* * * *
April 15, 2022 – It’s Holy Week, which means Easter is coming. But Holy Week includes Good Friday, today, which “commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and his subsequent death.” And which can include”self-guided time of reflection.” Which led to some reflection on Thomas Merton. You can type “Merton” in the search engine above right, but today I’d like to focus on two past posts, 2014’s On Thomas Merton, and 2021’s “Zen in the Art of College Football.”
Merton was a Roman Catholic monk. But in later life he found similarities between his orthodox Catholicism and the exotic Eastern religions that were all the rage back in the 1970s. One biographer said Merton was helped in his spiritual quest by both Christian mysticism and his “wide knowledge of Oriental religions.” Merton became fascinated with Zen Buddhism and writer D. T. Suzuki. He studied Taoism, “regular” Buddhism and Hinduism.
But dallying in these exotic Eastern disciplines didn’t weaken his Catholicism, his Christian faith. If anything, they strengthened that faith. As the biographer wrote:
[B]y approaching the spiritual quest at unexpected angles, they opened up new ways of thought and new ways of experiencing that invigorated and released him. . .
Which led to my theory, that studying the Bible was meant to liberate the human spirit, not shackle it. Which goes along with the idea expressed in Luke 24:45, where Jesus opened His disciples’ minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Which brings up “a moment of zen.”
As one Zen Master said, “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.” And if you think that sounds non-Biblical, see Philippians 2:7, where Paul said Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
But why? What example was Jesus trying to set? What point was He trying to make?
This is harder than you might realize. By the time we reach adulthood we are so full of information that we don’t even notice it’s there. We might consider ourselves to be open-minded, but in fact, everything we learn is filtered through many assumptions and then classified to fit into the knowledge we already possess.
That’s all from Empty Your Cup, an Old Zen Saying. Then there’s another old Zen saying, that a child looks at a mountain and sees a mountain, an adult looks at a mountain and sees many things, but that a Zen master looks at a mountain and sees – a mountain. Which seems to mirror what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So maybe becoming like a child again means – among other things – looking at a mountain and seeing … a mountain. And that in turn seems to involve dropping layers of life-long preconceptions, loosening up spiritual “hardened arteries,” and opening up to the majesty of God’s creation and His gift of Jesus. In other words, be open minded, open up to God’s majesty.
Not to mention the majesty of God coming to earth in the form of Jesus, and His living among us for 33 years – just to help us out – then making the ultimate “ultimate sacrifice.”
* * * *
Getting back to Good Friday, in 2016 I posted An Annunciation-Good Friday anomaly. The “anomaly” was that in 2016 the Annunciation fell on the same day as Good Friday, “in which the liturgical color is black.” The wearing of black liturgical color begins at the end of the Maundy Thursday evening service. (In Western churches.) That’s when the altar is stripped and “clergy no longer wear the purple or red that is customary throughout Great Lent.” Instead they don black vestments until Easter Sunday, when – as we know – there is a happy ending.
I may not be able to post anything on Easter Sunday until well into next week. In the meantime you could check other past posts, like Happy Easter – April 2020! I posted that a month after the current COVID pandemic started, and that continues “even to this day.” That post noted that I got two books from the local library, including The Plague, by Albert Camus. (The other was What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills.) Anyway, for a more cheerful note on the reason for the season, see See On Easter Season – AND BEYOND, and Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!”
* * * *
* * * *
The upper image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.
Re: Book of Common Prayer. See page 339, under Holy Eucharist: Rite One:
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people…
Or see The Online Book of Common Prayer.
Re: Prior posts on Thomas Merton. Some of them are missing the images that I put in, which means in the upcoming week after Easter that I’ll have to go back and update them.
Re “Dropping layers of life-long preconceptions.” Another metaphor: Cleaning your “assumption filters” on a regular basis. (See Dirty Air Filter – Image Results.)
The lower image is courtesy of Easter – Wikipedia.
* * * *