Touching into our woundedness
by Judith Irving
St Beuno’s team member, Judith Irving, reflects on her experience of Easter in lockdown and the story of Thomas: ‘As Christ speaks “Peace” into this time and into the woundedness of ourselves and our world, what is it to “touch into” this woundedness?’
There is something moving, I feel, about the everyday, experiential witness of our readings this Eastertide. The whole community – the early, embryonic church – remains faithful, living, working, growing and sharing – breaking bread together. And the promise is, that Jesus Christ is revealed; made known through faith, action and experience which is more precious than gold.
As I cast my mind back to Holy Week and the Easter Triduum – as I relive it again in my imagination – I am moved by the memory of our time together here at St Beuno’s: as we journeyed, as a body, as a community, each day, witnessing to and experiencing our faith through action, even as we were – and still are – physically apart. For, might it be that, especially at this time of disconnection in our world – of not living together – there is something profound in continuing to witness – to act – to experience - and in this we come together? Might this be profound, even if we are a tiny speck in the scheme of things, even if we are physically apart, even if what I have done has been as ordinary, perhaps, as simply lighting a candle? There seems something of great meaning in this; this remaining faithful together so that we might be together, live together, come home together. As Silja Walters writes in her prayer-poem The Monastery on the Hill, ‘someone needs to be at home, needs to keep watch, to remain, to sing’. We remain faithful - always faithful; a door, as Walters says, through which the Lord steps into the world. There is something experiential, touchable about this witness, this ministry that endures, that stays and sees and sings.
Karl Rahner famously said that the devout Christian of the future will either be a “mystic” – one who has experienced “something” – or cease to be anything at all. As we turn our gaze then, to the closed room (the lock-down) where the disciples are, might we sense then what this experience is as Jesus comes and stands among them and speaks, ‘Peace’ into the woundedness of their despair; as he shows his wounds, and welcomes touch, saying to Thomas, ‘put your finger here; put your hand into my side’.
The artist Jyoti Sahi, reflects how the image of the 'Wound' plays an important part in spiritual imagery. A liturgical Collect says ‘Grant, O Lord, that in your wounds we may find our safety.’ A prayer that appears at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola says, ‘Within thy wounds hide me.’ The artist Joseph Beuys used to say to his students: ‘Show me your wounds!’ The mystic Kabir said that only those who are wounded by the Word, can understand the sufferings of others. And one of the most moving images depicted by many Christian artists, is that of Thomas who demanded to see the wounds of the Risen Christ.
Here the wound is understood as a wellspring of creativity, and a new vision of Reality. As Martin Laird has written in his book An Ocean of Light, ‘wounds flower’ and ‘the flower of the wound is the flower of awareness that is our grounding essence.’ The flower of awareness beholds God in all things. To perceive God in all things ‘is to be seen through with love.’
The image of Thomas insisting on feeling the wounds of Christ is moving. Thomas, who had thought that wounds and death meant failure, experienced ‘something’; something entirely beyond an experience of feeling, with his hands, scar tissue. As we hear him cry, ‘My Lord and my God’ (surely one of the most clear and deep statements of faith), might we also feel, by faith – because we have experienced something too – how, as he touches, he is touched at his very heart. Something changed for Thomas, something shifted. A new era had come; it stirred him in the depth of his being, and he knew it. He opened, Love saw through him, and the Lord stepped through.
As Christ speaks ‘Peace’ into this time and into the woundedness of ourselves and our world what is it to ‘touch into’ this woundedness? What might I experience; what do I see, hear, feel, stirring, flowering, being revealed? I might need time to consider this, investigate it, poke around a little as it were. To reflect. To pray.
As R. S. Thomas says in his poem Evening:
‘… stand, then, in the interval
of our wounding, till the silence
turns golden and love is
a moment eternally overflowing’
Transparent then, might we each touch; and listen, to how Love is stepping through, saying, ‘Doubt no longer but believe’.