The Christ of the Burnt Men
I hear You saying to me:
"I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude. I will lead you by the way you cannot possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way.
"Therefore all things around you will be armed against you, to deny you, to hurt you, to give you pain, and therefore to reduce you to solitude.
"Because of their enmity, you will soon be left alone. They will cast you out and forsake you and reject you and you will be alone. Everything that touches you will burn you, and you will draw your hand away in pain, until you have withdrawn yourself from all things. Then you will be all alone.
"Everything that can be desired will sear you., and brand you with a cautery, and you will fly from it in pain, to be alone. Every created joy will only come to you as pain, and you will die to all joy, and be left alone. All the good things that other people love and desire and seek will come to you, but only as murderers to cut you off from the world and its occupations.
"You will be praised and it will be like burning at the stake. You will be loved and it will murder your heart and drive you into the desert.
"You will have gifts and they will break you with their burden. you will have pleasures of prayer, and they will sicken you and you will fly from them.
"And when you have been praised a little and loved a little I will take away all your gifts and all your love and all your praise and you will be utterly forgotten and abandoned and you will be nothing. a dead thing, a rejection. And in that day you shall begin to possess the solitude you have so long desired. And your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men you will never see on earth.
"Do not ask when it will be or where it will be or how it will be.. On a mountain or in a prison, in a desert or in a concentration camp or in a hospital or at Gethsemani. It does not matter. So do not ask me because I am not going to tell you. You will not know until you are in it.
"But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Cristi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani:
"That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men."
SIT FINIS LIBRI, NON FINIS QUAERENDI
(—from, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, pp 422, 3)