In Search of Fate
Chapter 6: The Monastery Revisited
The light from the oil lamp lit the path ahead. The surrounding darkness blanketed Questor as he walked unseeing within its fold. His only point of reference was the receding feet of the gatekeeper who led the way. Without Brother Mercurius, Questor was not sure he could have stayed on the path, even with the oil lamp. The chapel steps sprung into their circle of light suddenly. Questor followed the brother up the steps. The door was held open for him as he entered the imposing silence closeted within the four walls. Brother Mercurius lit the candle below the Crucifix, left a box of matches beside the candle, and turned to leave Questor in his solitude.
“Matins is only a few hours away. I’ll not wake you for morning prayers tomorrow unless you want me to. If you don’t come for the morning repast after Mass, then I’ll bring you Communion and something to eat before you begin to look for Brother Aloysius. Does this suit your purpose?”
“Yes, it does. Thank you, brother. You‘ve been most kind.”
After Brother Mercurius left, Questor pulled the air mattress into the center of the little chapel, placed his duffle bag on it, and laid himself down with his head and upper back resting on his bag. He was facing the Crucifix on the wall. The candles had ceased their flickering and cast an almost steady light upwards, encompassing the crucified savior in their glow. Gazing at the face of the crucified, Questor was reminded of a Salvador Dali painting. It depicted the crucified Christ suspended in darkness over a lake just before sunrise and seen from the top of his head—his face hidden—with his body stretching away from the viewer. The glow of the sun seemed to rise from the horizon below and illuminate the Christ so that his shadow was cast upwards upon the cross behind him. What had intrigued Questor about this painting was not the obvious anticipation of the rising sun and, metaphorically, the new day brought forth by the crucified Christ. It was the fishermen preparing nets and boat for their daily routine. One is facing the light source in a contemplative posture. Another has his back to the light while spreading out his net for the work ahead. And the third man is walking aimlessly along the quay towards the light with his head down, apparently oblivious to its glow. These three men mirrored the life styles in which men and women may relate to the Divine: the contemplative, the active, and the alienated. In a sense, Questor had lived his life in all three modes. These were the stages of his life. Initially, he had experienced the ecstatic arrest of the Divine light shining upon him. Its enlightenment subsequently inspired him to illumine every action with its reflection in his everyday life. Then, finally, he became estranged from this light source and trod through life bouncing from one mission to another, trying to find his one great purpose.
But, now, as he gazed at the crucifix on the wall above him, he could see what was missing in the Dali picture. He could see the human face of Christ. Instead of a metaphor—the transcendent savior worshipped by Christians of every succeeding generation—Questor saw the man who gave up his life, his reputation, and his personal dignity for those he loved. For the proselytizing Peter, it was essential for a Christian to accept the risen Christ who ascended into Heaven. But before there was this Bodhisattva-like savior who returns to the world of men transfigured, there was this “son of man,” as he was wont to call himself. Like any other man he agonized about his fate before he chose the uncertain path of conscience—for him, the way of the cross. It was not Herod, but Gethsemane that determined his fate. It was there that he shielded his followers by surrendering himself. Here was a man who knew who he was and did what he had to do. He made his decision not from a desire to be worshipped as a god, obeyed as a king, or admired as a hero. The love he had for his fellow humans motivated him to be the man he was. For those who knew him personally, this love must have inspired them to look deeply within themselves for a similar wellspring of purpose. Love was his truth. The way he embraced his fate—the fate he freely chose—was the model he created for his followers.
Momentarily caught up in these reflections, Questor returned to his own situation. He was surprised to find within himself a new force, more powerful than the heady ideals that he had attributed to his grand enterprises of the past. He too had found something that touched him at the very core of his being. He was experiencing love. Evelyn had awakened this in him. His future might still be unpredictable, but he felt more grounded. He was not the same man who spent his first night in this lonely chapel, overwhelmed and lost in a tumult of emotions and anxieties. His whole life seemed to have passed before him like a theme-less home movie about a central character without any abiding direction. But now he knew the star by which he must navigate his life: he had to welcome the unknown and steer his course freely, wholly present in his decisions and fearless. Whatever storms lie ahead, he was confident both in his direction and in himself. The calm that now descended over Questor invested his limbs and wholly embraced him. He descended peacefully into the bosom of sleep.