instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, September 14, 2006

An everlasting trophy

You probably know that Happy Catholic has been featuring selections from The Ignatian Workout: Daily Spiritual Exercises for a Healthy Faith, by Tim Mul. Today, Julie quotes a passage on the meaning of Jesus' wounds, still visible after the Resurrection:
That the risen Jesus still bears his wounds is good news, for it tells us that there is a continuity between the lives we have now and the lives that we will enjoy in the Resurrection. Jesus is the same person. His wounds, though, are different: they are not a source of suffering but a source of recognition.
St. Thomas lists the Venerable Bede's five reasons "[i]t was fitting for Christ's soul at His Resurrection to resume the body with its scars":
  1. "[F]or Christ's own glory. For Bede says ... that He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, 'but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.'"
  2. "[T]o confirm the hearts of the disciples as to 'the faith in His Resurrection.'"
  3. "'[T]hat when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us.'"
  4. "'[T]hat He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped, as He exposes before them the traces of the same death."
  5. "'[T]hat in the Judgment-day He may upbraid them with their just condemnation.'"
St. Thomas also seems to follow St. Augustine's supposition that, following their Master, the martyrs too will bear their scars into the New Creation:
But the love we bear to the blessed martyrs causes us, I know not how, to desire to see in the heavenly kingdom the marks of the wounds which they received for the name of Christ, and possibly we shall see them. For this will not be a deformity, but a mark of honor, and will add lustre to their appearance, and a spiritual, if not a bodily beauty.
At the very least, representing martyrs with their wounds in paintings and statues calls to mind some of the reasons St. Bede taught Christ still bears His wounds.

Here's a thought: The suffering we experience in this life and offer to God, in reparation or expiation or obedience or charity, will in some way be transformed into a spiritual beauty, to the glory of Christ, in the heavenly kingdom. The suffering we experience but don't offer to God will be washed away (in the water from Christ's side, it could be said), but will not produce any spiritual beauty within ourselves.

That potential for spiritual beauty won't be wasted -- it will be exercised, so to speak, in Christ's act of washing away that suffering -- but it will be a missed opportunity for us to bring glory to God. (And it's because it all redounds to God's glory that it's a false modesty that would say, "Oh, I don't care about my own spiritual beauty." Would I say, "Oh, I'm not vain about my appearance, so I'm not going to shave before going to a party at my wife's friend's home"?)