Ascension Day Reflection


From the Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 1: ‘Run to the Mountain’ 1939-1941


AND TODAY IS ASCENSION DAY, and in a week the Paraclete comes down like fires to be among us, bringing the gift of tongues. Now all Christ’s lessons have been taught in His sermons and His miracles, His crucifixion and Resurrection. Now he ascends to heaven, and there is nothing left but for us to praise His glory, and meditate upon his teaching, and go about and proclaim God. I think poets owe a special adoration to the third person of the Holy Trinity, for by these tongues of fire all people are made poets and philosophers, and that is the way Christ would have it on earth. Yet the tongues of fire came down at the end of it all, and before that came the scourging and the thorns and Golgotha, so we must ever be after scourging pride. But here is the Holy Spirit again, that has come down to tell us not only how to proclaim God, but even before that, to help us always to remember and understand the lessons He taught when He was on earth.

This is really a momentous feast for the fires that came down are always among us, and we should pray now always to turn where those fires are, for although they are everywhere there is a kind of turning away from them so complete that it seems being inside out in a shell to close out the fires and get only what pride feeds on. So we must pray to be led where the Holy Spirit is although He is right with us and in and out of us and all through us we have to go on journeys to find Him. And it is bitter journeys without God’s grace to walk peacefully about in the world loving created things because God created them but not loving them beyond their station in the order of being because they are imperfect yet make captives. When you love them for themselves then you get only bitterness.

So it is good to beg for grace to go in the world the way the air does and the light loving the whole world and not stopping at any part of it and being in and out of all of it and not holding jealously to anything of it, but being brothers and sisters among all the other created things like you loving others as yourself, which you cannot possibly do if you love yourself the way you should love God.


–  May 18, 1939