Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thomas' Terraces

…So Brother Matthew locked the gate behind me and I was enclosed in the four walls of my new freedom. —Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

I read these words as the 1 train takes off from the 125th Street platform, and its windows are filled with the dark from outside, broken by the bright lights of windows and city.

I grin as a taste of Merton’s freedom seeps off of the page and into the train car. I have been (quite literally) following Merton around the city, walking in his footsteps, and seeing the pavements and the sea of apartment windows through his eyes.

Five weeks ago, a priest said to me: some saint is trying to give you a grace tonight.

Given that the subsequent twenty-four hours and the following five weeks seemed particularly un-graced, I have really wondered what grace and which saint exactly the priest was referring to.

Jesuits don’t usually say things like that though: they rarely risk prophecy, so when they do make strange declarations—you listen.

I wondered, tonight, if that saint was Merton—a Virgil, certainly, of sorts.

And if the grace he was trying to pour back into this poor imitation reality of a city that he both loved and loathed was a bit of that freedom. The freedom he found in the monastery, that all of us find simply by stripping ourselves in front of God and saying: here I am. This is what I am. I cannot run from it; please just take me, for I am tired of tearing myself to pieces.

Perhaps this is the joy of purgatory. Unlike hell, you do not cling to your own stubborn will, damned or no. Perhaps, in purgatory, you begin to open yourself up like a morning glory in the sun, and it is so painful, because you are not yet perfect, and you do insist on closing in on yourself. But, as you beat the same path round and round, and bash your head on the same closed doors and dash your heart on the same stones, you find that you are slowly opening, that God is slowly working, that you are finding the freedom of the divine beginning to burst forth from within you.

No comments:

Post a Comment