From New Seeds of Contemplation - Thomas Merton

"The wax that has melted in God's will can easily receive the stamp of its identity, the truth of what it was meant to be. But the wax that is hard and dry and brittle and without love will not take the seal: for the hard seal, descending upon it, grinds it to powder.
"Therefore if you spend your life trying to escape from the heat of the fire that is meant to soften and prepare you to become your true self, and if you try to keep your substance from melting in the fire - as if your true identity were to be hard wax - the seal will fall upon you at last and crush you. You will not be able to take your own true name and countenance, and you will be destroyed by the event that was meant to be your fulfillment."


There was a crumpled fan of gray, dispelling a residue of ink-smelling dust, near indistinguishable on his veiny fingers. A dappled wisp of gray hair, the same gray as the fan-and-crumple of the paper protruded into a vertical pose fanning out from one smashed diameter of pillow hair, swaying back and forth from the occasional shift of his skinny head. His eyes behind thick glass were half way closed, mostly from the simple act of looking down to read but partly from looking down into the burdens of the world. Wrinkles folded on top of each other at the bottom of his face, skin under his cheek bones were beginning to sink in: a sign of his deteriorating health of which was always a cause of argument between him and his housekeeper, Ophelia, who had "recently taken an exceedingly neurotic interest in his appearance and presence," as he would so vehemently explain. Each feature of his face had a protuberance that made his eyes sink in and sadden.

This was the posture of the every-morning at a table for two next to a dirty window opening into a garden of blooming petunias amidst sprouting weeds of what used to be a flower bed. The petunias stretched out their pink and blue petals, bathing in the seventy five degree morning sunlight. Swiping a small spider off his newly pressed white Polo shirt, now wrinkled at the belt, he took a bite of his plain buttered toast. The fragrance of freshly brewed coffee still lingered in the kitchen, flowing out of the window into the morning - into an exuberant filled reality totally other-than the stuffy kitchen.

For ten years he had been alone and been waking to the same buttered toast and for ten years had given his first thoughts of the morning to the world and its events; to the subtleties of the global political climate; to the adherence and confident assertion of his conservative democratic views, bloomed from an evolving career as a radioactive physicist, turned into upper management, turned into speaker and much sought after counselor in the academic world of study for liberal human rights by religious moderates. None of this was a planned destiny of his choosing of course, and the relative ease of "open doors" put him at rest in the morning as he always rested in the security of his planned day, given him by Ophelia, just as secure in her salary, although relatively meager.

Carrion Comfort

A poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist - slack they may be - these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.

But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb
against me?
With darksome devouring eyes my bruised bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to
avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy,
would laugh, cheer.
Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven-
handling flung me, foot trod
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one?
That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my
God!) my God.

Prone to Aching

"I've ached once in my life," she said, dusting off the remains of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich onto the cool concrete of the sidewalk, now looking grey in the blue air of November.  
"Oh don't be ridiculous!  You're always prone to aching!"  She was on the opposite end of the bench for the sole reason that she hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 
"No, truly... it's been once.  Every time I think of it, it comes again but I attribute it to nostalgia.  I don't count that as another time," she said finishing off the last bite of P,B &J and wiping a sliver of brown peanut butter off of her upper lip, now cracking as her glove swiped across the open skin.     
"Miriam, all you do all day is sit in that museum and ache, if you ask me.  What do you do in there anyway?"  Her New York accent was thick.  The thought crossed her mind to lend Miriam her chap-stick, but disgust prevented her as she thought of getting it back with slight smears of peanut butter and bread crumbs decorating the edges of the soothing peppermint wax.  "That's what I'm always like," she thought, "flat out selfish... paralyzed!... can't even reach into my purse and grab my...."
"I watch."  Miriam now turned her head to look into her eyes across the bench, yet sunglasses prevented this.  Miriam's eyes slightly opened with their piercing crystal blue gaze, as if trying to pierce through the darkness of the sunglasses.  Her stringy hair looked as if it was depressed from not being able to keep her head warm as it fell strait against her skull, ears, then barely... lightly touched her shoulders.  She knew she was not ugly and had been fairly pretty all her 26 years of life, but she was now dying, and on this grey-blue November day her eyes seemed to stick out of the stillness of the newly leafless trees, abandoned sidewalks, and thin, frosty air.  They seemed to be the only thing alive, being alien to this world - two spheres of unknown origin, freshly arrived from the heavens.  Just one glance at them reveals that they have seen many mysterious things and are wise with what astronomers only dream of, yet are infants in the environment of earth.  Even to her body they seemed alien, and now their slight bulge and fixation upon her friend across the bench gave the entire park a silent life, alien to its background.  
After a long pause, Miriam's friend snatched up her black leather purse beside her on the bench, quickly stood as though leaving and irritably tightening her purple flowery scarf that wrapped over her head, turned to Miriam with a sudden grinding of her shoes on the cold concrete and said, "What do you see?!"  
Miriam looked down to her fading tennis shoes and rubbing them together spoke softly, "I saw a painting today of a woman with sunglasses and a head covering.  It was one of those women from the 20's and she had a suitcase with papers flying out of it as she was trying to hold onto the leash of her little dog.  She had on high heals.  She was beautiful, like you, but I know you never wear high heals.  But her sunglasses and scarf reminded me of you.  It was wrapped around her beautiful hair.  And she was trying to hold so much, it was all falling apart."  Miriam's lips curled into a smile.  "And her little dog barking at... well at who knows?"  Looking half way up into her friends white, powdered face, staring into the leaf-covered grass she said with a slight giggle, "I love the cute little dogs that make you drop everything."  
"So that's what you see all day, cute little dogs?!  And what?  I bet now you're goin to say how I'm that lady and how Joshua was that 'cute little dog,'" she threw her hands in the air with two fingers bending twice, "and how he made me drop everything just like that lady.  I know who you are Miriam.  Don't try to let me think that you see everything from one cheap-ass painting you saw in a museum because I wear a scarf like her!  Tons of women wear scarves!  What's your deal with scarves, anyways?!"
Miriam was looking down at her tennis shoes again, now bending them on the side, studying the fading purple stripe, "Maggy, if I'm a blade of grass, no a flower of the field, then so was Josh.  But the woman... the leash was so tight, she wanted him so near and it's what made her lose everything when he was called somewhere else.  But... but even when everything was in a mess, she held her scarf onto her head, so tight, so beautiful.  But isn't the glory of a woman her hair, even if it is messed up?"
Rage began filling Maggy yet by the time it reached her eyes, it came out as tears, "It's Magdalena!  You call me Magdalena!  Only Joshy called me Maggy!  You call me Magdalena!  And if you ever giggle again over the death of my Joshua, I'll... I'll...!"  She became overwhelmed with weeping as she began to run away down the empty concrete sidewalk.  Down a short hill, falling into a valley the path curved into a long, natural tunnel of trees, their leaf-less branches reached over the path like human arms grasping the end of the adjacent fingers.  As tears and wind flew through her ears she approached the tunnel full speed, flying down the hill.  She did not notice the trees' erie gaze as the tunnel engulfed her.  
Grey November was even darker here, and she lost her balance from the weight that seemed to press down upon her shoulders and fling her to the ground.  Her scraped, bloodied hands now shaking felt for her scarf that had fallen off her head and was sagging behind her neck.  The weight and the shaking prevented her from being able to find enough of the scarf to tighten it back upon her head, and she began to crawl towards the end of the trees to the busy street of New York, yellow taxis and woman just like her, walking their dogs.  Miriam's eyes kept beaming in her mind and all she could see was her staring through silence, giggling, laughing at the end of the bench.  
Finally she reached the street and crawling on all fours with mask-era running down her cheeks, she fell on the sidewalk, face into the concrete as her sunglasses bounced off.  With her scarf now completely stripped away, fallen on the side of the path, her hair was long, flowing down to her waist.  Her eyes, glistening with tears were as blue as Miriams'.  Her make-up now running off her face revealed Miriam's cheek bones and even chapped lips.  
There was now no rage.  Peace filled her as she lay face down upon the sidewalk, her hair sprawled out upon her back and upon the sidewalk.  She even smiled now as she thought of Miriam's peanut butter and jelly.  She almost wanted one.  
She did not mind the strange looks of passer-byes.  She let her blood and tears run upon the grey concrete.  No one stopped.  Embarrassment and shame filled every heart that passed her.  She felt it but did not mind now.  Dogs on leashes sniffed her... the owners yanked and kept going.  
As she lay there filled with peace that she did not understand and joy in the presence of men, she felt a hand softly stroke her long hair and until she died she never forgot the voice she heard that day - a sooting voice amidst the embarrassment and shame of all, 
"Maggy."  She knew it was the voice of her Joshua.    

An Eschatology of Lovesickness

"But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart....  Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'?  Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.  Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.  Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you."
John 16:6, 19-22

"For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now...."
Romans 8: 22

"The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?  But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."
Matthew 9:15

"If you find my beloved, 
As to what you will tell him;
For I am lovesick."
Song of Solomon 5:8  

No religion, no philosophy, no set of ideas, institutions (religious and non-religious), no way of thought can compare to the aching heart of one who misses the presence of the Son of God on earth.  Have we grieved for His absence?  

Have we been in labor?  What are we birthing? 

The bride roams the dark streets of the city, desperate with love, thirsting to just catch one glimpse of her beloved.  To anyone and everyone she says, "If you find my beloved...  If you catch one glimpse of Him that I do not see, tell Him that I am grieving, tell Him that I miss Him, that there is a hole in my chest gasping for Him.... Tell Him, it is death without Him."  

And isn't the earth under this curse of "death without Him?"  Has not all of the Creator's life giving creation been under the groans and sufferings of the pain of futility; the pain of death.  Yet, if we miss Him, if we desire more than anything else to look into His physical eyes, there is a love that is "strong as death" (SS 8:6).  How is it stronger than death?  This love will bring Him back, and "the last enemy that will be abolished is death" (1 Cor. 15:26).

When the world rejoices, we will lament, for we know that nothing is right until He comes.  May our joy be made full when the season comes, the dark night is over and we see Him again.  May our joy be made full in this hope and no other hope.  This is the blessed hope (Titus 2:13).  Our "joy will be made full" if all our hope is for this day - the Day of the Lord when He comes back for a groaning and lovesick Bride.

Our humble King will return because of love.  Do we miss His loving arms?  Do we groan? 

From "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke

"The necessary thing is after all but this: solitude, great inner solitude.  Going-into-oneself and for hours meeting no one - this one must be able to attain.  To be solitary, the way one was solitary as a child, when the grownups went around involved with things that seemed important and big because they themselves looked so busy and because one comprehended nothing of their doings.
"And when one day one perceives that their occupations are paltry, their professions petrified and no longer linked with living, why not then continue to look like a child upon it all as upon something unfamiliar, from out of the depth of one's own world, out of the expanse of one's own solitude, which is itself work and status and vocation?  Why want to exchange a child's wise incomprehension for defensiveness and disdain, since incomprehension is after all being alone, while defensiveness and disdain are a sharing in that from which one wants by these means to keep apart."

The Table

I have missed You again today.  Amidst me trying to be Your hero.  I have missed knowing that it is me and You.  All I've known is an us, and feeling as if I bring nothing to the table - table of community leaning on our one-legged humanity, feeling strong and communal, and I think I could turn over this table.  Everyone thinks they have to bring something to it.  I'd watch as all the somethings fly in the air, tumble to the ground, and splatter blood - life and effort.  Why do we put this into these things - very living and life?