Thomas Merton On Silence and Chant

by Thomas Brett

(Photo by Thomas Merton)

In his classic autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), Trappist Monk Thomas Merton (1915-1967) makes fleeting but repeated references to silence, sound and music.  Here are two of them.

On Recalling Visiting A Quaker Meeting House In Flushing, Queens As A Boy:

“I liked the silence.  It was peaceful.  In it, my shyness began to die down, and I ceased to look about and criticize the people, and entered, somewhat superficially, into my own soul, and some nebulous good resolutions began to take shape there” (127).

On Singing Gregorian Chant As A Young Man:

“It is an austere warmth, the warmth of Gregorian chant.  It is deep beyond ordinary emotion, and that is one reason why you never get tired of it.  It never wears you out by making a lot of cheap demands on your sensibilities.  Instead of drawing you out into the open field of feelings…it draws you within…” (417).