‘The wounded stag is in sight on the hill, cooled by the breeze of your flight’.
The mystery of Christ is the mystery of love. In the same way that the wounded stag is wounded by the wound of the other so Christ is wounded by our wounds. Through contemplation, we in turn open ourselves up to the wounds in nature and in our fellow creatures – the wounds of all sentient beings. Contemplation and also awareness of our inner world leads us to be more aware of others, more vulnerable and more sensitive – sometimes this feels too much. The news is full of suffering – the suffering of people, animals, the environment and the pain inflicted by greed, hate and destruction. What to do? How to cope?
In his stanza John of the Cross uses the word ‘cooled’ and his commentary says that ‘as a breeze cools and refreshes a person worn out by the heat, so this breeze of love refreshes and renews the one burning with the fire of love’. Our woundedness is met in a deep connection with Christ. ‘The breeze of love’ – is here the love of God. What John offers us is the experience of Jesus who was once pinned down and is now free and this can help us believe in the possibility of change. So strangely we become more vulnerable, in greater touch with suffering but also offered healing through the same spiritual practice of contemplative prayer.
William Johnston sees that God is present in all wounds and all hurts. This is why he believes that God is more present in darkness than in light and in times of desolation than in times of consolation. He sees that contemplative prayer has much in common with psychotherapy. ‘In both cases one is painfully and inescapably brought face to face with one’s shadow.’ However for Johnston there is a difference in that ‘the mystic is healed by calling with faith on Jesus the saviour … psychologists will never understand the human psyche with all its altered states until they look carefully at the mystical journey towards wholeness’.