Lenten Reflections: Ch. 7 of Thoughts in Solitude

13 February 2008

In this chapter, I find Merton a bit impenetrable.  While I like his suggestion that the heart of asceticism is hope, he loses me for some of this chapter.

The ascetic, says Merton, does not want things as they are, but how they might be.  So, the ascetic does not indulge in worldly things in the hope they could be purified or made better, either through ascetic discipline or in the world to come.

This is an interesting take on asceticism, the spiritual discipline of abstention and fasting (not limited to food) that most monks try to devote their lives to.  To some extent this is quite helpful for understanding asceticism, since it makes explicit the often implicit goal of asceticism.  Many find it hard to understand the point of asceticism precisely because the goal is unclear.

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