Thomas Merton on Spirituality

“The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.”

But if so, then spirituality must be an engagement with ordinary life, not a withdrawal from it. Merton himself said, “Jesus lived the ordinary life of the men of His time, in order to sanctify the ordinary lives of men of all time.”

And to think that the most spiritual human of them all spent the greater part of his life being a carpenter rather than a preacher! Hands-on engagement with life rather than abstract contemplation of it – that is spirituality.

“The spiritual life is not, therefore, a life entirely uprooted from man’s human condition and transplanted into the realm of the angels … If we are to become spiritual, we must remain men.”

Spirituality, then, is a form of humanism; an acceptance of one’s humanity, not a denial thereof. After all, we are human beings, not angels. This does not mean that we tolerate the sins done in and through the body; it means that this weak human flesh can be an instrument of righteousness – if we present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).