|Boss in St Tudno's Church, Llandudno|
With the icon now in the beautiful city of Lichfield I wonder if there are any pre-reformation images that are concerned with the heart of Jesus in the Cathedral – or the wounds of Christ more generally. I did not see any. So, when I return I will have another good look around. Of course, there are remnants of the devotion to the Sacred Heart - and the four other wounds of Christ scattered all over Churches in the UK – little bits here and there that the iconoclasts of the reformation overlooked! (Most often, I think, in roof bosses (left) and private devotional material. Or, in images that survived being whitewashed - as in the image of St Thomas in St. Alban's Cathedral - above right.)
As is well-known, the image of the five wounds was the badge and colours of the rebels opposed to Henry VIII’s break with Rome in the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’, 1536 . No doubt this political use of the wounds of Christ meant that it was not to be an image which was subsequently to adorn the Churches of the reformed ‘Church of England’. It was clearly viewed as the dangerous image of the 'old religion'.
And yet, although images of the five wounds fell out of favour, the symbol of the open heart remained central in the prayers, hymns and liturgy of the reformed and other traditions. * Therefore, I pray that the icon in Lichfield is not seen as a strange Catholic image, but one which can serve to remind all who view it of the fact which was central to the Fathers, Doctors , saints and mystics of the early Church: ‘By His wounds, you have been healed’ (Peter, 2:24). May it serve to remind all who see it that the Risen Christ made himself known to his disciples by His wounds (John. 20:20). Thomas, we recall, would only believe until he had placed his hand into the Saviour’s wounded side (John 20:24-9). Thus a devotion to the Heart of Christ is a devotion that should help to heal the wounds of a still divided and wounded Christianity. The Sacred Heart reminds us that to be a Christian is to love and care for all who are wounded and all with a broken or a hard heart. Like the disciples, we are called to recognize Jesus by His wounds. Will he recognise us by our wounds?
As David Williams argues:
The message of the Five Wounds is that we must have a concern in this life for the wounded nature of our lives and those of others, for the wounds in the side of the Church - its disunity, for the wounds in society... When our hearts are moved by them, when we pray for them and give alms to help them, then in a minimal but real way we share in the suffering of the Wounded Christ' ( The Five Wounds of Jesus, p 9)
*An excellent book on this very topic of the Sacred Wounds amongst Evangelical and Reformed Christians is The Five Wounds of Jesus by Dr. David H. Williams, Gracewing, 2004