BOOK OF THE MONTH: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

Week Four: Give Love Away
No Man Is an Island

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The truth I must love in my brother is God himself, living in him.

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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?

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You can read No Man Is an Island here.

Reflection:

Merton week 4

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

Today, in honor of Monday’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we begin with three posts (well, one is a podcast) that help us explore his legacy of love, justice, and nonviolence. Don’t miss the other posts in today’s round-up, too!

As always, I’d love for you to send me your suggestions (find me on Twitter @LisaKDeam) by Thursday at noon each week.

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Finding the Strength to Love from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. via Lesa Engelthaler (choosing love in the new year and every year)

Daily Lectio Divina: Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love via Laura Cavanaugh (a podcast episode for meditating on some of Rev. King’s words)

Hearts & Minds Bookstore BEST BOOKS OF 2017 – PART THREE via Byron Borger (noteworthy books on race, racism, multi-ethnic ministry, cross-cultural concerns, and racial justice)

Charitable Living via Elizabeth Bruenig (what does St. Augustine tell us about a distinctly Christian economic ethic and the practice of charity?)

David Byrne Launches the “Reasons to Be Cheerful” Web Site: A Compendium of News Meant to Remind Us That the World Isn’t Actually Falling Apart via Open Culture (I just kind of need a little more cheerfulness right now; same with you?)

It’s Not Talent That Gets Books Written via Ann Kroeker (to be filed in the “don’t give up” section of your brain)

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES: CONTEMPLATIVE RESPONSES TO CHARLOTTESVILLE

Hello friends – for today’s Friday Favorites, I wanted to feature a variety of contemplative responses to Charlottesville. So many writers and bloggers wrote thoughtful posts and prayers about this difficult time in our country and our lives.

Knowing that the community here at The Contemplative Writer (myself included!) stands for love and denounces fear, racism, oppression, and white supremacy, I thought that you would want to see these responses. Some are prayerful, others a call for action. Both are needed.

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A Prayer for Resilience in the Face of White Supremacy via Ruthie Johnson

How to Pray Against Racial Hostility via April Yamasaki

Why I Fail to Understand and Weeping Prayer – A #Compline for Weary, Broken Souls Longing for #Peace via Marvia Davidson

Charlottesville via Carl McColman

Our Work Just Got Harder and austinchanning.com/library/ (book suggestions) via Austin Channing

Calling All Gardeners: A Beginning via Mallory Redmond

Facing Our Legacy of Lynching via D. L. Mayfield

For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies via Courtney Ariel

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What contemplative, prayerful, or call-to-action responses have touched you this week?

 

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE ILLUMINED HEART

Week One: Tough Questions

Illumined Heart coverIn The Illumined Heat: Capture the Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christians, Frederica Mathewes-Green shares spiritual practices and wisdom from the ancient Church. I first read this book several years ago, and I thought it was time to revisit it and share some of my favorite parts with you.

As she discusses the early Christians, Mathewes-Green gives us a peek into the life of a fictional fifth-century couple, Anna and Theodore. This is one of my favorite pats of the book, especially when Anna struggles to show love and grace to her mother-in-law.

Mathewes-Green begins with a statement of what we know (intellectually) to be true: in God is life.

Here is communion. In God’s presence we discover ourselves able to love one another, to be vessels of heroic love, even toward our enemies, even unto death. We find all creation in harmony around us, as responsive and fruitful as the Garden was to Adam and Eve. The peace that passes understanding informs our every thought.

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If we know that God’s presence is life and love, why don’t we look like we know it? Mathewes-Green asks a whole series of tough questions I find it really good (and uncomfortable) to consider:

Why are we modern Christians so indistinguishable from the world?

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How come Christians who lived in times of bloody persecution were so heroic, while we who live in safety are fretful and pudgy?

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How could the earlier saints “pray constantly,” while our minds dawdle over trivialities?

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How could the martyrs forgive their torturers, but my friend’s success makes me pouty?

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In the rest of the book, Mathewes-Green considers how the spiritual practices of ancient Christians might help us as we struggle with our faith. For this week, I invite you to wrestle with the tough questions she asks in the first chapter. What might you answer to some of these questions?

Read more.

For Reflection:

Mathewes-Green week 1 corrected

CONTEMPLATIVE PROFILE: CATHERINE OF SIENA ON CONTEMPLATION AND ACTION

This month we’ve been looking at the letters of the 14th-century mystic and reformer Catherine of Siena. In a letter to a Dominican laywoman, Catherine writes a wonderful passage on the melding of contemplation and action. She doesn’t mince words when describing how Christians are to behave. Loving our neighbor, Catherine says, is the only proper response to God’s love for us:

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You know that every virtue receives life from love, and love is gained in love, that is, by raising the eye of our intellect to consider how much we are loved by God . . . Loving God we embrace virtue out of love, and we despise vice out of hatred.

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So you see that it is in God that we conceive virtues and in our neighbors that we bring them to birth. You know indeed that you give birth to the child charity that is in your soul in order to answer your neighbor’s need; and that you give birth to patience when your neighbor does you harm. You offer prayer for all your neighbors, and particularly for the one who has wronged you. This is the way we ought to behave . . .

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Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was a member of the Dominican Order of Penance. She was a mystic, a reformer, and an adviser to popes. Her written work includes over 300 letters and a contemplative treatise, The Dialogue. Read more here.

Read Catherine’s letters here.