Week Four: Give Love Away
This is our last week exploring some of the rich themes in Thomas Merton’s classic book, No Man Is an Island.
In this book, Merton is seeking the spiritual life, which, he reminds us in the prologue, is the only real life, the most real life we can imagine or have. The spiritual life is primarily about being or existing as opposed to doing. It’s about our identity as children of God.
We don’t exist for ourselves. We exist (we “are”) for God. We also exist for others, since we love God largely through loving others. This thought leads Merton to quote the seventeenth-century poet John Donne, whence the title of the book comes: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Merton continues this train of thought in Chapter One, which is titled, “Love Can Be Kept Only By Being Given Away.” In this chapter, Merton explores what it means to love. A true love, he notes, wishes the good of the beloved over all other things.
Sometimes it seems easy to love because it gives us pleasure or satisfaction. However, to seek one’s good wholly in the good of another is a different matter. It requires loving the truth, and it demands total unselfishness.
Here are some quotes from this rich and moving chapter on love:
Infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.
The gift of love is the gift of the power and capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.
If I am to love my brother [or sister], I must somehow enter deeply into the mystery of God’s love for him. I must be moved not only by human sympathy but by that divine sympathy which is revealed to us in Jesus and which enriches our own lives by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
The truth I must love in my brother is God himself, living in him.
It occurred to me that today’s post probably should have been the first in our Book of the Month for May since the theme of love is the first to be discussed in Merton’s book . . but maybe it’s also a good way to end.
Let’s see God living in our brothers and sisters this week. Let’s give some love away, shall we?
You can read No Man Is an Island here.