Sunday, November 23, 2014

Veronica's way

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As Christians we often have a tendency to sentimentalize suffering and poverty.  We speak of them as virtues or something to be embraced, but often we have little experience or understanding of either.  As such, our response towards others can be stilted or ego driven; altogether lacking its essential element - true compassion.

Pain is something that often crushes the spirit, and "until someone comes to reveal the secret of Christ indwelling the sufferers’ soul to them, they cannot see any purpose in their pain."  Through your eyes, daughters, those who know anguish must see the face of Christ, through your hands they must feel His gentle touch, through your soothing words their hearts must find peace.  

Let go of any fear or repulsion and walk the path of Veronica.  Wipe the tears from the eyes of others and allow them to see their merciful Lord - restore them through your compassion.

“Suffering is not something to sentimentalize. It can obliterate even the beauty of childhood. It can ennoble, but it can also degrade; it can enlarge a person’s heart, but it can also contract and shrink it. To sufferers who does not know that they are indwelt by Christ, their pain of mind and body, their humiliation and loneliness, are baffling. They can see no purpose in their suffering; they are embittered by it, and their bitterness sets up a barrier between themselves and others, imprisoning them in their own loneliness. Outwardly, they show only the ugliness of the world’s sorrow, suffering, and all the effects of sin.

It is the Veronicas of today who wipe away this ugliness from the face of Christ living on these people. The Veronicas of today are all those in whom compassion overcomes fear and repulsion, all those who seek and find the lost and the forsaken, the downtrodden and the lonely. They are those who seek the maladjusted, broken children of our wars and our slums, who go on their knees to wipe the tears from their eyes.

They are the nurses who comfort the dying in hospitals, who wipe the sweat of death from their faces. They are the sisters of mercy who go into the homes of the sick and poor to serve them. They are all those who befriend the friendless in our mental hospitals. They are those who, in their own families, tend and comfort the old and infirm in their last days.
They are, too, those priests who minister to the dying, and who go into the prisons to absolve the prisoners and restore Christ in their souls; those priests who follow men to the scaffold, cleansing them with the spiritual waters of absolution.

It is not only the physical wounds that the Veronicas of today tend and cleanse; it is, by that same act of tender compassion, the mental and spiritual wounds, the emotional wounds that corrode and fester in the spirit, almost obliterating the image and likeness of Christ. It is not only the sweat that blinds the eyes of the dying that they wipe away, but that which blinds the soul: ignorance of Christ, ignorance of their own supreme destiny of being “other Christs,” misunderstanding of suffering and its ugliness, that ugliness so resented by those who cannot see beneath it.

Until someone comes to reveal the secret of Christ indwelling the sufferers’ soul to them, they cannot see any purpose in their pain. There is only one way to reveal Christ living on in the human heart to those who are ignorant concerning it. That is Veronica’s way, through showing Christ’s love. When someone comes—maybe a stranger, maybe someone close at home but whose compassion was not guessed before—and reveals Christ’s own pity in herself, the hard crust that has contracted the sufferer’s heart melts away, and looking into the gentle face of this Veronica of today, the sufferer looks, as it were, into a mirror in which is seen the beauty of Christ reflected at last from the sufferer’s own soul.

Until Veronica came to Him on His way to Calvary, Christ was blinded by blood and sweat and tears. The merciful hands of Veronica wiped the blindness from His eyes; looking into her face, He saw His own beauty reflected in it. He saw His own eyes looking back at Him from hers. She had done this thing in the power in which alone she could do it, the power of Christ’s own love.

In the compassion on her lifted face, Christ saw, in the hour of His extreme dereliction, the triumph of His own love for us. He saw His love, radiant, triumphant in her, and in all the Veronicas to come through all time, in them and in those sufferers in whom His own divine beauty would be restored by their compassion."

Excerpt From: Caryll Houselander. “Way of the Cross.”