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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hunger Here is a paragraph from Douglas Burton-Christie's introduction to a 2005 issue of Spiritus on hunger; it's been on my mind. Does this resonate with you? In a talk Thomas Merton gave to the community at Redwoods Monastery toward the end of his life, he struggled to articulate his own sense of the hunger, and the deep fulfillment, that lay at the heart of prayer. He was enough of an Augustinian to acknowledge the significance of hunger in prayer (God's very presence kindling a desire for relationship in the heart of the seeker). Yet, he wanted to dispel the notion that prayer is only hunger, that we are always only seeking, never satisfied, and to question the habits of prayer and ways of understanding God that leave us perpetually starved. This is what happens, Merton argued, when one applies a technological model of horizontal progress to the life of prayer, in which one begins at a certain point and moves to another and then another, achieving incremental gains but always left standing before an endlessly receding horizon. "That," he claimed, "is not the way to build a life of prayer. In prayer we discover what we already have. You start from where you are and you deepen what you already have, and you realize you are already there. We already have everything but we don't know it and don't experience it. Everything has been given to us in Christ. All we need is to experience what we already possess."

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