Sunday, January 27, 2013

To Thee I Show My Wounds

One of the prayers I often use before Mass is a prayer of Saint Ambrose.  One line in that prayer goes like this:
To Thee, O Lord, I show my wounds, to Thee I lay bare my shame. 
As I pondered those words recently, it was surely helpful that I happened to have within my sight the large crucifix above the altar.  For I came to see that this is precisely what Christ does.  He shows His wounds; He lays bare His shame.  He shows them to His Father, and He shows them to us. 

In the brief moments before the start of Mass, the Christian has the opportunity interiorly to bare his soul, as it were, before the holy God, and to ponder both his great need for forgiveness and healing and the fact that he is about to receive God's forgiveness and healing lavishly set before us in Christ's Word and Sacrament.  I hasten to add that the Christian has also the rich opportunity to do the same thing quite orally in the Sacrament of private Confession. 

And when he thus bares his wounds, and lays bare his shame, whether interiorly before the Holy Supper or orally in Confession, it is encouraging to consider Christ crucified as clearly set before us, for there He shows us His wounds.  His wounds remind us simultaneously of our sin and shame, on the one hand, for that is what they reflect, that is what He bears thereby, and of our salvation and healing, on the other hand, for by those wounds we are healed.  His wounds are so deep they have the capacity to bear and swallow up even our sin.  His wounds are an invitation for us to find our consolation within them.  Indeed, sacramentally speaking, we do just that. 

I hasten to add that this is yet another devotional benefit of praying before the crucifix.  If you are denied this opportunity in your church, develop a hunger for it, and give voice to this need.  If your church does have a crucifix, develop and cultivate your appreciation for it.