Ignatian Devotion to Five Wounds of Christ

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Symbolism of the “Cross of the Five Wounds” of Christ for Ignatians

The symbol of our Redeemer and redemption, the Cross has inspired chivalrous men for millennia to follow in the footsteps of the heroic Christ who for love of His Father and mankind endured a lifetime of renunciation, pain and death. They lived as their motto the words of St. Paul: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gals 6:14)

Symbolism that Provokes Closeness to the Humanity of the God-Man

For the Ignatian the Cross of the Five Wounds is the symbol of the Heroic Heart of Christ. Wounds borne out of love, caused first and foremost by the God-Man’s heroic decision to redeem mankind by these wounds, evoke the grandeur of the humanity of Christ, the perfect man, the “New Man”.

St. Bernard had well summed up the awareness of his fellow Christians: the five wounds of Christ are like so many lips crying out the Savior’s love for the soul. To these wounds the Ignatian resolves to be united: “Hide me within your wounds and keep me close to you” (Anima Christi)

The Ignatian accepts the invitation of Christ to dare to approach Him and ‒ sublime wonder ‒ to touch His wounds so as to seal his heart with the resolve “to know only Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). “Then he said to Thomas, Let me have thy finger; see, here are my hands. Let me have thy hand; put it into my side. Cease thy doubting, and believe.” (John 20:27)

The Ignatian knows that by living and combating under the sign of the Cross of the Five Wounds, he finds personal victory and fights for the public, social victory of Christ.

The Ignatian by gazing on the sacred wounds of Christ allows a supernatural confidence to take over his heart and mind. For it is “by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). From the wounds of Christ have flowed the blood and water that are the fountains of the supernatural life channeled to man through the sacraments. This is the life, the only life that liberates man from the dominion of the Axis of Evil and unites him to Jesus Christ, his Savior.

The more the Ignatian focuses his thought and affection on these sacred wounds the more he is enlightened and strengthened. Until finally by God’s grace he hopes to reach mystical identification with the the Risen and Glorified Christ “ever interceding for us” but ever bearing His wounds.

“So that I may live to God; with Christ I hang upon the cross, and yet I am alive; or rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me. True, I am living, here and now, this mortal life; but my real life is the faith I have in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:19-20)

Thus the moment will arrive when he can sincerely say alongside St. Paul and with all the saints:

“I am glad of my sufferings on your behalf, as, in this mortal frame of mine, I help to pay off the debt which the afflictions of Christ still leave to be paid, for the sake of his body, the Church.” (Col. 1: 24)

Symbolism that Provokes Action in the Heart of the Ignatian

Thus, the five wounds of Christ are, for the Ignatian, so many calls to action.

“But love leads to imitation. By the very fact that we prize the qualities of a friend, that we are drawn to him by those qualities, we want to reproduce them in ourselves, so as to be but one with him in heart and soul; for we feel that our union will not be strong and deep unless we share in the thoughts and feelings and actions o four friend. We copy instinctively the one whom we love. And thus it is that Jesus  becomes the center of our actions , of our whole existence.” (A. Tanquerey, The Spiritual Life)

This call to action is symbolized by the gold and black colors of the Ignatian crest. And this unfathomable value of the Cross becomes clearer to us when we are alert to the fact that the Cross of Golgotha blazes with light amid the utter darkness of the world. Gold, pure gold, against Black because Christ’s Cross, gold because His blood is the most unfathomably precious reality this world has ever known, sharply contrasts against the background of the world’s darkness, darkness due to to the Axis of Evil that dominates the Christless world; powers that Ignatians are called to confront with the strength of the Cross. Hymn: “Crux Fidelis inter omnes arbor una nobilis”

Symbolism that Provokes Chivalric Action: Under the Sign of the Cross “In Hoc Signo Vinces” (In this Sign you will Conquer)

The spirit of the action called forth in the Ignatian’s heart was first seen amid medieval men as they recognized in Christ Crucified the hero par excellence of men called to combat for truth, justice, and the defense of the defenseless.

That spirit has a name: chivalry. It’s spirit is an integral dimension of the Ignatian patrimony for it is in the long line of Ignatian tradition that goes back to St. Ignatius Loyola and, through the influence that the ethos of chivalry exercised on him.

At the sources of medieval chivalry is medieval man standing in front of the Crucifix.

Expressive of this admiration for Christ the Crucified Heroic Warrior is the medieval poem entitled “How God’s Son was armed on the Cross” has the opening line “Hear now, lords, about great chivalry.”  Another text, written by the knight Geoffroi de la Tour Landry, is full of a soldier’s poignant admiration for Jesus Crucified:

“And thus for compassion and nobility the gentle knight fought and suffered five mortal wounds, as the sweet Jesus Christ did, who fought out of pity for us and all mankind. He had great compassion lest they fall into the shadows of Hell. Therefore, in solitude, he suffered and fought the terribly hard and cruel battle on the tree of Holy Cross. His shirt of mail was broken and pierced in five places, namely his five grievous wounds received by his free will in his sweet body, for pity of us and all mankind.”

This chivalric spirit reached its zenith in the spirit of self-sacrifice with which so many of the knights of Europe went to the defense of the persecuted Christians being massacred in the Middle-East during the medieval centuries and sought to liberate the tomb of their Lord and Savior from hostile domination and fought for the defense of Christian civilization from aggression. Indeed, it was during this surge of Christian heroism that the devotion to the Cross of the Five Wounds spread throughout the ranks of knighthood.

Two men in particular embodied this chivalry the great crusader, Geoffrey de Bouillon and Saint King Louis IX, venerated even by his Islamic enemies who recognized the purest honor in his behavior.