lent meditation: good friday

“To receive into me the One who was sacrificed for me means to grant him space in, and power of disposition over, my whole existence, both spiritual and physical, and thereby to follow him….” (Von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale, 100).

He also speaks of Jesus’ pierced side and the out-pouring of blood and water. He says, “The account of the lance thrust and the flowing forth of blood and water must be read within the continuity of the Johannine symbolism of water, spirit, blood, to which there belongs the key-word of ‘thirst.’… The opening of the heart is the gift of what is most interior and personal for public use: the open, emptied out space is accessible to all” (ibid, 131, italics added).

Julian of Norwich also writes about Christ’s wounded side. At one point during the Lord’s revelation to her she sees this: “Very happily and gladly our Lord looked into his side, and gazed, and said these words, ‘Look how much I have loved you’; as if he had said, ‘My child, if you cannot look at my Godhead, see here how I let my side be opened, and my heart be riven in two, and all the blood and water that was within flow out. And this makes me happy, and I want it to make you happy.’ Our Lord revealed this to make us glad and joyful” (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Short Text 13).

Later in the book she talks about Christ’s wounded side as the space in which Christ encloses all those he loves. Julian conceives of our relationship with Christ as a physically intimate one wherein we are drawn “through his sweet open side” and partake of his nourishment poured out for us.  Yet for many of us Jesus has become an idea, and a stale idea at that. Many churches downplay the Eucharist, serving it only every several months and calling it a mere “remembrance.” Jesus, in our mental pictures, becomes something of a lawyer or a banker. The one who, well-dressed and quite professionally, argued our case or paid our bail. Clean transactions. The crucifixion narrative shatters those ideas and calls us to the real body and the real blood of Jesus, and we must ask: Are Jesus’ wounds the very space where we commune with him (Thomas!) or do we stand at a respectful distance and avert our eyes from the torn flesh? As we become unified with our broken savior, do we allow ourselves to be broken, emptied? As we are crucified with Christ and bear our cross do we experience the “lance thrust” to the side? Are we emptied of our personal space, our rights to physical and emotional security? Do we pour ourselves out for the hungry (Isaiah 58) and do we act as ones who “water and will ourselves be watered” (Proverbs 11:25)?


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