Touching Jesus – 9 April, 2018
Go on – touch him. He invites you. He dares you. He offers you a wound, not those in his hands or feet, but the one in his side, the one from which blood and water flowed.
The risen Christ is still partly wrapped in a shroud. His mouth is slightly open, his eyes look straight at you, the wrinkles in his forehead suggest the invitation, or the question ‘do you need to be healed’?
Images such as this one by Giovanni Antonio Galli (early 17thC) appeared first in medieval hospitals. They showed Christ as a man of sorrows, but one who also offered healing to those who suffered. This painting might have hung in such a hospital, or maybe a private chapel, offering consolation and hope to the one who prayed before it.
This picture does not accord with current devotional tastes. We might see that this has been painted by a follower of Caravaggio and wonder at the artist’s skill. To engage with the picture itself requires the viewer to connect first with Christ in his death, through his wounds, and then in his resurrection, by acknowledging the need for healing and noticing the desire to stretch out a hand and touch him. To receive new life requires an intimate encounter.
“Look. Look at the wounds. Enter in to the wounds. By those wounds we were healed. Do you feel bitter, feel sad, feel life just isn’t going the right way and you’re also ill? Look there. In silence.”
Pope Francis, March 2018
O pleasant port! O place of rest!
O royal rift! O worthy wound!
Come harbour me, a weary guest,
That in the world no ease haue found!
Robert Southwell (1561-1595)
Man to the Wound in Christ’s side
(This picture is in Perth Museum and Art Gallery – a wonderful collection, worth the trip for this alone.)