ECS Wellbeing: Bishop Martin’s Awareness Practice- Week 11
The Five Wounds of Christianity
Among the important stories told of St Francis is of him receiving what are known as the ‘stigmata’; marks appearing physically on his hands, feet, and side as the signs of the inner following of the Five Wounds of Christ. No matter what you think of this story, these five wounds form a metaphor for a deep inner and affective love for Christ and how that is lived out in practice. Indeed, these wounds have often been described as the Wounds of Love.
In the last few days, as we draw towards the end of term, teachers, staff, pupils, and parents have had to work hard to continue the care of children, in their education and in their feelings in the face of a particular appearance of the virus. This costly activity is perhaps most difficult for those who are leaving the school shortly as the celebrations and activities will inevitable be affected. This caring includes, of course, the people most immediately affected by the virus. The community of the school is therefore of paramount importance in these circumstances. This experience is, as it were, a Wound of Love.
The Five Wounds.
1 and 2. The wounds ‘in the hands’ are a metaphor for your deep gratefulness to those who touch you with love and care, coupled with a gratefulness for the loving that you’ve given to others. These are wounds. Any act of love, no matter how small, is costly.
3 and 4. The wounds ‘in the feet’ are metaphors for the ways in which you’ve suffered; not just physically [which may our may not be serious], but also psychologically through inner disturbance such as stress or anxiety. These are, hard though it may seem, metaphors for the suffering of Christ within us. There is also the way in which you’ve ‘carried’ the suffering of someone else through your love, which is what prayer is about. This ‘carrying’, in my view, is the central activity of the Community of Christ – life together. When the community [the church in all its various forms] is not practicing this, it’s not living out its vocation
5 The wound ‘in the side’ is the outpouring of love in action: growing in understanding and being involved in a group that cares for the planet and for each other.
These five wounds are costly and shift the compass bearings clear of being overly self-absorbed.
Here’s the ‘Five Wounds’ practice for you.
- Write down the occasions in the last week in which you’ve been loved and cared for, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
- Then write down the occasions when you’ve been loving and caring.
- Write down, briefly, the occasions when you have suffered and what reactions have been. It’s all too easy for me to slip into the blaming of others and away from taking responsibility for my own reactions and responses.
- Write down the ways in which you have ‘carried’ the pain or suffering of someone else. What did that feel like?
- Finally, write down the ways in which you have perhaps helped some group to operate with a more creative attitude to each other – looking outwards in the wounds of loving.
One of the ‘wounds’ that I feel deeply is not saying a ‘farewell’, let alone giving a personal blessing, to all those who are leaving the school. At least, let me use this to reach out to you and yours. The blessing that St Francis himself used:
‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon; the Lord lift out the Light of His countenance upon you
AND GIVE YOU HIS PEACE.”
Bishop Martin Shaw