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.
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.
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.