Sunday, June 22, 2014

To Thee, O Lord, I Show My Wounds

One of the prayers I often use before Mass is a prayer of Saint Ambrose, the great fourth century bishop of Milan.  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 ponder those words in the moments before Mass, it often proves helpful that, at Luther Memorial Chapel, there is within my sight a large crucifix above the altar.  For I have come to see that while this line references my own filth and unworthiness, it is also a wonderful reminder that there is One Who also shows His wounds, and lays bare His shame.  He shows them to His Father, and He shows them to us. 

In the minutes 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. 
Today I was reminded of these thoughts in a special way by the Gospel read in the Mass.  For in that holy lection, from the second half of the sixteenth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, we hear of Lazarus, the beggar whose body is full of sores.  His is the position of the Christian, whose blessed role is that of beggar.  Yet Lazarus also portrays for us the Christ, Who lays bare His shame, and His sores, for all to see.  Of course He did this in the historical event of His passion and death, and obviously we portray His wounds in Christian art, but let us never forget that it is in the Blessed Sacrament itself that, in a unique way, we proclaim His death until He comes.  There outside the gate, we go out to meet Him, and find our consolation in those wounds, licking, as it were, His sacred sores. 


  1. The analogy is a good one.

    For we are, like the pugnacious Syro-Phoenician lady, blessed by the Spirit to "work out our salvation" at the Master's Table. Scraps we may receive; but they are infinitely holy, the very flesh of God. And what He powerfully sows of Himself, will not and cannot return to Him void of accomplishment, as He wills.

    The scene of an age-encumbered and limb-trembling Luther, licking at the foot of the Table, might draw only the scorn or bewilderment of a dissolute world lost to meaning and means; but he would surely catch a knowing and empathic nod from the Syro-Phoenician, like himself a professed great Beggar