Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Vulnera Christi: The wound to the right hand
The hands that touched the blind to sight,
that gave the sick man strength anew,
that raised the dead to life and light,
were pierced and wounded through and through.
Cecil Frances Alexander
The right hand in the first century was set by convention as the hand of power, the hand with which to do business, the hand that taught. Those who used the left hand were odd, unconventional and suspicious, hence the word for left in latin - sinister - taking on a more negative meaning.
We are not told which hand is nailed to the cross first. It seems likely that the right hand is nailed first both for a the practical reason of sufficiently incapacitating a felon as well as symbolically rendering powerless. Whichever hand was nailed first, certainly Our Lord's right hand was pierced and fixed to the wood that He had just carried on the via dolorosa.
This was the hand that blessed, this was the hand that taught and gestured, the hand that drew in the sand while meely mouths and self-righteous hearts demanded from Him the judgement of a woman caught in adultery. This was the hand at which the Lord Jesus declared to be the side of the Father on which He sits in Heaven.
Those who nail that hand to the cross believe that they are rendering the Lord impotent, incapable and powerless. The pain they inflict is, apparently, the most pain that can be inflicted upon the human body. With it, those who crucify believe that they are extinguishing all hope, all possibility of recovery, of salvation, of future happiness.
Yet, Our Lord suffers this to happen for in it Psalm xxii is brought to the fore. Our Lord uses the first line to cry out that sense of desolation, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me." Again, in utter solidarity with us, Our Lord gives voice to our own fears when our faith is shaken, when we find ourselves impotent and incapacitated by life's misery.
Yet that very Psalm also says, "O praise the Lord, ye that fear him : magnify him, all ye of the seed of Jacob, and fear him, all ye seed of Israel. For he hath not despised, nor abhorred, the low estate of the poor : he hath not hid his face from him, but when he called unto him he heard him." God gives us strength in our weakness though we may not even perceive it.
In suffering the wound to his right hand, Our Lord offers us the opportunity to remember that our powers in themselves achieve nothing. It is only when we put our right hands into the hand of God that we are given the capability to move forward in our lives and from Him only do we gain the power to act efficiently. In His suffering, Our Lord offers us humility and the chance to trust in God even when that trust is blinded by pain and suffering.