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thomas merton’s “theory of prayer”

Monk, Interfaith Essayist, Mystic, Poet

Monk, Interfaith Essayist, Mystic, Poet

“A Theory of Prayer” [emphasis mine]

Not in the streets, not in the white streets
Nor in the crowded porticoes
Shall we catch You in our words,
Or lock You in the lenses of our cameras,
You Who escaped the subtle Aristotle
Blinding us by Your evidence
Your too clear evidence, Your everywhere.

Not in the groves, not in the flowering green groves
Where the pretty idols dwell
Shall we find the path to Your pavilion
Tented in clouds and fire:–
We are only following the echo
Of our own lyres.

The wise man’s blood
Freezes in every vein and artery
With the blue poison of his own indelible prudence
And the lover,
Caught in the loop of his own lie
Strangles like a hare:
While the singers are suddenly killed,
Slain by the blades of their own song–
The words that clash like razors in the throat
Severing the tender strings.

For the things that we utter turn and betray us,
Writing the names of our sins on flesh and bone
In lights as hard as diamonds.
And the things we think have sold us to the enemy
Writing the names of our sins on the raw marrow
In lights as sharp as glass.

And our desires,
Uncovering their faces one by one
Are seen to be our murderers!
how did you break your jails, you black assassins?
How did you find us out, you numbered men?

Logic has ruined us,
Theorems have flung their folly at us,
Economy has left us full of swords
And all our blood is gone:
Oh, how like a death, now, is our prayer become!
We lie and wait upon the unknownSavior
Waking and waking in the guarded tomb….

But the armed ocean of peace,
The full-armed ocean is suddenly within us.
Where, where, peace, did you get in?
And the armed ocean of quiet,
The full armed ocean, stands within us:
Where, from what wells, hid in the middle of our essence,
You silences, did you come pouring in?

But all our thoughts lie still, and in this shipwreck
We’ll learn the theory of prayer:
“How many hate their own safe death,
Their cell, their submarine!”

“How many hate Your Cross, Your Key, the only one
To beat that last invincible door
That will surprise us, Peace, with Your invasion
And let us in those soundless fathoms where You dwell.”

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About Justin Jacoby Smith

I’m Justin Jacoby Smith. Some people call me “hoosteen.” I live just outside Washington, DC. I like punk rock & country songs. I’m a data monkey. I Occupy DC, because a better world is possible. I’m a cohost & contributor for Voices of the 99%. I’ve served on the editorial board of the DC Mic Check. I briefly developed digital strategy for The Parley. I write poems. Sometimes I get published. Dig it.

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