The following Good Friday reading is from Henri J.M. Nouwen and has, nearly every year for the last twenty, given my imagination an image to fix onto approaching Easter: Christ’s body stretched across the sea of humanity, calling the wounded together. This post is entirely a re-posting of Nouwen’s writing. It is by far worth re-typing and re-reading and realizing:
“During the liturgy at Trosly [at L’Arche in France], Père Thomas and Père Gilbert…took the huge cross that hangs behind the altar from the wall and held it so that the whole community could come and kiss the dead body of Christ. They all came, more than four hundred people – handicapped men and women and their assistants and friends. Everybody seemed to know very well what they were doing: expressing their love and gratitude for him who gave his life for them.
“As they were crowding around the cross and kissing the feet and the head of Jesus, I closed my eyes and could see his sacred body stretched out and crucified upon our planet earth. I saw the immense suffering of humanity during the centuries: people killing each other; people dying from starvation and epidemics; people driven from their homes; people sleeping on the streets of large cities; people clinging to each other in desperation; people flagellated, tortured, burned, and mutilated; people alone in locked flats, in prison dungeons, in labor camps; people craving a gentle word, a friendly letter, a consoling embrace, people… all crying out with an anguished voice: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?”
“Imagining the naked, lacerated body of Christ stretched out over our globe, I was filled with horror.
“But as I opened my eyes I saw Jacques, who bears the marks of suffering in his face, kiss the body with passion and tears in his eyes. I saw Ivan carried on Michael’s back.
I saw Edith coming in her wheelchair. As they came – walking or limping, seeing or blind, hearing or deaf – I saw the endless procession of humanity gathering around the sacred body of Jesus, covering it with their tears and their kisses, and slowly moving away from it comforted and consoled by such great love…
“With my minds eye I saw the huge crowds of isolated, agonizing individuals walking away from the cross together, bound by the love they had seen with their own eyes and touched with their own lips. The cross of horror became the cross of hope, the tortured body became the body that gives new life; the gaping wounds became the source of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.”
From The Road to Daybreak, © 1988 by Henri J.M. Nouwen, as quoted in Show Me The Way, Readings for Each Day of Lent