Touching Wounds, His and Ours
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, April 19, 2015
I have not always understood Thomas. I think there are several reasons two of them being that I did not want to acknowledge that I am like him, skeptical and often unbelieving and secondly, I did not like the idea of touching wounds. I recoiled at the mention of Thomas “placing his finger in the mark of the nails.” And I was even more repulsed by the idea of touching my own wounds.
However, inspired by my study of mindfulness and client-based psychotherapies and by a little quote from Rumi I began some time ago to reconsider my revulsion. The quote from Rumi is this:
“The wound is where the Light enters you…” I have heard it translated differently like this, “The wound is where the Light shines through.” I think both are true.
For Christians the darkest moment in the life of the Savior was his crucifixion and yet it was also the place where the Light shone the brightest and through which the whole world was changed.
The Cross became like a new Sinai, smoking and trembling with Compassion for the whole cosmos to see. On the Cross Christ not only touched the wounds of the entire human race, he became one with these wounds. He accepted them all, embraced them, and became the ultimate example of radical acceptance and unconditional positive regard by suffering and dying for all, and thus, “by his wounds we are healed.”
The connection between the Lord’s suffering and our suffering is absolute, so we can, like Thomas, touch the wounds of Christ by daring to reach inward to explore our own wounds.
I am continually inspired by St. Symeon’s poem, “We Awaken in Christ’s Body,” where he speaks of a mystical experience so profound that it boggles the imagination. He experienced the connection of which I speak and writes of what he discovered when he took the light of Compassion within. Hear the last verses.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ's body
where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,
and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed
and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.
“In every last part of our bodies.” Even our most painful and sinful parts are recognized as whole and radiant and filled with his divinity. The least of the brethren within are like the least of the brethren without, they are Christ himself. To experience this, we must allow the Light to enter and exit our wounds. We must come to know them well and to embrace them with divine compassion, without fear or revulsion. Our suffering is the doorway to heaven and by this I do not mean the suffering of self-inflicted asceticism, but an opening to the suffering that exists already in the deep recesses of our hearts where Lazarus has been buried for much longer than four days.
The Good News is that God suffers with us and even more, that he unites our suffering with his, so that our suffering is his and his is ours. As difficult as it sounds, as much as it scares us, the way to Christ is through the exploration of our own wounds to care for the “least of the brethren who are languishing there.” We need to be like Thomas who was unafraid to put his finger in the mark of the nails and reach inward where the nails have pierced our hearts and minds.
The deep, wrenching work I am speaking of, for it is sometimes that, is a form of repentance so profound that it has the power to transform us and unlock the power of the image of God that lies at the core of our beings. It is not a power that seeks to control, for that way is delusion and idolatry. It is the power of Loving-kindness, the same power that caused our Lord to accept injustice, suffering and death for the sake of us all. It is, in the words of St. Paul the “more excellent way.”
I think this is also what Paul was referring to when he wrote in Romans about the cosmos that is “groaning in travail awaiting the revealing of the sons of God.” It is not only the physical cosmos it is also the internal cosmos and we are the sons and daughters of God whose appearance both anxiously await.