Apr 14, 2017


Senses of the Sacred

There is, in the tradition of meditations on the Passion of Christ, reflections on his seven last words- Our Lord’s sacred utterances from the Cross. Each of his statements are worthy of reflection and meditation. Many spiritual writers and theologians throughout the ages had done so. 

1 Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
2 Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
3 John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.
4 Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
5 John 19:28: I thirst.
6 John 19:30: It is finished. (From the Greek "Tetelestai" which is also translated "It is consummated.")
7 Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

While I would encourage you to meditate on his seven words, so that we do not approach Christ’s horrific crucifixion solely from a sanitized, or solely intellectual or purely spiritual point of view, I suggest we might also meditate briefly on his seven last senses

What did Christ experience during those three hours on the cross? Too much! It suffices to give a one simple mediation on each of his seven senses.

1 What did he feel? Pain, of course! That’s the sense of touch- when a hand comes in contact with fire, its natural reaction is to pull back. The hammered nails that went through his hands and feet were like molten lead poured on them, burning through them constantly. The instinct is to pull back, to pull away. But he can’t. It is continuous for three hours.
2 What did he smell? Cavalry was a place of continuous executions.  The smell of rotten flesh, urine and feces. In the air, smoke carried with it the smoldering stench from a nearby valley where countless carcasses, leftovers from the thousands of animals sacrificed everyday in the Temple of Jerusalem. 
3 What did he hear? He heard insults from the crowd. He heard screams from the thieves crucified beside him. He heard mockery from the Jewish priests and laughter from the Roman soldiers.
4 What did he see? He saw the blue skies and the distant hills. He saw birds in the air flying gracefully and people coming and going about their daily business.  He saw his mother below, her own eyes filled with tears and sorrow.
5 What did he taste? He tasted the saltiness of his sweat as it dripped down his face. He tasted the gentle warmth of his own blood that streaked down from his forehead pierced open by thorns. He tasted on his lips the bitter sourness of wine when he was pressed to drink it, but would not.

The sense of touching, smell, of hearing, of sight and of taste. But there are two other senses, we know of, but yet do not fully understand.  

6. In the medical field one is called the “vestibular sense” - how the mind tries to adjust if you are up or down - if you are have been plunged deep into the ocean at midnight or engulfed by snow in an avalanche, which way is up so that you can fight to get to the surface? How did Christ sense the world from the dizzy, vertigo height of the cross? His body stretched out, he is frozen out of a world swirling around him, caught unnaturally, suspended in a place between heaven and earth - it does not make sense - the mind can not understand.

And the seventh sense? 

7.  The medical journal calls it “Proprioception". Sometimes an amputee would feel his leg that was not there, or feel someone’s gentle breath against the palm of his hand that he did not have.

Maybe, this was the most sacred of his senses, intensified by sacrificial offering of himself. Amid the torture, the fire of pain, the shouting crowds, the stench of death and the sight of friends and enemies, our Lord could sense his sacred mission.  Even from the cross he reached out his hands to heal us, to embrace us in his arms with a love so tender. From the cross, he walks alongside you and me, helping us when we fall, steadying us when we become weak. From the cross he listens to our confessions, he breathes upon us the sweet aroma of his Spirit, looking into our hearts with the eyes of mercy and kindness that assures us that all is good, all will be good and all is good. He has saved us from our sins.

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