But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.
Departing from my previous practice of quoting the Gospels to give you this bit from Isaiah, because it gets at the reason this mystery is so important to me. When I was growing up my parents subscribed to Tikkun, a progressive Jewish magazine with the slogan, “To heal, repair, and transform the world. All the rest is commentary.” That’s cute and I get it, it’s something Christians often put in terms like, “We are the body of Christ, so we must be His hands in the world,” it’s true and important when its meaning is kept very limited. But it’s even more important to remember that healing–whether of “the world” or of our own selves–isn’t something we can do. Thinking of it as our task rather than God’s can lead to unbearable pressure and even despair. It’s the whole “I can’t go to Confession until I’ve gotten myself straightened out a little” thing. (And, in the political realm, you get utopianism and its attendant temptations of power and control. The law just wants to heal you!)
When I was trying to quit drinking my spiritual director asked me to picture myself being carried by Christ. As with all of his best advice, I (silently) made fun of this at first. Yay, visualization techniques, I can add this to the list of humiliating consequences of my drinking problem…. But over time I found that this image of being carried by Jesus really helped me. It let me see that I wasn’t expected to succeed by my own strength, which was a relief, since I am notably a disaster and lack resilience. I would not be healed by my own efforts, or by my own suffering, but by Christ’s. All I had to do was surrender.That isn’t nothing–passion is an action, letting go is a thing you can do or refuse to do, and anyway a lot of this language is really just metaphors which work for me but may be less helpful to you. But letting myself be carried turned out to be something I could do.
This mystery is one I often pray for help with the areas in my life where I’m still kicking against the helping hands, where I’m still unwilling to give up and let God do His job.
I wanted to post Phil Kline’s terrific version of “Wondrous Love,” from John the Revelator, but can’t find it online. You can buy it on Amazon here for a dollar (or the whole album, which is super great). As a replacement, here is an aching slice of poetry about the Holy Wounds:
Once, twice, thrice–as I crept closeInto the ark, the nest, the bride,
Into the pulse, into the life, into the wounded side
–Eliza Kearny, “Christine and Mary”
And fine, I like this hymn so much, so I’ll give you a version from Chanticleer: