The Wounded Stag and the Unicorn

The metaphor of the wounded stag and the unicorn
‘The wounded stag appears on the hill’.
St John of the Cross
The poet and mystic St John of the Cross tells us that the wounded stag is Jesus. The reason he is wounded is because we too are hurt but his wounds come from his love for the other. In his commentary the Spanish mystic explains that it is characteristic of the stag to climb to high places and, when wounded to race in search of refreshment and cool water, but if the stag hears a cry and senses that his mate is wounded he immediately runs to her to comfort and embrace her:
‘Beholding that the bride is wounded with love for Him, He also, because of her moan, is wounded with love for her. Among lovers, the wound of one is a wound for both, and the two have one feeling.’
The Jesuit William Johnston writing about this says that it shows that all Christian mysticism has its origin not in our love for Jesus but in the mystery of his great love for us.
I was reminded of this when reading again a much loved children’s classic The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. In it there is a mysterious horse – small and white that appears magically and rarely to the heroine but appears at times of great trouble. The little white horse that is eventually revealed to be a unicorn helps to unite and heal the good and the wicked to make a whole. But long after all the drama the heroine still sometimes dreams of standing beneath the branches of a mysterious wood looking into a moonlit glade, her eyes straining after something that she cannot see….
‘She knew that one day, when she was a very old woman, she would dream this dream for the last time, and in this last dream of all she would see the little white horse, and he would not go away from her. He would come towards her and she would run towards him, and he would carry her upon his back away and away, she did not quite know where, but to a good place, a place where she wanted to be.’