Hiding in the beautiful wounds of Christ

The first Catholic book I ever read was an old prayer book from the early 1900s. It was a small, red-linen-bound, falling-apart devotional all about the blood of Jesus. At the time, I was a Protestant — and believe me, this wasn’t my usual reading material! But the book had belonged to my great-grandfather, so how could I turn it down?

Within its yellowed pages, I found prayer after prayer filled with phrases I barely knew: the Precious Blood, the Five Wounds, the Holy Shoulder, the Sacred Heart. (And that’s not even getting into all the Marian titles and typologies! It’s a small miracle I kept going.)

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But there was one prayer that instantly jumped out at me.

This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, I thought to myself. I wonder if anyone else knows it?

Well, you might know it.

It was the Anima Christi, which begins, “Soul of Christ, sanctify me. …”

The Anima Christi is one of the most beautiful and popular Catholic prayers in our tradition. It was composed in the 14th century, although no one quite knows who the author was. For many years, it was attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola because he uses it in his spiritual exercises. But there’s one line within that always gets me.

“In your wounds, hide me.”

Intra tua vulnera absconde me.

From the day that I read the prayer in this tattered prayerbook, that line has captured my imagination.

In his Sacred Heart

How amazing must it be to hide away in the wounds of Christ? To be so close to Jesus that you can feel the warmth of Love himself and hear the beat of his heart? St. John, whom we call the Beloved, rested his head on Christ’s chest at the Last Supper. But Jesus invites us to rest in his wounds. Not near his wounds. Not politely socially distanced from his wounds. In him. To be as close to him as we can possibly be. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the wounds are like a thick woolen blanket that I can pull tightly around me when all the chaos is raging. To me, his wounds are the safest place on the planet.

I also like that the Latin verb in this line is absconde me. Because of course, if you’re absconding, you’re secretly getting away, making a run for it, taking off with the silver in the night! It’s a good reminder that firstly, we can always hide in Christ’s wounds and no one else needs to know it, and secondly, that trusting in Jesus is the most subversive thing you can do these days. (Plus, the devil will genuinely think we’ve absconded since he’ll be frantically looking for us while we’re hiding with the Lord.)

But most of all, I love that the wounds of Christ aren’t merely the physical wounds made by the whips, nails and spears that Good Friday. More deeply, they are the wounds of his humanity — of all his vulnera, his vulnerabilities.

They are his willingness to suffer as a human person alongside us. He knew physical hardship and material deprivation growing up. He saw his father, St. Joseph, die and grieved with his mother. In his ministry, he healed the ungrateful and preached to the hard-hearted. One disciple betrayed Him. Most abandoned him. He hungered. He thirsted. He wept for Lazarus and over Jerusalem. He sweated blood in the garden, begging the Father for another way.

Resting in his love

It’s a bit of a paradox.

We imagine that we can escape our own human weaknesses by getting stronger. If only I was stronger and smarter, then I wouldn’t hurt like this. If only I was better looking, thinner, curvier, quieter, louder, more interesting, more intelligent, more thoughtful, more charismatic — then everything would be okay.

If anything, we should be trying to hide in Christ’s divinity, we think. A bit of that magic deity fairy dust would suit me just fine! (Yes, we know that God doesn’t work like that, and yet, Eve’s temptation to become “like gods” lures us all.)

But Christ calls us to hide away in his wounds. Why? Because they are supernatural openings where divine Love flows into human experience. He calls us to escape from our frailties — not by denying them or wallowing in them but by fleeing to his frailties. Because his frailties, unlike ours, are the proof of his love of us. They are where we truly see Love incarnate.

When we hide in his wounds, we rest in his love.

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