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Waters Of Siloe (Harvest/HBJ Book) Paperback – October 9, 1979
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In this early Merton book we encounter his idealistic understanding of the Cistercian monastic order. He does a wonderful job of following the development of the order through the challenges of the centuries including its journey through ascetic legalism and wars and persecutions.
I gained a great deal of understanding through reading this work and recommend it for all who admire Merton and the contributions he made to the spirituality of our times.
He suggests, "That is what is called the contemplative life: a life that is devoted before all else to the knowledge and love of God and to the love of other men in Him and for His sake." (Pg. 18) Later, he adds, "Contemplation and action necessarily have their part in every religious Rule. The two must always go together, because Christian perfection is nothing else but ... perfect love of God and of men." (Pg. 31)
He states, "The monk is a man who has given up everything in order to possess everything." (Pg. 39) He clarifies, however, "Let us assume that you could fill a few monasteries with men quite capable of sleeping on bare boards for five hours a night, fasting until evening every day in Lent on top of a long workday... The question is, would this regime be the best means for forming CONTEMPLATIVES? The aim of the Cistercian life is something more than mere athletic endurance." (Pg. 133)
He concludes, "For the monk has only one thing... that he can depend on: and that is not a thing, it is God. That is the key to the Cistercian life, the secret of its austerity and its penances. The monk becomes poor... But the only reason why he makes himself poor ... is in order to be immensely rich." (Pg. 351)
Not a dry "history" book, Merton's historical meditations will be of great interest to students of Merton, or those interested in learning more about the Trappist order. (They are called "Trappists" after the "La Trappe" abbey in France, and the order "Cistercians" after the 'cistels' or reeds in the marshy woodland where the order was founded, by the way; pg. 45 and 72-73.)