Merton on Advent: Christ in our world as it is


Note from CM: This past Sunday was recognized in many Anglican churches as the Feast of Thomas Merton. Today we present an excerpt from something he wrote about the season of Advent.

• • •

Merton on Advent
Christ in our world as it is

St Gregory the Great said that all Christians should continue the prophetic mission of John and point out the presence of Christ in the world. This may mean many different things. John was able to point out Christ at the Jordan, in a moment of fulfillment, which gave meaning to his whole life. But John also had to witness to Christ in prison, in face of death, in failure, when even the meaning of his other glorious moment seemed to have been cancelled out.

So too, we may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will. Our Advent is the celebration of this hope. What is uncertain is not the “coming” of Christ but our own reception of Him, our own response to Him, our own readiness and capacity to “go forth to meet Him.” We must be willing to see Him and acclaim Him, as John did, even at the very moment when our whole life’s work and all its meaning seem to collapse. Indeed, more formidable still, the Church herself may perhaps be called upon some day to point out the Victorious Redeemer and King of Ages amid the collapse of all that has been laboriously built up by the devotion of centuries and cultures that sincerely intended to be Christian.

• Merton, Thomas. Seasons of Celebration (pp. 90-91)

13 thoughts on “Merton on Advent: Christ in our world as it is

  1. +1

    (side comment, it’s slightly annoying how if I tab out of this comment box it doesn’t go to the Name field below but the top of the page)


  2. I’m a natural born Gnostic, Mule. It’s hard for me to find real light, or deep down joy, in anything in this world, and has been all my life, since I became conscious of myself. When I do emote and/or communicate joy to myself and others, there is more than a little pretend involved. In fact, pretend makes it possible. Just the way I am, and by the grace of God, I’m learning to accept myself that way. I didn’t create myself, after all.


  3. In honor of St. Lucy’s Day, this

    A good day to read the prologue of the Holy Gospel of St. John . . . . ‘the coming of the Light’ 🙂


  4. I’ve been called a “hopeful cynic.” It’s a label I kinda like. I’m definitely not a pessimist, but I do drift toward cynicism (and likewise sarcasm) quite a bit. Fortunately I have a tendency to also know that through it all, there’s always Jesus and His light and love.

    Christ have mercy, indeed. And He does have mercy. He does.


  5. I dunno, Robert. I woke up this morning with a lighter heart than I have had in a long, long time. It was really inexplicable. Despite being in the middle of an interminable move that has been dogged at every step with mishaps and incompetence on the part of the realtors, maintenance companies, utilities, and title companies involved, something just felt fresh this morning, like a corner had been turned.

    It is sweet St. Lucy’s Day, my wife’s patron and protector. According to the “real” calendar, it is the day of St. Andrew the First Called.


  6. “We must be willing to see Him and acclaim Him, as John did, even at the very moment when our whole life’s work and all its meaning seem to collapse.” Excellent observation.


  7. This affirmation in face of darkness and negation is a very difficult one. If you’re like me, with a strong tendency to pessimism, and a milder though equally consistent one to misanthropy, there is always, always the temptation to turn the negation experienced in the world into a negation of the world, and of people, oneself included. Christ have mercy.


  8. This jibes well with the Merton quote I just read at Happy Catholic, “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: