On December 10, 1968, Thomas Merton died in Bangkok, electrocuted by a poorly grounded electric fan. He was in Bankgok to attend a meeting that, as he wrote in a journal entry four days before his death, he was not especially looking forward to.
There is so much in Merton’s writing that I love, particularly about what it means to live as an engaged Christian in in the world. But today, on the 40th anniversary of his death (and as I continue to grieve the recent death of my cousin), I share something he wrote about Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection. In New Seeds of Contamplation, Merton writes:
Having died, [Christ] dies no more in his own Person. But because He became man and united man’s nature to Himself, and died for man, and rose as man from the dead, He brought it about that the sufferings of all men became His own sufferings; their weakness and defenselessness because His weakness and defenselessness; their insignificance became His. But at the same time His own power, immortality, glory and happiness were given to them and could become theirs. So if the God-Man is still great, it is rather for our sakes than for His own that He wishes to be great and strong. For to Him, strength and weakness, life and death are dualities with which He is not concerned, being above them in His transcendent unity. Yet he would raise us also above these dualities by making us one with Him. For though evil and death can touch the evanescent, outer self in which we dwell estranged from Him, in which we are alienated and exiled in unreality, it can never touch the real inner self in which we have been made one with Him. For in becoming man, God became not only Jesus Christ but also potentially every man and woman that ever existed. In Christ, God became not only “this” man, but also, in a broader and more mystical sense, yet no less truly, “every man.”