Posted by: Dan | July 16, 2004

Stigmata

In the crypt beneath Sacre Coeur there is a tiny chapel called, “The Chapel of Holy Piety”. Compared to the church above it’s exceedingly barren, a simple alter, one white marble sculpture of the Madonna holding the dead Christ, a few relics, two tombs with sculptures of archbishops, and, off to the side, a black onyx sculpture of Jesus. Jesus is laying on his back. He is dead, his body has yet to be cleaned, there is blood lingering around his wounds but his heart has stopped beating, his chest has stopped rising and falling, no breath escapes from his lips.

I was alone in that chapel for close to an hour. I spent a lot of time meditating on the sculpture. Sacre Coeur was a time of close communion, an intimate encounter with God.

I’ve never really told anybody but as I was praying and weeping and singing during my meditations one of the things I found myself praying for was that I, on my body, could bear the wounds of Christ. It was a strange prayer, I felt a little bit weird praying it, I’ve felt even more weird by the idea of telling anybody, but I prayed it nonetheless. There was something going on…

Anyway here I am six months later in Muskoka Ontario and I get into a conversation with a friend about what it means to journey with people who are suffering. What it means to take up a cross, what it means to grieve with those who grieve. As we are talking I also mention some of the dreams I’ve been having recently. She says she’s never had dreams like that. That night she dreamed this dream:

Her and I were walking into a party together. It was a mixed crowd, a large party, and there were people there we knew, and people we didn’t know. As we moved through the crowd I approached a girl sitting off to the side. Almost in slow-motion I reached out and touched this girl’s face.

“You have a cut here,” I said to her. Then I touched my own face. “I have the same cut on my face.”

Then in slow-motion I touched the girl’s back, touched a series of scars, of cuts, of marks all over her body and every mark she had on her body I had on mine.

The party progressed and I disappeared into the crowd. My friend found herself in a bedroom with the girl with the cut on her face. The girl was crying and asking my friend where she could find me.

“I don’t know, he comes and goes,” she said.

The girl was crying, and my friend was unsure what to say.

As she woke-up a voice in her head repeated, over and over again, “suffer with me. Suffer with me. Suffer with me.”

That was her dream. As I was thinking about it the other day I realized something. It is by entering into the suffering of the oppressed, the wounded, the abandoned that we begin to carry the wounds of Christ on our bodies. Just as Christ bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquity, so we now carry the wounds, griefs, sorrows, transgressions, and iniquities of those around us. This is how we fulfill our vocation as the suffering servant. Yet, our wounds, like Christ’s, are redemptive. We are chastened for their well-being and by our scourging they are healed.

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Responses

  1. “It is by entering into the suffering of the oppressed, the wounded, the abandoned that we begin to carry the wounds of Christ on our bodies. Just as Christ bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquity, so we now carry the wounds, griefs, sorrows, transgressions, and iniquities of those around us.”

    I’ve heard becoming Christ like described in many different ways, probably because Christ has so many different characteristics. Never have I heard it described as bearing someones burdens, though it makes perfect sense. And now, instead of feeling bogged down by the pressures of carrying someone elses burdens, what a privelage it is that Christ would give us such a faint glimpse into what it meant for Him to bear our sins.

  2. It goes beyond getting a glimpse of what it meant for Jesus to bear our sins. It means that carrying the burdens of others is not vicarious or pointless but ends up being salvific. We bear their burdens in order to bear them away (quoting George Bell Jr.). Our sufferings aren’t meaningless, they are like labour-pains bringing forth new life.

    It’s all tied into the question of what it means to be Jesus to the world today. I think as a Christian I often down-played the significance of that. Now I’ve begun to wonder, just how much do I actually share in Jesus’ mission, suffering and glory?

  3. Okay, so that made me laugh. I wasn’t quoting George Bell Jr. I was quoting Daniel M. Bell Jr. from his book, “Liberation Theology After the End of History: the refusal to cease suffering”. Amazing the mistakes you make when you’re running on no sleep.


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