Letter from Poland 20
May 10, 2012
Prayer before a Crucifix :
O my Jesus, by your wounds I am healed. Though I inflicted them, they heal me. They draw me in like a rose attracts a bee or a stream invites a deer. They are sweet smelling and quench my thirst. Let others admire sleek bodies and finely painted faces which turn to dust, but your wounds are eternal and eternally beautiful.
You know I cannot stand a single drop of blood on my finger and would run away in horror at your execution even if it would be softened today by lethal injection. But you take pity on my weakness and lead me to contemplate your wounds through art. Never have I entered a church without seeing a cross or a crucifix. Some churches have only crosses because they believe that, since you are risen, it would be wrong to show your tortured body. But even a bare cross causes my mind to supply your body. The more realistic a crucifix is, the more I am drawn to it in spite of it being a mere representation. You attract me to what I fear most, as if to tell me, “Be not afraid, come and drink from my fountain, place your hands in my side.”
If I were to pray to a Greek god or goddess of perfect form, it would make me only more conscious of my wretchedness. But since you became a leper to turn me into a prince, I abandon all my customary defenses. I can do nothing to improve myself beyond what you have already done for me on your cross. I can look on anyone, no matter how common or ugly or deformed, and see your beauty in them. To be alone with you is to be one with all.
When I prepare to enter into polite society, I get a haircut, shave and put on some decent clothes. When I engage in conversation, I choose words that are agreeable. I drop code words to let others know I am worth speaking to. Your wounds allow no such pretense. They invite deep silence more intimate than the confessional. They make you totally vulnerable and me too. One glance from you and I become an honest-speaking man.
You invite me to come before your cross in this life so that I may have the courage to come before your throne in the next. You will not reject me in the final judgment if I repent before your cross. Your wounds are love of infinite tenderness. They wash me clean and robe me in white rose petals. Every petal is a person I have known and to whom I am now reconciled. The petals are woven together by silkworms and are lighter than a feather. I walk barefoot on green moss.
As the author of life, you have the power both to receive wounds and to heal them. The holes remain for all future doubting Thomases. Dear Jesus, I believe in you without touching you for I have you within myself, but, if I should falter and inflict self-wounds, lead me back to your cross. Amen.
Ronald E. Day
Maria I. Smolka-Day