Saying my prayers this morning I noticed that the little burn on the top of my left middle finger is almost healed. I got it on Holy Saturday. Sister sacristan had set up the thurible in such a way that the top was not lifted from the base on the stand, and it wasn't one of the ones that has some piece of less conductive material for grasping. So I knew as soon as I started to make my way over that I wouldn't be able to get incense onto the charcoal without burning myself. But the alternative--failing to incense the paschal candle at the beginning of the Easter Vigil--was unacceptable.
Several times in the course of my Christianity I have gone through the Easter season with burns received at the Easter Vigil. One time when I was serving as acolyte (by privilege, not right) I got a pretty good burn on the back of my hand during the preparation of the candle. It only cleared up just at Pentecost. I was pretty proud of the timing.
I'm grateful for these little reminders that the Christian life is supposed to set us on fire and consume us. "That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men," said Thomas Merton at the end of The Seven Storey Mountain. "I don't want to die without a few scars," goes the line in Fight Club. The narrator says it in the book; I think Tyler says it in the movie.
To desire to be a Christian is to accept, as St. Bonaventure put it, that "there is no way except through the burning love of the crucified." In Holy Communion we accept the broken Body of Christ into our bodies and our lives, receiving God's invitation to break ourselves in imitation of Christ. Many know the sacrifice of Christ by the breaking of their own bodies in the service and care of others. But all of us have to let our selfish will be broken. In the end, Christianity is a life of heartbreak. But it's not the hopeless heartbreak of the world, in which hearts break and close up into bitterness. Christians, seeing the suffering of the world, surrender to having their hearts break open into the expansive and inclusive love that is humanity's closest imitation of God.