Thursday, 28 April 2011

More on the Resurrection Body

Why did the wounds on Christ’s body still appear after the Resurrection? A wound, if you think about it, is an occasion when what is within us is exposed, where the life-blood has been poured out. In Christ’s case, what is within him is love, is the Holy Spirit. The places where human sins inflicted pain on him are the very places where, because that pain was accepted on our behalf and for our sake, Christ’s love was most fully expressed. The wounds are the ways he reaches out to us, invites us into his body; they are ways he shares his blood with us. So those wounds were not just forensic evidence that he was the same person who had suffered, nor mere trophies reminding us of his victory over death, but – according to a widespread mystical tradition – a place for sinners to take refuge. That is, the signs of vulnerability in his physical body remain places of vulnerability in a spiritual sense, places where he may be approached and entered into.

Something similar applies to psychological wounds, which of course cut much deeper than physical ones, and many of which are inflicted in childhood. But Christ had a happy childhood – one might almost say a sheltered one (after the escape from Herod). He was held in the arms of Mary and Joseph, nourished, affirmed, educated. How could he know the psychological suffering that stems from being abused or neglected at an early age by those who ought to love you but don’t?

We know that he accepted the punishment for sins he did not commit – which means the pain that comes from having sinned even though he never did. It must be that he experienced in his Passion at least a taste of every sin, of every punishment, when he was tortured, abused, and scorned, when he carried his cross, or felt abandoned by his Father, or knew himself to be deserted and betrayed by his friends. In order to heal the consequences of every sin throughout history, he had to “assume” them or take them into himself, as he took human nature into himself.

We make the mistake of thinking that because he was just one man, he was a fragment of the whole, of mankind, in the same way that each of us are. The mystics say something different. They say that though he was one man, he was also the whole in which all the parts participate, so that we can each find ourselves in him. When he rises from the dead, he brings us with him, though we follow later. The wounds in our nature do not separate us from him, because they are in him too.

Illustration (Wikimedia Commons): The Incredulity of Thomas, 1268, from the Romkla Gospels.

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