to read his poem here... I feel that you won't mind me commenting on what struck me on this poem, which is the lines "Go back to bed, red sun, you are too late and then; The Dove of God is prisoner yet:"

    My gut feeling tells me that with the above words, he was telling GOD that his life was far from perfect and he was asking for forgiveness... well after having read people saying stuff like he wrote... (p. 54). Things progressed and Merton writes of a picnic: "We ate ... and drank our wine and read poems and talked of ourselves and most made love and love and love for five hours.... in the end we were getting rather sexy.... and ... Shortly after this episode, Merton wrote, "We got ourselves quite aroused sexually ... we are not safe with each other, and I am disturbed about our meeting out here alone" (p.70)... Describing a later meeting​ in privacy​, Merton writes, "we fell on each other in desperation and love​, kissing each other over and over, swept with love and loss" (p. 89).

    sinner vic says that this guy can't be all that bad cause like me, me and me, Merton goes on to say that all his life he's been fascinated by himself"...lol

    Manny, I know very little of this man and still I could write on and on simply about the little that I've read this day and I will even agree with someone who said in so many words that fluffy and contradictory language certainly must damage our Catholic Church but then again,,, God does work in mysterious ways and through time, I'm sure that it's Facile for His Angels to help me and others to see what is truly His Will.

    I'll close by saying that I've started reading "Sword and Serpent" written by Doctor Taylor Marshall and I got stuck on chapter 10... you wouldn't believe what happened to make me stop reading.... Really you wouldn't...lol

    Anyway, although I also know very little about Fr. Robert Barron, I usually pay attention to what he says and longer story shorter, like I said above, you'll probably be posting on this again.

    What possibly could have spiritually influenced this post of yours in reality?


    God only knows for sure

    God Bless you and yours

    To dismiss Merton out of hand because of this admittedly inappropriate relationship strikes me as disproportionate.


    1. You're fascinated by yourself...lol. Well, you've got a right to be. ;) Thanks for stopping by and commenting.