A Mystical Image for Service

Ronald Rolheiser
Reproduced with Permission

When the young French mystic, Therese of Lisieux, was trying to explain her vocation, she referred to a soul-searing insight that was once given her:

One Sunday, looking at a picture of Our Lord on the Cross, I was struck by the blood flowing from one of his divine hands. I felt a pang of great sorrow when thinking this blood was falling on the ground without anyone’s hastening to gather it up. I was resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross and to receive its dew. ... I don’t want this precious blood to be lost. I shall spend my life gathering it up for the good of souls. ... To live from love is to dry Your Face.

At one level, this can be seen as an image of simple excess piety, an over-pious young nun sitting in a chapel, admiring a crucifix and getting emotionally over-wrought in an imaginative scene of Jesus being abused and crucified. But this is a metaphor, a mystical image, and a very challenging one.

When Therese of Lisieux speaks of Christ here she is referring not just, nor even primarily, to the body of the historical Jesus, but to the body of Christ in this world. Christ is still suffering and blood is still flowing from his face and his hands in many parts of our world. One of our tasks as Christians, and simply as human beings, is to, metaphorically, notice that blood, gather it up, and properly honour it. The Christian task, always, is to stand at the foot of the cross and gather up its dew so that this preciousness is not lost.

How do we do that?

And ...

Blood still flows from both the hands and the face of the one being crucified. Mostly it goes unnoticed, with no one hastening to gather it up.

Our task, like that of Therese of Lisieux, is to notice, and the make sure that this preciousness does not go unnoticed, unmarked, without its proper honour.