“They will look on him whom they have pierced.” ( Zech. 12:10)
Behold. Turn not your eyes away. Avert not your gaze. Cast not down your face. With the eyes of your body and the eyes of your heart, look upon him. Regard his countenance. Observe his wounds. See his stripes. Perceive his pain. Count his every bone. Smashed and bruised, torn and mutilated, blood-encrusted, flesh fusing to wood.
Can we pass by such a sight unmoved? “Do we pass that cross unheeding, breathing no repentant vow, Though we see you wounded, bleeding, see your thorn-encircled brow” (Girolamo Savonarola, Jesus, Refuge of the Weary). How can our hearts be so distracted that we turn a blind eye to bleeding love?
Blurring colors, flashing lights, glowing screens, half-hearted amusements—we pretend they please us so. We could scroll for minutes down our newsfeeds or binge for hours on TV shows, but how long could we stare at the cross? From that tree, Christ calls to us:
“O, all ye, who pass by, whose eyes and mind
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blind;
To me, who took eyes that I might you find:
Was ever grief like mine?” (George Herbert, The Sacrifice)
For today, at least, may our eyes, may our hearts contemplate the cross.
“O All ye who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?”
He climbed the tree of the cross, and he calls us to look at him. We tell others to look at us when we want them to know how serious we are. Upon the cross, Christ says in deadly earnest: Look at me and see how I love you! Doubt it no more! As the Father told St. Catherine, gaze upon the cross, for it “removes every doubt about the reality of this divine love.” Love nailed him to the cross. His own free, gratuitous love for you and me. See that love. Let that love pierce through all the stoniness that makes the heart cold. Let what you see burn into the memory of your heart. Look and pray:
“May our eyes be ever turning to behold your cross anew; Till in glory, parted never from the blessed Savior’s side; Graven in our hearts forever, dwell the cross, the Crucified” (Savonarola, Jesus, Refuge of the Weary).
Behold. Turn your eyes toward. Revert your gaze. Lift up your face. With all your being, look upon love: “Behold, behold the wood of the Cross on which is hung our salvation. O come, let us adore.”
Image: Matthias Grünewald, The Crucifixion