In terms of style, it is quite a different book - the first was done as a narrative, whilst this is more a journal and series of reflections about his life. I must admit that the narrative style of "Mountain" appealed to me far more, and frankly the drama of Merton's search for Christ and his yearning to enter the monastery is more exciting than figuring out that he was really meant to be a Cistercian rather than a Carthusian. (I guess it was a little educational for me though, as I didn't really know anything about both Cistercians and Carthusians before reading this book).
Having said that, there are many worthwhile reflections and points to ponder in "Jonas". Here are my favourites:
- On God's love. If He can be said to thirst it is because He thirsts to do us good, to share His infinite Life with us. But we prevent Him by our selfishness from doing so. Detatchment will procure for us the greatest good, the pure love of God for Himself alone because He alone is good: amor amicitiae. That is the bond of perfection that unites us to Him. "Above all things have charity, which is the bond of perfection and may the peace of Christ exult in your hearts, in which you are called unto one Body. And be grateful". (Colossians, 3:14-15) (p39)
- On the Trappists' attitude towards work. If we want something, we easily persuade ourselves that what we want is God's will just as long as it turns out to be difficult to obtain. What is easy is my own will: what is hard is God's will... ... And because we make fetishes out of difficulties we sometimes work ourselves into the most fantastically stupid situations, and use ourselves up not for God but for ourselves. (p41)
- On Martyrdom. There is nothing magnificent about us. We are miserable things and if we are called upon to die we shall die miserably... .... And perhaps we are already marked for sacrifice - a sacrifice that will be, in the eyes of the world, perhaps only drab and soory and mean. And yet it will end by being our greatest glory after all. (p79)
- On Christ as the way to the Father. Jesus came to us having nothing of His own.Not merely did he have nowhere to rest His head, not only was He poor on earth, but He explains that the very fact of His divine generation means that He has absolutely nothing of Himself and yet He is everything... ...He lived in the very heart of the Sabbath which is the interior life of God where "the Father works and I work". (p217)
- On the grain of wheat. I am alone in my insufficiency - dependent, helpless, contingent, and never quite sure that I am really leaning on Him upon whom I depend. Yet to trust in Him means to die, because to trust perfectly in Him you have to give up all trust in everything else. (p239)
- On growing in faith. ... I have discovered that after all what monks most need is not conferences on mysticism but more light about the ordinary virtues, whether they be faith or prudence, charity or temperance, hope or justice or fortitude. And above all what they need and what they desire is to penetrate the Mystery of Christ and to know Him in His Gospels and in the whole Bible... (p337)
- On solitude. In this age of crowds in which I have determined to be solitary, perhaps the greatest sin would be to lament the presence of people on the threshold of my solitude. Can I be so blind as to ignore that solitude is itself their greatest need? And yet if they rush in upon the desert in thousands, how shall they be alone? What went they out into the desert to see? Whom did I myself come here to find but You, O Christ, Who have compassion on the multitudes. (p357)
In a way it was quite appropriate to read "Mountain" at Christmas, since it was really about Merton being reborn with Christ. In a way "Jonas" is about Easter, because Merton is learning how to die to himself and live in Christ. So a good book to read during Lent!