Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Triumph of the Cross: Accepting the Five Wounds

It's almost said too much that it's strange that the Cross is the symbol of Christianity. For some reason, we celebrate the torture and death of the founder of our religion. We, in fact, have a feast day dedicated to God's triumph through the Cross of Christ. What is perhaps stranger is that though Christ died on the cross for our sins, we still suffer. Wasn't the crucifixion, death and resurrection supposed to be Christ suffering in our place?

But this, of course, is thinking of it all upside down. The Triumph of the Cross is that death and sin and suffering were defeated, but the grace from this victory is continually working in our lives so that when our time comes, we my rise in greater glory. Glorious indeed would it be for God to bring us automatically to himself, but how much more glorious when we have accepted his grace through a life of hardship and allowed him to enter our lives freely?

And so just as St. Francis did on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, we too must accept the five wounds of Christ. No, most likely these wounds will not appear in our flesh as they did for St. Francis, but spiritual suffering is just as much suffering and we all experience it.

Let me be Scholastic for a bit. The Five Wounds of Christ correspond to five spiritual sufferings which we undergo. The first wound is memory of sin and pain. At the Crucifixion, Christ was able to experience all the pain from the memory of the whole human race about the sin committed by us. For us, we remember our sin, how we have hurt others, how we have hurt ourselves as pain. This is often mislabeled guilt. It is in fact more like remorse, and it hurts like hell. At the end of Harry Potter, the hero of the story asks the villain of the story to be a man and try for some remorse. This is because it truly takes strength to accept that you have sinned and done wrong to others. It takes strength because it hurts. God takes all this pain from remorse and it becomes one of the wounds of His Son on the Cross. Our remorse is pain, and it should be there, but if we accept it as a manifestation of the wound of Christ, we can let Him have it and cause grace to flow through the remorse.

The Second Wound is a loss of spiritual motivation. We may not always experience this as pain in the same way as remorse, but when we realize that we are slowly slipping into a spiritual darkness, our souls are not happy and it can lead to despair. Once again, if we look to Christ, we can find a place from which grace can flow. While he was on the Cross, he called out "I thirst!" He was experiencing the parched feeling in his body as we feel it in our souls when we can not find the enthusiasm for God's plan. He channeled this pain into the sacrifice which God demanded of Him, so must we not also do the same if we wish to live a life of Christ? The grace will grow in us if we accept this second wound and allow Him to transform it to be a part of his redemptive act.

The Third Wound is separation from those we love, our families, our friends. This can come in the form of physical separation, but is all the more painful when it is a spiritual or emotional separation. This wound Christ experienced first when his apostles abandoned him at his capture, but he brought all this suffering into fulfillment in the act of accepting the wounds of the Cross. If we are to accept separation from those we love, we can only do so in the context of the Cross and accepting that our redemption and eternal happiness depends on whether we accept the wounds and thus the grace that accompanies them.

The Fourth Wound is the suffering of injustice, false accusations, slander, judgmental thoughts and rejection from a community. We certainly do not deserve the community we are given, and we do not deserve love, for we do not give love perfectly. However, God created us for one another, and it is a great suffering to be rejected, even by people we do not know! This is an experience of those with homosexual tendencies, those who struggle with sin, those who don't have it "all together." But the greatest injustice of all was the one which Christ himself experienced, for he did love perfectly and was still treated with contempt and ridicule by his own people. This fourth wound is another opportunity, if we unite our own rejections with those of Christ, for grace to grow in our lives. Oftentimes, we do deserve rejection for our actions, but of course that connects the fourth and the first wounds, remorse for sin, and pain from rejection. All of these pains can be accepted as an extension of Christ's sacrifice and thus can not only work for the redemption of your soul, through the grace of God, but also can be an opportunity of Grace for those you have hurt through your sin and those who judge and reject you falsely.

The Fifth Wound is perhaps the worst, and it is related to the Second Wound. If I were a true Scholastic and not a tired blogger who should be working on a project or reading a saga, I would have ordered them differently. But I am tired, and I hope you can forgive me.

The Fifth Wound is separation, or apparent separation from God. Perhaps Christ was just reciting the 22nd Psalm when he cried out "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" However, he may have actually experienced the feeling of abandonment from God. We certainly do. We feel often as if He doesn't care. We have pain, and it doesn't matter to him. We need something and he will not listen. He will not show us a sign. He will not speak to us. We are very sad. The funny thing is, it is very often not because he is not there for us that we feel this way, but because we have not abandoned ourselves to his mercy and joined our Five Wounds to Christ's.

If the Cross is truly to triumph in our lives, we must accept, as St. Francis did, the Stigmata. But our Stigmata will not show, it will not bleed. Our unity with Christ will be less visible. But it will only truly be a stigmata if we accept the wounds of Christ and allow them to be for us a source of grace, healing, and salvation. Our suffering is no longer ours, and thus no longer superfluous because we will have made our suffering into His and offered it on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

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