Figures For An Apocalypse

Oh how quiet it is after the black night
When flames out of the clouds burned down your cariated teeth,
And when those lightnings,
Lancing the black boils of Harlem and the Bronx,
Spilled the remaining prisoners,
(The tens and twenties of the living)
Into the trees of Jersey,
To the green farms, to find their liberty.

How are they down, how have they fallen down
Those great strong towers of ice and steel,
And melted by what terror and what miracle?
What fires and lights tore down,
With the white anger of their sudden accusation,
Those towers of silver and of steel?

From Figures For An Apocalypse, VI – In the Ruins of New York (1947) by Thomas Merton

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. John Mary says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for this moving and appropos poem.

    I reflected today upon the ll September 2001, two weeks into my seminary formation in the Northeast, not far from the World Trade Center, where the horrible devastation took place.
    I was leaving my Moral Theology Class and some of the seminarians were running up the steps saying “New York has been attacked!”. We all congregated in the TV room and watched with growing horror the first attack on the Twin Towers, and then the second. It was all surreal.

    The days following this were full of trepidation and every plane that flew over us was a cause for panic; because everything in this area had literally “shut down”, we did not know from one hour to the next what exactly was going on. Many in the seminary community had loved ones or friends that had either died or had somehow been saved. I was able to visit the sight of the Word Trade Center at Thanksgiving that same year in the midst of the crowds, the flowers, the signs, the grief.

    In my homily today I posed these questions: do we realize how very fragile life is? Are we aware of how suddenly things can come to a horrifying end? Are we putting our energies into what is supernatural (our faith) or into material concerns? Are we serious about living a life of forgiveness, the mark of a follower of Christ? And are we conscious that the good we do helps the world, the evil we do harms it?

    The Gospel in the OF today has Jesus telling us to “take the plank out of our own eye” first before attempting to take the “splinter” out of our brother’s eye. In other words, we must be willing to admit our sins, failings and cooperation with evil first, make reparation before God and then be ready to help our brothers and sisters.

    The sadness and grief of this day can become joy and hope in the Lord Jesus. But we first have to be willing to admit our part in the evil that happens in the world through our own sins and then be ready to make reparation.

  2. shoofoolatte says:

    Thank you so much for this, Fr. Z!

    Prophetic? I don’t know.

  3. shoofoolatte says:

    P.S. I have posted it to my own website.

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