In his moving post here today at Dating God, Franciscan Brother Dan quoted this extract below from a little known essay by Thomas Merton entitled
“Advent: Hope or Delusion?"
The writing on Merton's note above is
"Time is not given to us to keep a faith we once had but to acquire a faith we need now."
Image from Flickr duckmarx here
"The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance.
Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possible exist.
We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities.
Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen..."
My prayers go out to Brother Dan and his family at this sad time but it is heartening to see that his words carry so much hope and encouragement and they are a great companion to have along the Advent journey.
I left a comment on Brother Dan's combox asking him where I could find the complete text of Merton's essay and since posting I have found some more from the web, but I still don't know if this is the complete essay.
I know that Merton entered monastic life during the season of Advent in the dark days of December and he wrote so movingly about its rich symbolism imbued with deep meaning.
Reading it certainly does help to reinforce my faith in the light of the birth of Christ that gradually overtakes the darkness and sustains me in the hope that overcomes wintry despair and distractions. It is also grounded in the tragic realities of everyday life that we live in.
The passage below is the extra that I found to carry on from Brother Dan's extract:
"It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendency to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy.
Advent should remind us that the “King Who is to Come” is more than a charming infant smiling (or if you prefer a dolorous spirituality, weeping) in the straw.
There is certainly nothing wrong with the traditional family jours of Christmas, nor need we be ashamed to find ourselves still able to anticipate them without too much ambivalence. After all, that in itself is no mean feat.
But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being.
In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies.
Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent…
In our time, what is lacking is not so much the courage to ask this question as the courage to expect an answer…
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 a celebration of this hope."