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The Five Wounds of Christ

Life and Death

The Cross (death) and Resurrection of Jesus are intimately,
indeed, inseparably related both as mysteries as well as
events. Humanly speaking, it is clear that without a prior
death there can be no resurrection. At the same time, without
Christ's resurrection His death would be utterly meaningless,
as Paul teaches: "if Christ has not risen, vain then is our
preaching and vain too is your faith" (1 Cor 15,14).
With respect to the mystery, St. Thomas notes that while
there is nothing strange that a man should die, but that God
should die is incomprehensible. This thought led Tertullian
to exclaim, "It must be true, because it is impossible!"
Similarly, that a man should rise from the dead is
problematic -- did not the Athenians laugh Paul to scorn,
when he proposed this idea to them? -- and can only be
resolved by a divine intervention of the highest order. This is
why the Resurrection is the proof for the Divinity of Christ
in the New Testament, for only God could so corroborate His
divine claim, which, of course, was the reason for His
condemnation by the Sanhedrin.
In this Circular we want to offer a short meditation on the
beauty and efficacy of the Wounds of Christ Crucified and
Risen .
The 5 Wounds of CHRIST Heal the 5 Wounds of
Original Sin
Death and suffering entered the world by (Original) sin (cf.
Sir 40,9; Rom 5,12); sin and death were remedied on the
Cross by Christ's suffering and death, by His most Sacred
wounds, by the shedding of His precious Blood. The damage
caused by Original Sin was fivefold; the principal wounds of
Christ are five. There is a correspondence here, and this
invites us to offer up to the Father the blood and wounds of
Christ to purify our blood and heal the several wounds of our
soul. To Christ we pray, "Passion of Christ, my comfort be.
O good Jesus, listen to me. In Thy wound, I fain would hide,
never to be parted from Thy side."
What then are the five wounds of Original Sin? First, death
to the soul through the loss of sanctifying grace, and
consequently in due time to the body. Second, darkness in
the intellect. Third, malice -- an inclination to evil -- in the
will. Fourth, sensuality (disordered desires) in the
concupiscible appetite. And fifth, irritability and aggression
in the irascible appetite.
Original Sin Brought Death
The death of the soul is reflected in the death of the body
(heart). Death occurs when the soul, the life principle of the
body, is separated from the body. Supernaturally, God is the
life-principle of the soul by sanctifying grace. Accordingly,
Original Sin struck a deadly blow to grace, thus driving God
out of His paradise, the soul. This, in turn, lead to the death
of man's body, since man's immortality in God's covenant
with Adam was a grace dependent upon Adam's fidelity to
the covenant. It came down to this: in the measure that man
lovingly and faithfully clings to God, the life-principle of his
soul, God grants that man's body cling inseparably
(immortally) to his soul. Thus, the divisiveness of sin caused
death. To restore our life, Christ accepted death; He allowed
His Heart to be pierced on the Cross, so that "from His
wounded side (Heart) from which blood and water flowed,
and whence the sacraments of the Church issue forth, all men
are invited to draw water (life giving grace) from the springs
of salvation" (Preface of the Sacred Heart).
Original Sin Caused Darkness
The wound to our intellect is spiritual darkness. Man's two
spiritual faculties, his intellect and will, are reflected in his
hands because they too can reach out to grasp things. The
intellect grasps something when it comprehends. When we
want to understand something, we say, "Let me see it," and
we take it into our hand in order to grasp it the better. The
will grasps at things by reaching out for them in desire. The
wound of intellectual darkness may be associated with the
wound in Christ's right hand, since the intellect is the
principal spiritual faculty. Christ is the WORD, the eternal
Wisdom of God, and sits at the right hand of the Father.

Original Sin Brought Malice

The wound to our will is malice, a proclivity to real evil, to
rebellion. This may be associated with the wound in Christ's
left hand, with which He atones for all that is
'sinister' (means 'left' in Italian and ultimately in Latin) and
morally 'gauche' (meaning 'left' in French) in our life.
Culturally, the left hand stands for disorder! The Roman
legionnaires surely knew the dangers of a sinister (left-
handed) opponent who would attack unexpectedly from the
left side. Biblically, the blessed sheep are called to Christ's
right hand, while the goats are set at His left side, and are
condemned. Spiritually, the 'left eye' symbolizes all the
glances askance, all deviations from the single good of the
soul, and thus especially represents envy. Intellectual pride is
the principal and most grievious sin against God, while envy
is the greatest sin against the good of one's neighbor. In the
parable, the reproach was, "Is your eye evil, because I am
good?" (Mt 20,15), that is, are you envious because I have
been generous with other souls? Positively, the perfection of
charity is described as a single eye by the Spouse in the Song
of Songs: "Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister my
spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy
eyes" (4,9).

Original Sin Caused Irascibility

The lower appetites are the earthly side of man's willing and
desiring which are all earth bound. Hence they are well
represented by the feet and may be associated to the foot
wounds of Jesus. The wound in the irascible appetite is our
aggressivity and proclivity to anger. Many evils issue from
this festering wound in man's soul, major among them is
war! Anger, according to the wisdom of the desert father's is
called the 'ape of reason', since it is always marshaling
arguments to justify its aggression, and because in its
disordered passion it preempts reason. Now, since the right
foot is the foot of strength and violence, whether we kick
out, or leap forward, it follows that the sins of anger and
aggression may be associated with the wound in Christ's
right foot.
Original Sin Caused Sensuality
The wound in the concupiscible appetite is sensuality. The
left foot is not a symbol of strength, but rather the foot that
sets off down the wrong path of pleasure and sin. Without
specifying a side, the psalmist writes: "I restrain my feet
from every evil path, that I may keep thy words" (118,102).
"Wisdom" -- the good of the intellect and the will -- writes
St. Thomas, "pertains to the right side along with the other
spiritual goods, while the left side symbolizes temporal
goods (literally nourishment) according to Proverbs 3,16:
"On her left are riches and glory" (Summa I-II.102,4,6m).
This may be associated with the wound in Christ's left foot.

In a similar way the entire Passion of our Lord can be

divided up into five parts which can be appropriated to
various kinds of reparation. Thus, in the Agony in the
Garden Christ makes reparation for our interior sins of
thought. At the Scourging at the Pillar He offers expiation
for our sins of the flesh. At the Crowning with Thorns, by
His humiliation He offers reparation for our pride. On the
Way of the Cross He expiates for all our infidelities, lack of
perseverance and flight from the will of God. Stripped and
nailed to the Cross, by His poverty and obedience He atones
for all our disobedience and avarice which are at the root of
all sin.
The Glorious Wounds of the Risen Christ
It is a mystery of faith that when Christ rose from the dead
He retained these five wounds in His glorious body.
Speaking to the doubting Thomas, He said: "'Bring here thy
finger, and see My hands; and bring here thy hand, and put it
into My side, and be not unbelieving, but believing.'
Whereupon Thomas answered Him, saying, 'My Lord and
My God!'" (Jn 20,27-28).
St. Thomas offers 5 basic reasons why Christ chose to retain
His sacred wounds in glory (Summa III.54,4), taking the first
from St. Augustine and the latter ones from St. Bede.
First, because they proclaim the glory and the victory of
Christ. Just as Adam, exalting himself through pride and
disobedience, was defeated by the serpent upon a tree, so
now Christ, identifying Himself through the psalm as "a
worm and no man" (Ps 22,6), to remind us of the bronze
serpent raised upon a crossed standard by Moses to heal the
people of the snakebite and their sin (cf.., Num 21,7-9),
"emptied Himself ... He humbled Himself, becoming
obedient unto death, even to death on a cross. Therefore God
has exalted Him, and bestowed upon Him a name that is
above every other name; ...every tongue should confess that
the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father" (Phil
2,7-9. 11).
Secondly, Christ retained His wounds in glory, in order to
confirm the disciples in their faith and hope of the
resurrection, and so give them courage to suffer for His
name. "If Christ has not risen, vain is your faith, for you are
still in your sins. Hence, they who have fallen asleep in
Christ, have perished. If with this life only in view we have
had hope in Christ, we are of all men the most to be pitied.
But as it is, Christ has risen from the dead, the first-fruits of
those who have fallen asleep. For since by a man came death,
by a man also comes resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor 15,
17-21). Being assured of our hope, we will not fear suffering
and death, rather, St. Peter exhorts: "rejoice, in so far as you
are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, that you may also
rejoice with exultation in the revelation of His glory!" (1 Pt
In the third place, He retains His wounds in glory, so that He
might constantly present them to the Father in heaven
supplicating in our behalf. "Jesus, as the High priest,
"entered once and for all through the greater and more
perfect tabernacle... by virtue of His own Blood [wounds]
into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption" for us.
He entered "into heaven itself, to appear now before the face
of God in our behalf. Therefore He is able at all times to save
those who come to God through Him, since He lives always
to make intercession for them" (Heb 9,11. 12. 24; 7,25).
Fourth, to impress upon those whom He has redeemed by
His death, how mercifully He came to their aid by placing
His wounds before their eyes. This He did not only to
demonstrate the magnitude of His love ("in this is the love of
God, not that we loved God first, but while we were yet
sinners He sent His Son as a propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn
4,10), but to strengthen our hope. "If God is for us, who is
against us? He who has not spared even His own Son but has
delivered Him for us all, how can He fail to grant us also all
things with Him?" (Rom 31-32). He knows that deep
gratitude will strengthen us in the fear of the Lord and
preserve us from sin. This moved St. Paul to exclaim to the
Galatians to bring them back to Christ and their senses:"O
foolish Galatians! who has bewitched you, before whose
eyes Jesus Christ has been depicted as crucified? This only I
would learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit in virtue of
the works of the Law, or in virtue of hearing and
believing? ... Have you suffered so much in vain, if indeed it
be in vain?" (3,1-3a. 4).
And Fifth, so that at the Last Judgment it might be apparent
to all, even to the damned, how just their condemnation
really is, in that they spurned so great a redemption. An
ancient author exclaimed to them in the person of Christ the
Judge: "Behold the man whom you crucified. See the wounds
which you inflicted. Recognize the side which you pierced.
Since it was by you and for you that it was opened, yet you
refused to enter into it" and thus share in its life.
Accordingly, we read in the Apocalypse: "Behold, He comes
with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him and they also
who pierced Him" (1,7).

The Wounds of Christ Reveal the LOGOS

The Cross of Christ, which is His Glory, additionally reveals
and identifies His personal identity in terms of the Blessed
Trinity. In as much as we are called to share in His Sonship,
we are called to share in the mystery and glory of the Cross:
"God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ!" (Gal 6,14).
The life of Christ is a stage, because everything He does,
God does. But whatever God does, He does in His own
eternity. Whatever Christ does in time and as man reveals
what and Who the Son is in eternity.
The distance between His two natures is assuredly infinite,
but they are united in one Divine Person. Hence, it is more
than simply an analogy of being, because the self-same
person acts in the two natures of Christ. Practically we can
see how this works with regards to the Incarnation. The
fittingness for the Conception and Birth of the Son comes
from the fact that the Son is eternally generated by the
Father. That this generation and conception be virginal has
its ultimate ground and explanation in the fact that the
Eternal Father virginally begets the Word, His Son. The
eternal pro-cession and Generation of the Son, therefore, is
presented in the temporal mission, conception and birth of
Now, the Passion and Death of Christ- we may say His
wounds - present us with the high point of His life. He calls
it His exaltation, His being lifted on high with all the beauty
and irony possible, for Christ Crucified is the power and
wisdom of God, but the folly and scandal of the world.
What concerns us currently is that the Passion, Death and
Resurrection of Christ is the maximum revelation of Christ
in His Person and in His mission. To be even more precise,
the Cross is the high point of Christ's mission - "for this
reason I have come into the world"- and the first point of His
return. It is the most intense revelation of the Son's
relationship to the Father, but also the beginning of the
coming of the Holy Spirit. "If anyone thirst, let him come to
Me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has
said, 'Out of His heart shall flow rivers of living water!' Now
He said this about the Spirit, which those who believed in
Him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not yet been
given, because Christ had not yet been glorified" (Jn
7,37-39), that is, exalted on the Cross, exalted to the right of
the Father.
In the Blessed Trinity, the term or High point of the
procession of the Son is simultaneously the beginning of the
procession of the Holy Spirit. These are co-eternal
processions. Even as the Son is being generated and
proceeding forth from the Father He is returning back to the
Father in an embrace of love, which is the spiration of the
God has chosen the Cross on which to consummate this
revelation. Both humanly and Divinely does Christ commend
His spirit into the Father's hands in Death. [Behold, the
Cross: the Process of the WORD like a sword, the vertical
beam of the Cross; the outstretched arms of love, the wings
of the Spirit in the arms of the Cross.] Christ's immolatory
death, His glory, is the image of His eternal return to the
Father in the Trinity, thus spirating the Spirit. Not of course
that He dies or suffers in the divinity, but only that the most
perfect reflection of the Son's total love for the Father, in
which He is a co-principle of the Spirit, is in a total holocaust
of love as we have it in His Crucifixion.
This is why the word of God penetrates to the separation of
bone and marrow, for it is inseparable from total love which
cannot offer less than its whole self: "This child is a sign of
contradiction, and your own soul a sword shall pierce, so that
the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2, 34-35).
This is why the concept of death mystically tends to coincide
with the concept of transformation. And at the final level of
contemplative light, death is the image of entering into the
Divine Light, of entering into God: "No one can see Me and
live!" And yet, "this is eternal life, to know (see) Thee the
only true God, and Him whom Thou hast sent, Jesus
Christ" (Jn 17,3).
This is why the Death and Resurrection of Christ constitute a
single mystery, because only together do they proclaim the
Mystery of Christ and our eternal vocation in God. The
mystery of death is ultimately linked up with the Son's
Procession from the Father and His return to the Father in the
The creation, trial and return of Creatures back to God is the
threefold mystery of our existence in relation to the Trinity:
At creation we proceed from God Father in the semblance
and through the Word into being. In trial we are faced in the
Garden with the Cross, the Tree of knowledge of good and
evil, with the choice, in the Son to be obedient to the will of
the Father: "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me,
and to accomplish His work" (Jn 4,34). [We can even see
now that death as a punishment for sin was most fitting, in
that by sin man refused to be a son of God.]
In the Consummation of our sacrifice of self in surrender to
the Father's will we enter back into God through the Son in
the sanctifying power of the Spirit. "If I do not go (surrender
in Death) the Spirit cannot come, since, as we said, His death
reveals to us the Son's relationship to the Father in which
they are co-principles of the Spirit. The wounds of Christ are,
therefore, an everlasting revelation of the Triune God and of
His redemptive love.
The Wounds of Christ Reveal The Perfection of Love
It follows, from what we have said, that unless we love as
Christ did -- and this is the new Commandment, "Love one
another as I have loved you" (Jn 13,34) -- we cannot fully
share in the fruits of His resurrection, principal among which
is the outpouring of the Spirit of love.
Hence, risen Christ's first gift to the Disciples on Easter was
the Holy Spirit (Jn 20,22). But our present point is this: the
wounds of Christ are the revelation of the nature, victory and
the glory of Christ's love. This is eloquently expressed in the
exaltation of the Lamb in the Apocalypse: "I saw a Lamb ...
standing, as if slain" (5,6). How paradoxical! The Easter
Preface interprets this for us: "qui immolatus iam non
moritur, sed semper vivit occisus," which means, that Christ,
"who has been immolated, now He is not dying, but always
lives as slain", that is, in a state of holocaust! He was made a
little less than the angels in his capacity to suffer. He, the
High Priest, immolated himself on the Cross, now He is
living, not dying, but His life is a perpetual state of the
holocaust of love. The temptation of imperfect lovers in the
face of the Cross and the wounds of Christ, namely, is to
want to be able to say "yes" once, and get it over with, and so
get on the pleasant receiving side of things again. But this
misses the point, that love by its very nature is holocaustal: it
is total and constant giving of self to God. "It is in giving that
we receive!"
While we are in this life, perfect love is linked with the
painful side of sacrifice which causes us dread and trembling,
even as it did Christ. But the glorious wounds of the risen
Christ proclaim the eternal victory of divine charity, that is
the beginning of eternal happiness. By grace and charity we
will not only see and enjoy God, but we become divinized. If
we are divinized, we share in the divine nature, and if we
share in the divine nature, we also share in the very
processions of the Divine Persons ("I bend my knees to the
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all fatherhood in
heaven and on earth receives its name," Eph 3,19; or:
"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon
us, that we should be called children of God; and such we
are." 1 Jn 3,1).
Christ's love for the Cross is the sure path to this sharing, to
sharing in His Sonship, in His eternal oblation to the Father
from whence flows the Spirit of love. The sign of the triumph
of this love are the glorious wounds of Christ.
Fr. William Wagner, ORC