Wineskins Archive

January 28, 2014

The Cross of Hope (Mar-Apr 2007)

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by Henri J.M. Nouwen
March – April, 2007

After Jesus had taken the wine he said, “It is fulfilled”; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit . . . .

One of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it – true evidence, and he knows that what he says is true – and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfill the words of scripture: . . .

They will look to the one whom they have pierced. — John 19:30, 34-37

Good Friday: day of the cross, day of suffering, day of hope, day of abandonment, day of victory, day of mourning, day of joy, day of endings, day of beginnings.

During the liturgy of Trosly, 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 that they were doing: expressing their love and gratitude for him who gave his life for them.

Show Me The Way by Henri NouwenAs they were crowding around the cross and kissing the feet and 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 slowing moving away from it comforted and consoled by such great love . . . . With my mind’s 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, reconciliation.

Our Prayer

O dear Lord, what can I say to you?
Is there any word that could come from my mouth,
any thought? any sentence?
You died for me, you gave all for my sins,
you not only became man for me
bust also suffered the most cruel death for me.
Is there any response?
I wish that I could find a fitting response,
but in contemplating your holy passion and death
I can only confess humbly to you
that the immensity of your divine love
makes any response seem totally inadequate.
Let me just stand and look at you.
Your body is broken, your head wounded,
your hands and feet are split open by nails,
your side is pierced.
Your dead body now rests
in the arms of your Mother.
It is all over now. It is finished.
It is fulfilled. It is accomplished.
Sweet Lord, gracious Lord,
generous Lord, forgiving Lord,
I adore you, I praise you, I thank you.
You have made all things new
through your passion and death.
Your cross has been planted in this world
as the new sign of hope.
Let me always live under your cross, O Lord,
and proclaim the hope of your cross unceasingly.

Source: Henri J.M. Nouwen, Show me the Way (Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992). Used by permission.

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