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Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams takes a closer look at the works of writer Thomas Merton
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“Thomas Merton’s life, especially once he had become a monk, was to a great extent one of dialogue with people who were either distant or dead.” So says Archbishop Rowan Williams on the publication of this collection of essays on Thomas Merton.
In this book, Rowan Williams looks closely at two such relationships in Merton’s life—first with the Orthodox theologian, Paul Evdokimov, and then with Karl Barth, the Reformed theologian who, by a surprising providence, died on the same day as Merton. Rowan also takes note of the impact on Merton’s thought of books by Hannah Arendt, Dostoevsky, Vladimir Lossky, Olivier Clément, Bonhoeffer, Boris Pasternak, and St. John of the Cross.
In these essays Rowan shows us how Merton regarded Christian life without a contemplative dimension as incomplete insisting that the contemplative life is not only for those living in monasteries but for anyone who seeks an interior monasticism. Contemplative prayer, he reveals, is the vocation of every believer.
One of many points of agreement for Merton and Rowan is their Orwell-like awareness of the abuse of language; such as where war is described and justified in words that mask its actual purpose, cloaking its actual cost in human agony. The problem extends to religious words as well - ways of speaking about God that hide rather than reveal.
There is much in common between these two men who never met face to face. But what stands out in the dialogue is their conviction of God as the ground of their being and their commitment to the contemplative journey away from the false self, or what Thomas Merton refers to as the 'delusory self image', and toward the real self.
A Silent Action by Rowan Williams was published by SPCK in April 2013 and is our 6014th best seller. The ISBN for A Silent Action is 9780281070565.
Thomas Merton was an American Trappist monk, a prolific writer and a profoundly deep thinker. He was also a poet, a social activist and a student of comparative religion. Most of his writings were on issues of spirituality. Rowan Williams says that he has been engaging with Merton since he first discovered him as a teenager, and clearly Merton's thought has been influential in Williams's life and ministry. In this little volume Williams explores some of the key intellectual and spiritual issues that emerge in Merton's writings. Merton himself engaged in dialogue with a wide range of thinking by people who were distant to him both geographically, historically and from other faith traditions. Familiar names in this dialogue are those of Kark Barth, Deitrich Bonhoeffer and Gerard Manley Hopkins plus many others, some of whom were unfamiliar to the reviewer. I found the book hard going but rewarding. Rowan Williams is as much a deep thinker as Merton was and, as always, is worth wrestling with.
"In this insightful and challenging collection of essays Rowan Williams turns the powerful searchlight of his remarkable intellect on one of the leading Christian writers of the twentieth century uncovering Merton’s seemingly endless insight into the human condition and our relationship with God and with one another. This little volume is a clarion call to readers to rediscover the breathtaking wisdom of Thomas Merton and his timely relevance for our own century." - Paul M. Pearson - Director and Archivist, Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University.
"It is a pity Thomas Merton and Rowan Williams never met. Their age difference was the obstacle. What a friendship it would have been. One sees the reality of such a friendship in this slim volume that brings together Rowan Williams' explorations of Merton's writings. Merton would have been delighted to have found himself so carefully and perceptively read." - Jim Forest, Author of “Living With Wisdom: A Biography of Thomas Merton”
"What a delight to have gathered here all the various extant essays on Thomas Merton by Archbishop Rowan Williams, most of which appeared in English journals. Students of Merton will find insightful commentaries on the writings of the youthful as well as the m ore mature American Cistercian author, tracing the influences of Blake, Hopkins and Newman, as well as the Russian Orthodox mystics." - Br. Patrick Hart, a monk of Gethsemani Abbey.
|Author / Artist||Rowan Williams|
|Publisher||SPCK (April 2013)|
|Number of Pages||112|
|Page last updated||9th March 2018|