The Icon of the Wounded Christ

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When I took a retreat many years ago in anticipation of my first profession of religious vows, my retreat director gave me my first copy of the icon of the Wounded Christ. It is to this day one of the most powerful icons I've been blessed to sit with. More than Christ Victor, or Christ the King, or Christ the Teacher, the Wounded Christ brings me closer to God's deep and abiding love than any other.

As Christians, we are called to seek and serve Christ in all people. We are called to see Christ in the outcast, the stranger, and oppressed. But this is not always easy, especially when we deal with people who make us feel uncomfortable. Whose suffering is too close to our own, or whose wounded-ness reminds us too much of our own privilege and its costs.

The icon of the Wounded Christ is a gateway into what it means to find love and compassion for the suffering. It's a window into the reality of a God who endured human pain for the sake of love. All so that we might discover the truth of our unutterable human dignity.

The truth is that we are, as human beings, all united by our common suffering, and redeemed by love, precisely because our God, in Christ, suffered the same indignities and pain that we all endure. And in doing so, carried the truth of our human pain and suffering into the very heart of God.

When you gaze upon the icon of the Wounded Christ, you can see the truth of human dignity shine forth, especially from the eyes. Those windows into the soul bring us closer to our humanity, and to that place where we can find connection with a suffering world. It is not an easy icon to contemplate. It has been one of the few that is capable of bringing me to tears when I contemplate it. But, when I gaze at it long enough, I begin to understand what it truly means to seek and service Christ in all people, especially in those whose wounds are too terribly close to my own fears and anxieties.

Please scroll down and you can see the icon of the Wounded Christ at the bottom of this post.

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You probably have a copy of it in your own home somewhere. I'll bet you didn't even realize that. In fact, why don't you go grab it and bring it back here...I'll wait.

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You see, until you meet Christ here, you will struggle to meet Christ in others. To seek and serve Christ, we must seek the totality of Christ - the victories and sorrows, the loss and the joy, the wounded-ness and the inviolable wholeness of God who became flesh. And it in this icon of the Wounded Christ that we come face to face with all of those things in the image of the first Beloved of God.

I have a dear friend, Sister Merry Peter, of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. A truer prophet and mage of grace I have rarely met in this life. Sister Merry is often out and about in the neighborhood engaged in serving and caring for those who come across her path. She wears a hand mirror on a chain around her neck, to remind people that the joy they feel, the beauty they attribute to her, the blessing that she carries is really nothing more than a reflection of those who stand before her.

And so it is with the icon of the Wounded Christ. The grace, the pain, the very image of God reflected in the un-nameable dignity of the human spirit that gazes back at you - this is where you will learn to love and serve Christ in all people. This is where the seeds of mercy, forgiveness, and redemption are sown in you. In the gaze of Christ who bears all things for the sake of our God whose Name is love. In the eyes of one who is no longer afraid of death, because death will never have the final word. And in the eyes of God who became flesh so that the whole world might be healed. 

The Icon of the Wounded Christ

The Icon of the Wounded Christ

Ave Maria

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MY DEATH is on the page, is in the book,
is on the shelf, is in the house, a tale –
ribbon marked in red by father’s calloused hands
freshly from the plow, a virgin field,
in the hour when enough was never quite.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY LIFE is wrapped in rags and straw
in the grain in the mud in an old pine box;
the bray of beasts, a mournful tune whose price
has now come due, and fearfully is whispered
as a mother’s grieving voice within
an upper room now locked and bare illuminated;
where death's sore song is gravely now intoned.

Hail Mary, full of grace…the LORD is with thee…

MY HOPE is in the spear of light, the
thunder-roar, the whispering that,
over and again, softly in an open mouth, says,
“be not afraid,” the sword-pierced
heart that trembles, quickened as a deer
that flees the arrows; the sweet and tender
sorrow of our mad and ranting prophets
who foresaw another glory altogether.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY NAME is in the hammered stone,
the broken bread, the wounded flesh,
the jug of wine poured out upon the ground;
oblation for the saints who hover waiting
while bells recall a low-born handmaid, weeping,
begging in the gutter for a crust of bread to eat.

Hail Mary, full of grace…the LORD is with the. Blessed art thou…

MY SUFFERING is in the bread, the fragrant oil,
the salt that sows upon this toiling ground;
a mouth parting gently to receive
a hungry kiss with worthless silver bought; while
there beneath a concrete bridge she sits and weaves
a crown for a forgotten wedding day.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY GLORY wears a mantle of blood-roses
twined with thorns, or yet a shroud
of linen finely woven and perfumed;
whose barbs so prick the thumb, or threads
do bind the root of this tongue sweetly.
Be it done. To me. According to your word.

Hail Mary, full of grace…the LORD is with thee. Blessed art thou among women…

MY PEACE is freedom bought, our price
the patient gaze, an old man’s eyes that
loving rest on beauty’s perfect face, 
the darkening words of prophets in
a mother’s ear depart; 
whose sleep will these long valleys fill, 
and these low mountains blanket
with soft flowers, tender blooming.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

MY LOVE is in between these words, is
in the pause, the silence of an empty
house, a story — left behind for those
who in these haunted waters wade. 
Behold, you pleasingly beloved. 
The skies will soon burst open.

Hail Mary, full of grace…blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Credo

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I BELIEVE that all is all and then, 
That light is not enough, 
that love is, almost. That the world is round today and wasn’t once.

That fish had scales, then legs, then words, then wars. That beauty is a deeply shadowed thing. That I am everywhere, and at all times at once, and that I’m every possibility. That I am nothing.

That the gilded edges of the book once harbored
poison, while the word remained.
That some stars died, 
before we knew that they were there.
That the notes you make are stinging sweet. 
That quarks and bosons, softly sung
by beings in the quantum, are.

That for every word once written,
yet another lurks beneath. 
That what we get is not the same
as that which we deserve...sometimes. 
That you are, whether or not.

YOU redeeming flood, wash over me; until I am submerged and I am drowned. Until I am consumed. I am in the belly of a fish. I am in the belly of a man. I am in the green stalk of the ground. In these grazing pastures. Beside the shepherd’s tent. In the belly of a woman whose left hand beneath her head now rests. Until some part of me is soon reborn in these low hills. In this village that we gather in. In this place where flocks and herds, grazing, are not harried. Over and again may I rise up. Until the hungry poor are satisfied and I am scattered by the wind.

I BELIEVE that love is just the end of self,
That there’s always one more threshold,
That resting in you feels like breath, because it is.
That no matter where I am, I am,
that you are also there.

That death is just as good a myth
as I think I’ve ever heard,
That I will never have the final word.
That surrender is a love’s truest companion,
That the void is never empty, but is filled
with particles of sweet unending grace.
That we always re-create those things
we think we’ve tossed away.

That there is always one more thing
that we’ve forgotten to consider.
That the light always abides with us
in the dark - somewhere.
That to change one’s mind is all it takes,
the heart will follow swiftly.
That this life is enough. It is enough!

That love and justice will outlive us all,
That we are wrong more often than we’re not.
That an apology is a such small thing to be owed.
That the arc of justice bends toward now,
and that truth doesn’t belong only to us.
That you are a doorframe in the dark.
That you are a book, a page, a word.
That you are a bell jar.
That you are a spoken thing.
That you are an endless gasp.
That you are a round face, laughing.
That you are all this foolishness and more.
That you have found me. 
In this dark.
In this light. 
Finally

Re-Membering the Faith

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If I do anything with my life, my hope is to reclaim a loving faith that my Church has spent a long time denying, destroying, and even sometimes making a lie - often in word and deed. 

Today’s most “visible” church in America, the evangelical right-wing version, has co-opted my faith in horrible ways. The prosperity Gospel is a deeply harmful heresy, and it’s participation in uncritical nationalism is idolatrous and dangerous. In upholding these false idols of wealth, power, and privilege, this "Christianity" has disenfranchised many, lost any sense of social justice, and has propped up the powerful in ways that undermine human dignity and worth. This is not the Christianity that I profess, nor is the Jesus they say they follow in any way recognizable to the Jesus of the Gospels whose love, power, and witness changed my life. It has not been a positive Christianity aligned with our Master’s teachings, but a Christianity co-opted by money, power, political posturing, and the exclusion of those whom Jesus loved deeply. The poor, oppressed, and broken. 

I embrace a positive Christianity that doesn’t seek to define itself in opposition to non-believers or other faiths. In fact that doesn’t try to define itself in opposition, but in affirmation of the beautiful and breathtaking dignity of every human being. A deeply spiritual faith that paves the way for all who seek a deeper purpose and life, regardless of what “tribal” affiliations one lays claim to. Tribal affinities characterized by political views, social positions or status, race, gender, or ways in which we desire to love. The Church, for too long, rather than "gather in" has instead "cast out" based on categories that were meaningless to the Jesus of the Gospels, inasmuch as they were not criteria for either believing in or following him, or seeking the God Jesus' pointed to who, above all, is love.

It is my hope that my life can bear witness to the transforming love of God, and to that end, I spend a good deal of time trying to re-assert the prophetic teachings of Christ’s Gospel of love, mercy, and social justice.

But, I am not at all unique in the deliberate attempts to reclaim it as a beautiful tradition worth recognizing as something that informs and exposes deeper truths about our humanity. Some call me a mystic, others a unicorn. For me, I’m just a simple human who seeks love and tries to give it as I may. And there are many other people in my faith tradition who are seeking to do just that. 

I am Christian. I am not “a Christian because everyone else is a damned heathen.” I am not a Christian because it sets me apart from you, but because it binds me closer to you in love and joy, and even in sorrow. I am Christian because it makes me a more compassionate and loving human in my own life. Others are better people without faith, because faith makes them feel icky. Or duplicitous. Or fraudulent. Or oppressed. My faith’s religious history, and the Church’s involvement in transient and expedient political movements for the sake of power, had a large part to play in that. That fact breaks my heart. I spend my life literally trying to clear the wreckage of that truth and helping to bind the hearts of wounded people without needing to shove my faith down people’s throats as the price of my love or kindness. 

Of all my dearest social companions, I am the only “faith” person. And we all agree...if what makes you inspired to be a better person is true and good for you, BE THAT. Don’t be a “I’m not that, because I'm better than you and more evolved than that” kind of person. Because THAT doesn’t, in fact, make the world a better place, or make human relationships more connected. It makes us more prone to distrust one another. As a Christian, I am not better than anyone. But I am better than the “me” I was before I found my way to faith again. And I don’t believe that you need to be a person of faith to be a better you. Whatever that looks like, I’m sure you can find it without any help from me or my faith. 

A monolithic faith destroys. A faith of rigid rules and formulas, or “believe or get out”, cannot withstand the facts of the world around us, scientific discovery, and the reality of human diversity and self-recovery. No belief ought to be monolithic. There are shades, and shadows, and legalisms, and mysticisms everywhere. In my faith, and also in our politics, and our philosophies and our sexualities and our strivings for justice and peace. Beautiful expressions of the beautiful abound. Everywhere! And for my mystical heart, God is at the center of every one, and the life of Jesus called us to discover God there. I don’t want to see differences turned into dividing lines or gates to keep people out. Let’s make art of them, and beauty, and friendships, and connections, and love. That’s what makes us beautiful, creative, and connected in some lovely mystical way with everything. With the past and also the future. Connected with each other. With the fragile planet we inhabit. And with the inimitable dignity of being free and whole and beloved creatures capable of changing the world. 

For David, a beloved...

Living With Grace in Caesar's World

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No, beloveds...I don't believe God tests us. I don't believe in a God who sends us trials, or a God who "won't give us more than we can handle." I won't confuse God with the realities of life that are often difficult and challenging.

I do believe in a God that infuses every moment with the possibility of grace. And that the journey of faith is to seek that grace and its Giver in every situation, in every trial, and in every moment when the choice is between despair and hope; between anger and love; between fear and patience.

Rather than see a God who is absent in trials, or who brings them upon us to test us, I would rather seek the grace that is to be found and that transforms the possibility of suffering into one of triumph. This is Resurrection life. Every moment can be redeemed for the good. This neither negates our sorrow nor diminishes our pain, but it is truly giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and giving to God what is God’s. And what is God's is the sure trust that nothing in Caesar's world can diminish the human spirit or its dignity.

Welcome to me

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It’s National Coming Out Day! 37 years ago approximately October, I came out as a little gay boy.

Today, I am blessed to come out yet again as a transgender non-binary person. This was a lot more difficult.

My whole adult life, I struggled with my gender identity. I always thought I had to choose to be male or female. Neither felt authentic to who I am or complete. This struggle has lasted for 40 years. Today, that ends with this public disclosure.

I have been blessed by a loving and supportive husband, a loving family and countless friends, and a community that values me for who I am.

I began my transition one year ago last month, medically and emotionally. It has been and I trust will continue to be a joyful, magical, and essential fulfillment of my own authentic self. Navigating beingness in that space between being both and neither male/female. The truth of me.

Being a public figure has complicated the emotional landscape of disclosure, but the fears and anxieties have helped me stretch and grow. Today, I am ready to say...

I am transgender. And I am proud.

Thank you to all who have loved me and will continue to love me through this time of new and abundant life. And thanks be to God, who has led me ever more deeply into my integrated self, so that I may continue to love and serve the One who is Love above all else.

Yours faithfully

Brother Karekin

Peace!

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Christian souls...listen! In the midst of this craziness and division, remember to what you are called...

When anyone preaches hate...
You must speak a word of love.

When anyone creates division...
You must speak a word of unity.

When anyone dehumanizes another...
You must proclaim the dignity of every person.

When someone raises a sword, a gun, a weapon...
You must raise up the cross of Christ.

You are not here to acquiesce to the means the world uses to break the human spirit, to divide us one from another.

You are here to proclaim God's holy and inviolable peace. God's love for every soul. God's grace available to every heart that opens to receive it. Don't close your own heart. Stand willing to break open every heart with Love demonstrated, proclaimed, given as you received it. For you were loved long before you did anything to earn it.

Enough. You were not meant to be Caesar's sword. You were called to be God's shield. Remember your calling. 

Peace!!!

Pneuma

Your wind-borne dancing
Sows the lambing fields with grass,
Our tears with soft praise,

The river, or the delta,
Its muck that formed this flesh-ness.

By swoon of labor
Spread the seed, that fertile speck
Of stars longer gone.

These lips now taste your sweetness
While the wind twists through our hair.

From dawn fields seeping—
Mists and wheat and tears, distilled,
To fill these cupped hands

With prayers spread on musky bread
And drink to conspire with night.

Kissing the flower
Deep into your deepest self,
The world, trembling, sighs

As saplings listen, waiting,
Fill themselves with longing breath.

Nectar of blossoms
Soaks into the ancient bones,
Whose roots reach deeply

Seeking flesh that remembers
The sacred hymns of these trees.

Above—the swarm-dance,
Their songs spent in sweetly praise
Of heaven’s bright queen

Proclaim the Mother’s calling
To curry the sweetest comb.

© Brother Karekin M Yarian, BSG