Once, while cradling her beloved baby Krishna in her arms, Yashoda watched the child yawn.She saw the whole universe inside Krishna’s tiny mouth.Trembling with awe, she prayed she’d never see this frightening and magnificent truth again. The image of the universe within baby Krishna’s mouth came to mind while reflecting upon this week’s Gospel lesson - the resurrected Jesus inviting Thomas to touch the wound in his side.Julian of Norwich writes of this wound as a “fair and delectable place, large enough for all mankind.” (meditation one)Bruno Barnhart (OSBCam) likens the wound to the “promised land and paradise” of the unitive way (meditation two). Jean Vanier urges us to go out in our woundedness to love one another in mutual compassion (meditation three). In this way, the wound as large as all the world draws all of us toward Paradise. -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) "a fair and delectable place"
With a kindly countenance our good Lord looked into his side, and he gazed with joy, and with his sweet regard he drew his creature’s understanding into his side by the same wound; and there he revealed a fair and delectable place, large enough for all mankind that will be saved and will rest in peace and in love.And with that he brought to mind the dear and precious blood and water which he suffered to be shed for love.And in this sweet sight he showed his blessed heart split in two, and as he rejoiced he showed to my understanding a part of his blessed divinity, as much as was his will at that time, strengthening my poor soul to understand what can be said, that is the endless love which was without beginning and is and always shall be.
– Julian of Norwich 1342-c.1416 Showings, ch.24, Paulist Press,p.220-221
Meditation Two (insight) "you will see heaven opened"
Thomas has insisted upon personal contact and even a kind of physical intimacy – placing his finger and hand into Jesus’ wounds.Instead, he is given something different which is more personal and more intimate: the interior “touch” which is unitive experience of the Spirit. Blessed are those for whom this spiritual contact suffices; they shall be rich in the fullness of the Lord’s interior presence, and in the purity and strength of their faith. …
The passage from one kind of knowledge to another, from the knowledge of external sight to the knowledge of union, to which Jesus has led these disciples – and last of all Thomas – corresponds to his promise, “…you will see heaven opened…”(1:51).It is this initiation into the final unitive knowledge of God which is implied also in the final verse of John’s prologue:
No one (ie. not even Moses; see 1:17) has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is in the Father’s bosom, who has made him known (1:18).
Or, more graphically, “…who has opened the way” … The promised opening of the heavens is accomplished in the opening of “the Father’s bosom” to those who believe in Jesus.This opening of the interior sabbath of God’s rest to humanity is symbolized by the opened bosom of Jesus …This is the promised “place” (14:2-4), promised land and paradise.These convergent spatial images, however, all refer to a relationship which is non-spatial, non-dual and beyond all images: the simple divine union.
-Bruno Barnhart The Good Wine: Reading John from the Center
The Incredulity of Thomas, Andrea del Verrocchio, 1476
The Eighth Day
The meeting is called a meeting on the eighth day because it opens toward what cannot be reached simply by more days like those of the seven-day weeks we have known. In the meeting on the first day there is an opening toward the day beyond days, toward the last day of God. It is the eighth day because Christians have met “eight days later” (John 20:26) down through the ages. That meeting has always meant for them the encounter with the risen one and so with the end of death and the endless cycles of loss. To encounter Christ risen is to encounter God’s spirit and God’s mercy, things that have been promised for the last day when God’s dwelling is to be with humankind and tears are to be wiped away. Christians believe the eighth -day meeting is already the dawning of that day.
The eighth day is the beginning of a new creation.
-Gordon W. Lathrop Holy Things
The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Frankish Miniaturist, Psalter, 1279
Meditation Three (integration) through our brokenness
Jesus invites each one of us, through Thomas, to touch not only his wounds, but those wounds in others and in ourselves, wounds that can make us hate others and ourselves and can be a sign of separation and division. These wounds will be transformed into a sign of forgiveness through the love of Jesus and will bring people together in love. These wounds reveal that we need each other. These wounds become the place of mutual compassion, of indwelling and of thanksgiving.
We, too, will show our wounds when we are with him in the kingdom, revealing our brokenness and the healing power of Jesus.
-Jean Vanier Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John
The Last Word The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side, and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with inner certainty of endless bliss.
-Julian of Norwich
This Particularly Incarnational Religion
Countless sensate images wash over the faithful in Holy Week. Here are a few:
The donkey's breath, the foal's weaving around her mother. The scent of palms trodden under foot.
The crash of tables and glissando of coins scattering on the pavement, the wind-sound of the whip of cords.
The unique footfall of each sister on the path: Martha's sure and sturdy presence as she confronts Jesus, Mary's lighter step as she runs. Jesus' tears. His inexpertly stifled moan. The spice soaked bandages covering Lazarus. And later, the scent of pure nard filling the house.
Outer garment laid aside. Towel. Water. The distinctive feet of each friend: calluses, sores, corns, scars, dirt, fungus, deformed and discolored toenails. Bread broken. Wine poured. Judas slipping out into the night.
Bloody sweat of abject anguish. The chink of thirty pieces of silver. A fire in the courtyard in the cold air. A cock crowing. A bowl in which Pilate washes his hands.
Crown of thorns, purple robe, spittle. Blood. Mutilated flesh quivering like jelly on Jesus' back. Weakness, falling. The cloth wiping sweat and blood from his face. Nails. Cross. Dice. Tunic without seam. Thirst. Indescribable pain. Sponge. Vinegar. Spear. Water and blood. One hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, fresh linen. Corpse. Tomb hewn out of the rock.
The Passion narrative emphasizes the very materiality of this particularly incarnational religion. And paradoxically, perhaps it is this materiality which makes it hard to recognize the Resurrected flesh of the Incarnate One, at least initially, although I don't understand why. Why, near the tomb in the garden, on the road to Emmaus, in the Upper Room, on the beach in Galilee, was it difficult to recognize Jesus? What obscures normal sight and senses? Or does perceiving his presence demand a heightening of senses?
For Thomas, the privilege of doubt is a deeper embrace. Invited to place his hand in the divine wound, Thomas touches the interior flesh of the Beloved.
I'm beginning to realize this faith of mine isn't just inside my head. I place my hand in Thomas's hand.