Monday, February 20, 2012

...reflection on violence

The delicate action of grace in the soul is profoundly disturbed by all human violence. Passion, when it is inordinate, does violence to the spirit and its most dangerous violence is that in which we seem to find peace. Violence is not completely fatal until it ceases to disturb us.

Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude. (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux). 114

Thought for the Day
The peace produced by grace is a spiritual stability too deep for violence - it is unshakeable, unless we ourselves admit the power of passion into our own sanctuary. Thoughts in Solitude: 114

Every Monday, the Merton Institute sends a reflection for the week: an excerpt from Merton's writings, a thought for the day and a contemplative pause. Something to think about each day. I have long loved and practiced lectio divina (read, pray, meditate, contemplate). These week-long meditations are an extension of this daily practice, along with those from Sacred Space. Links to these are at the bottom of this post.
One thing came immediately to mind when I read this morning's email from the Merton Institute: recent chats with my sisters. An only child, I am blessed to claim several “gift siblings”. A recent conversation with them unlocked one of my “stuck” places. Merton touched on the same subject. I take such repetition as confirmation that this is a lesson I need to learn. Or re-learn.
Last weekend I encountered a man at Trader Joe’s who took offense when he heard me speak. My southern accent carried him to a place of great anger. An anger so profound as to be malevolent. Think "smoking crack". The fear that rose like bile in my throat was as irrational as his contempt. 
Sometimes an assault on the spirit comes in a pretty package. Perhaps this is the most insidious. I thought of both incidents during a conversation with Bill's sister (and mine), Bonnie. She said that she regularly prays for us (all of us) to be delivered from evil. So do I. But this prayer has to go beyond discipline and practice.
I do not think of myself as a violent person. But thanks to the man in the produce section and the pretty, peace-less package, I had a little epiphany. I assent to violence upon my spirit when I give space to the upset of others. And I play a part in deliverance from evil. Until I let go of the memory, peace is impossible. As long as I harbor thoughts, I am party to a violence on my own being. In every moment, I choose. I thought I had learned this lesson. Perhaps I fight the humility of playing the hand I've been dealt. I want to be smart-er, pretty-er. Sometimes I live in that place Andy Stanley calls "The Land of Er", the comparison trap. How many choruses of "Just As I Am" does it take for the truth to sink in? Love is not dependent on my "ers." Any more than peace is dependent on the assent of others. It's a game only if I play. 
During Lent, I am going to return to these reflections in my posts. Thank you for sharing this journey.

Contemplative Pause:  
Throughout this week, pause, take a breath, and listen with your heart. 
How do peace and violence manifest in your life?

After writing this, I read the latest post in Gladsome Lights. Gretchen Joanna opened with "By the Waters of Babylon" fitting:

Psalm 137 

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down, 
yea, we wept, 
when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps
upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive 
required of us a song; 
and they that wasted us
required of us mirth, saying,
 Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

Merton Institute:  
Weekly Reflections (a link to receive these by email can be found below the reflection)

During Lent,a selection from Thomas Merton's writings and a reading from the Psalms is emailed daily. To receive the daily lent reflection please email Elizabeth at

Sacred Space:

1 comment:

Jeannette said...

Hello Celeste, I read this earlier today and shared it with someone and forget to even leave a little hello to say I had been here and that I did hear the tree falling in the forest....