The Book of Hours by Thomas Merton called me to a deeper sense of myself. Each day of the week, Merton's thoughts, meditations, and prayers pulled me into a journey of love. Merton is considered one of the great spiritual directors of the 20th century. The anguish and joy through his own journey toward the mystery we call God acts as a guidepost for those who wish to find the peace that only God can offer. This little gem of a book enables those who want to find a more penetrating prayer time to find words and images that help in the journey to the "small light that burns within each of us, that light being God."
The editors manipulated a wealth of Merton's poetry, letters, canticles and journal entries to meld into a liturgically poetic book of hours or opus dei for the every day. The reader is presented with a week's worth of prayers and meditations organized in the traditional monastic style. However, instead of the seven hours or calls to prayer in the day, the editors shaped the daily prayer into four notable "hours:" Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Dark. Each part of the day brings the reader a reason to move forward, a reason to be, a reason to love each other more.
Merton's writing is never an easy read. He demands much of his audience. Often a meditation or prayer needs to be reread to glean its potential meaning for the reader, but that is the beauty of reading the mind of a seeker of peace in this world and the next. For those new to Merton, there may be an urge to put the little tome down, but hang in there. With every paragraph, this monk provides another window for inspiration and contemplation. He even encourages creative responses to silence:
Night calls, the door opens;
Darkness envelops the walk.
Forest stars bring me home.