I’m reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain for the first time, and enjoying it so far immensely. I imagine I’ll have a lot to say about it in the future, but for now, I just wanted to share this wonderful passage that stood to me, from early in the book. Merton here is describing the French town he and his father settled in during the late 1920s, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val:
Here, in this amazing, ancient town, the very pattern of the place, of the houses and streets and of nature itself, the circling hills, the cliffs and trees, all focused my attention upon the one, important central fact of the church and what it contained. Here, everywhere I went, I was forced, by the dispostition of everything around me, to be always at least virtually conscious of the church. Every street pointed more or less inward to the center of the town, to the church. Every view of the town, from the exterior hills, centered upon the long grey building with it high spire.
The church had been fitted into the landscape in such a way as to become the keystone of it intelligibility. Its presence imparted a special form, a particular significance to everything else that the eye beheld, to the hills, the forests, the fields, the white cliff of the Rocher d’Anglars and to the red bastion of the Roc Rogue, to the winding river, and the green valley of the Bonnette, the town and the bridge, and even to the white stucco villas of the modern bourgeois that dotted the fields and orchards outside the precinct of the vanished ramparts: and the significance that was thus imparted was a supernatural one.
The whole landscape, unified by the church and its heavenward spire, seemed to say: this is the meaning of all created things: we have been made for no other purpose than that men may use us in raising themselves to God, or in proclaiming the glory of God. We have been fashioned, in all our perfection, each according to his own nature, and all our natures ordered and harmonized together, that man’s reason and his love might fit in this one last element, this God-given key to the meaning of the whole
Oh, what a thing it is, to live in a place that is so constructed that you are forced, in spite of yourself, to be at least a virtual contemplative! Where all day long your eyes must turn, again and again, to the House that hides the Sacramental Christ!
What a thing indeed! May we all be blessed to dwell in such a coherent landscape, of both the world and the mind.