Br. Keith Nelson shares his own personal devotion to praying with the five wounds of Christ, as remembered in medieval spirituality, especially in the visual illustration of the “arma christi,” Christ’s coat of arms. He asks us to imagine what a “coat of arms” based on the 5 Marks of Mission would look like for the contemporary Christian.
Transcript: A rich source of inspiration in my own prayer life has been meditating with the wounds of Christ, and in particular 13th and 14th Century medieval texts or writings, visionary writings, about these wounds. Medieval Christians in particular during this period of time had a very intense, quite emotional devotion to these wounds of Christ. They saw them as these kind of royal insignia testifying to the depths of God’s love, as floodgates of Christ’s lifeblood, as portals into the mysteries of heaven. So this medieval imagination went many places that were quite meaningful to the church at that time with this devotion to Christ’s wounds.
So as I’ve prayed with these texts, with my own woundedness, with the wounds that I have perceived in the church, it strikes me that there is a kind of connection or a conversation perhaps to be had between these five Marks of Mission and the five wounds of Christ. It has to do with our legibility, our recognizabilty to the world as Christians, in a world in which I think things of the church, of Christianity, of the way of Christ are increasingly less legible, because it’s really these wounds that are the ways that the church is recognized as the body of Christ. And the wounds on the risen and ascended Christ are the ways that the disciples recognize, “This is Jesus. This is the Jesus we knew before his death and resurrection.”
So one particular visual image — I’m often a visual pray-er — that I find fascinating, and relevant to this conversation, it’s called the Arma Christi, or the Arms of Christ, the Coat of Arms of Christ. So in medieval life, a coat of arms would have been a clear visual means of recognizing a person, so what house they belonged to, what family they belonged to, certain essential information about this person, particularly on a battlefield or at a medieval tournament. So you see on this shield they have the hands of Christ, there’s the name of Christ here, the feet of Christ, a challis, and into that challis flows the lifeblood of Christ from his wounded, sacred heart.
So we might think about what a contemporary coat of arms of a Christian might look like. If we think about these Marks of Mission, how might the Marks of Mission be represented on a coat of arms to help us to be recognizable, legible to the world as Christians? And you might think about of all of these Marks of Mission likely one of them captivates you or captures your heart in a particular way. So you might think about which of these Marks of Mission is closest to your own wounded sacred heart.
– Br. Keith Nelson
Question: Which “Mark of Mission” is closest to your wounded, sacred heart?
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God. What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?