For the past two months, I've been listening to Gillian Welch's first album, Revival, over and over again whenever I have been alone in the car. I love every song on the album. I love Ms. Welch's strong, flexible, homey voice. It's exactly right for the lyrics. I love David Rawlings's guitar. I don't know the right technical vocabulary to describe what I'm talking about, but his guitar riffs seem to grab me right in the chest and pull me along with him. I love the stories in the songs. I love it that the songs are in my range. I'm never happy unless I can sing along. This may be why I only listen when I'm alone.
The song that has really resonated with me this Lent, though, is By the Mark. I spent a long time deciding which of the three available videos to post because they all have their drawbacks, but I've chosen this one because it's the version of the song that's on the album. You might want to ignore the video, it has about 3 times as many pictures as it needs--some good, some not--and the person that assembled them was way too attached to his zoom.
I came fairly late in my life to an appreciation of this type of kind of music. When I was younger, none of my friends or family would have given it the time of day. It just wasn't in my world. I love it now because this type of song speaks to something that is so elemental. There's no complicated theology here, just an acknowledgement that this is the God Who was wounded for His people and that He draws us by the power of those wounds. When He rose from the dead, He could have returned in a "perfect" body, but He chose to come back to us marked with these signs.
Heather King makes a similar observation in her memoir, Redeemed: A Spiritual Misfit Stumbles Toward God, Marginal Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding.
...it has always seemed to me a deep and shattering mystery that when Christ appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection, He still bore the wounds. One of the things this seems to say is that our suffering counts. Our wounds aren't wiped away, as in a fairy tale: our bodies and souls bear their marks into eternity. Maybe that's how we'll recognize, or classify, or take joy in each other after we die, because maybe then we'll see how our suffering helped someone else, or perhaps saved another from suffering.
About 15 years ago, a friend told me about a young man with Down Syndrome who had recently died. He had been a great friend of her little boys, and they were asking what would happen to Kenny. Their mother said something to the effect that Kenny would go to Heaven and be happy, and that he would be healed and beautiful when they met him there. The boys said, "We don't want him to be beautiful. We want him to look like Kenny."
This really started me thinking about what beauty really is and what we will perceive as beauty in Heaven. I have several friends who have died and I feel just like those little boys. When I see them again, I want them to look like themselves. They were beautiful to me already.
So, maybe Ms. King is right. I don't know. I wrote in another post of how we meet Jesus wound to wound. All of my wounds: the scars from childhood injuries, from operations, from abandonments, from the suffering of those I love, cry out to be subsumed and healed in the wounds of Jesus. We need for Jesus to be wounded.
I love the Anima Christi:
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
Where is there a safer hiding place?
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Crown Him the Lord of love,
Behold His hands and side,
Rich wounds yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear the sight,
But downward bends his wond'ring eye
At mystery so bright.
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I first read about Heather King's trilogy of memoirs, Parched, Redeemed, and Shirt of Flame (although I persist in thinking of the last as, Shirt on Fire) in a comment by Matthew Likona at The Korrektiv. The books chronicle her journey from being "a blackout drunk for 20 years" to being a passionate Catholic. She knows about being wounded, and she knows about being healed. Her books are will worth reading, especially the last two.
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My favorite picture from that By the Mark video.