Monday, December 03, 2007

Why we pray...

For once, Merton is not writing here about prayer, but though he doesn't mention it straight out, what he wrote here surely formed the background to much of the necessity of his praying:

Unfortunately, the true Christian concept of love has sometimes been discredited by those who have sentimentalized it, or formalized it in one way or another. A sincere subjective disposition to love everyone does not dispense from energetic and sacrificial social action to restore violated rights to the oppressed, to create work for the workless, so that the hungry may eat and that everyone may have a chance to earn a decent wage. It has unfortunately been all too easy in the past for the man who is well fed to entertain the most laudable sentiments of love for his neighbor, while ignoring the fact that his brother is struggling to solve insoluble and tragic problems.

Mere almsgiving is no longer adequate, especially if it is only a gesture which seems to dispense from all further and more efficacious social action. This is not always, of course, a question of genuine insincerity: but the "good works" that measured up to the needs of small medieval communities can no longer serve in the fantastic and worldwide crisis that is sweeping all mankind today, when the population of the world is counted in billions, which double in forty, twenty, and then fifteen years. In such a case, the dimensions of Christian love must be expanded and universalized on the same scale as the human problem that is to be met. The individual gesture, however commendable, will no longer suffice.

The key problem of humanism is the problem of that authentic love which united man to man not simply in a symbiotic and semiconscious relationship but as person to person in the authentic freedom of a mutual gift.

Thomas Merton. "Christian Humanism" in Love and Living. Naomi
Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus &
Giroux, 1979: pp. 124, 130.

I make no apology for repeating here a passage I quoted the other day in another post, from an essay by Br. Ramon SSF in Praying the Jesus Prayer Together :

The cosmic nature of the [Jesus] Prayer means that the believer lives as a human being in solidarity with all other human beings, and with the animal creation, together with the whole created order (the cosmos). All this is drawn into and affected by the Prayer. One believer's prayers send out vibrations and reverberations that increase the power of the divine Love in the cosmos.

The Christian is well aware of the fact that the world is also evil. There is a falseness and alienation that has distracted and infected the world, and men and women of prayer, by the power of the Name of Jesus, stand against the comic darkness, and enter into conflict with the dark powers... [Ephesians 6] The power of the Jesus Prayer is armour against the wiles of the devil, taking heed of the apostle's word, "Pray at all times in the Spirit..."

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