Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Faith according to Merton

It's a strange day when I drag out a quote from Thomas Merton:

Faith is primarily an intellectual assent. But if it were only that and nothing more, if it were only the “argument of what does not appear,” it would not be complete. It has to be something more than an assent of the mind. It is also a grasp, a contact, a communion of wills, “the substance of things hoped for.” By faith one not only assents to propositions revealed by God, one not only attains to truth in a way that intelligence and reason alone cannot do, but one assents to God Himself. One receives God. One says “yes” not merely to a statement about God, but to the Invisible, Infinite God Himself. One fully accepts the statement not only for its own content, but for the sake of Him Who made it.

Too often our notion of faith is falsified by our emphasis on the statements about God which faith believes, and by our forgetfulness of the fact that faith is a communion with God’s own light and truth. Actually, the statements, the propositions which faith accepts on the divine authority, are simply media through which one passes in order to reach the divine Truth. Faith terminates not in a statement, not in a formula of words, but in God.

If instead of resting in God by faith, we rest simply in the proposition or the formula, it is small wonder that faith does not lead to contemplation. On the contrary, it leads to anxious hair-splitting arguments, to controversy, to perplexity and ultimately to hatred and division.

The important of the formulas is not that they are ends in themselves, but that they are means through which God communicates His truth to us….They must not falsify God’s truth…But we must not be so obsessed with verbal correctness that we never go beyond the words to the ineffable reality which they attempt to convey.

Faith is not just conformity, it is life…Until a man yields himself to God in the consent of total belief, he must inevitably remain a stranger to himself, an exile from himself, because he is excluded from the most meaningful depths of his own being: those which remain obscure and unknown because they are too simple and too deep to be attained by reason. (New Seeds of Contemplation, 1961)

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