Sunday, July 1

The padlock always makes a great noise. The door swings back on swearing hinges, and the night wind, hot and gusty, comes swirling down out of the loft with a smell of ancient rafters and old, hidden, dusty things. You have to watch the third step or your feet go through the boards. From here on the building has no substance left, but you have to mind your head and bow beneath the beams on which you can see the marks of axes with which our French Fathers hewed them out a hundred years ago.

And now the hollowness that rings under my feet measures some sixty feet to the floor of the church. I am over the transept crossing. If I climb around the corner of the dome, I can find a hole once opened by the photographers and peer down into the abyss and flash the light far down upon my stall in choir.

I climb the trembling, twisted stair into the belfry. The darkness stirs with a flurry of wings high above me in the gloomy engineering that holds the steeple together. Nearer at hand the old clock ticks in the tower. I flash the light into the mystery that keeps it going and gaze upon the ancient bells . . . Now my whole being breathes the wind that blows through the belfy and my hand is on the door through which I see the heavens. The door swings out upon a vast sea of darkness and of prayer . . . The roof glistens under my feet, this long metal roof facing the forest and the hills, where I stand higher than the treetops and walk upon shining air.

Mists of damp heat rise up out of the field around the sleeping abbey. The whole valley is flooded with moonlight, and I can count the southern hills beyond the water tank and almost number the trees of the forest to the north. Now the huge chorus of living beings rises up out of the world beneath my feet: life singing in the watercourses, throbbing in the creeks and the fields and the trees, choirs of millions and millions of jumping and flying and creeping things. And far above me the cool sky opens upon the frozen distance of the stars.

-- Thomas Merton, journal entry 4 July 1952, from Entering the Silence