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Arma Christi: Week 1 | Day 4

Br. Keith Nelson shares his own personal devotion to praying with the five wounds of Christ, as remembered in medieval spirituality, especially in the visual illustration of the “arma christi,” Christ’s coat of arms. He asks us to imagine what a “coat of arms” based on the 5 Marks of Mission would look like for the contemporary Christian.

Question: Which “Mark of Mission” is closest to your wounded, sacred heart?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: A rich source of inspiration in my own prayer life has been meditating with the wounds of Christ, and in particular 13th and 14th Century medieval texts or writings, visionary writings, about these wounds.  Medieval Christians in particular during this period of time had a very intense, quite emotional devotion to these wounds of Christ.  They saw them as these kind of royal insignia testifying to the depths of God’s love, as floodgates of Christ’s lifeblood, as portals into the mysteries of heaven.  So this medieval imagination went many places that were quite meaningful to the church at that time with this devotion to Christ’s wounds.

So as I’ve prayed with these texts, with my own woundedness, with the wounds that I have perceived in the church, it strikes me that there is a kind of connection or a conversation perhaps to be had between these five Marks of Mission and the five wounds of Christ.  It has to do with our legibility, our recognizabilty to the world as Christians, in a world in which I think things of the church, of Christianity, of the way of Christ are increasingly less legible, because it’s really these wounds that are the ways that the church is recognized as the body of Christ.  And the wounds on the risen and ascended Christ are the ways that the disciples recognize, “This is Jesus.  This is the Jesus we knew before his death and resurrection.”

So one particular visual image — I’m often a visual pray-er — that I find fascinating, and relevant to this conversation, it’s called the Arma Christi, or the Arms of Christ, the Coat of Arms of Christ.  So in medieval life, a coat of arms would have been a clear visual means of recognizing a person, so what house they belonged to, what family they belonged to, certain essential information about this person, particularly on a battlefield or at a medieval tournament.  So you see on this shield they have the hands of Christ, there’s the name of Christ here, the feet of Christ, a challis, and into that challis flows the lifeblood of Christ from his wounded, sacred heart.

So we might think about what a contemporary coat of arms of a Christian might look like.  If we think about these Marks of Mission, how might the Marks of Mission be represented on a coat of arms to help us to be recognizable, legible to the world as Christians?  And you might think about of all of these Marks of Mission likely one of them captivates you or captures your heart in a particular way.  So you might think about which of these Marks of Mission is closest to your own wounded sacred heart.

– Br. Keith Nelson

Question: Which “Mark of Mission” is closest to your wounded, sacred heart?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

26 thoughts on “Arma Christi: Week 1 | Day 4

  1. This is incredibly rich stuff, this meditation esp for me of those this week–the visual, esp of the medieval depictions, the coat of arms. I suspect I could just stop here and use these images and questions for the rest of Lent! Thank you.

  2. The imagery is very compelling. ..is also ringed with the crown of thorns on top and the angels on the sides. The heart wounded for us is the closet to me and the wounded heart would prompt the hands to do and the feet to go in spite of suffering for the cause of the mission of God. The Crown of thorns reminds me that my intellect is also involved in the entire process.
    Thanks so much for the sharing

  3. Thank you dear Brother, for giving us a deep meditation on the wounds of Christ. Thoughts to feed us in the following days.

    For myself the spear wound from which flows the outpouring of God’s love in Christ, is overpowering in my life. Wounded me is Loved. So too is humankind.

    Therefore for me the third Point in mission is the responding to human need. Doing so by God’s grace as a Christian priest in His world.

    Fr John

  4. The images of Christ’s passion, the flaying of the only innocent man standing, the very son of God whipped and scourged, even the sound of it in a movie strikes terror and breaks my heart. He was wounded for my transgressions. Bruised for my iniquities
    The horrendous ways we whip each other happens whenever we choose lies over truth. We use words, enact laws, erect walls, foment fear and exclusion to still rip the very dignity, the shared skin of humanity, off our brothers and sisters. We love to punish.
    To see our own flaws, bear each others burdens, listening with compassion, sharing what we have, offering praise to the Christ who shows us how, are still worthy goals. Grace given for grace received.

  5. Transform. It is so easy to “do” the right thing or to “say” the right words, but to transform my heart and to become more and more Christ-like is not so easy. I pray for transformation in my heart and in my thinking and in my living so that I might lead others to transformation as well.

  6. I especially think of Jesus’s hands. We can do so much with our hands as Jesus did helping others in so many ways.. Thinking of new ways to help others.

  7. This is a powerful way to get beneath the surface of our busy minds and feel what Lent is about .
    I didn’t think Looking at the shield would touch my heart, but it did. The wounds on the hands were such evidence of this heartbreaking time in our faith.
    Thank you Brother Keith

  8. When I think of Christ’s wounds I had also included the stripes inflicted on His back and the Crown of thorns inflicting wounds to His head. The wounds to the hands and feet and the final thrust of the sword to the side would make it seven, a symbol of completeness.

  9. Mark of Mission: Teach is the mark of mission that is closest to my wounded sacred heart. Teaching others about the love and life of Christ. Coat of Arms image would be five different sizes of hands.. with some hands turned inward and some hands turned outward in the shape of a cross.

  10. The hands, because they’re one of the things I notice first about a person. Those hands speak of a lifetime of service, of giving, of literally bleeding for others. They challenge my hands to do more.

  11. I agree with Jerry, the wounds of Christ totalled seven and Our Father sacrificed and resurrected his only Son to forgive our sins of which the deadliest number seven. I must admit that I have become jaded by all the conflict, pain and suffering which is around us and constantly promoted in multi-media, often vicariously and for political and monetary gains. I would like to see on His modern coat-of-arms, two Doves of Peace and Reconciliation over an Olive Branch of Welcome and Acceptance, and Hands in Prayer for His Guidance and Thankfulness for His Forgiving of my sins .

  12. The concept of the church’s ‘legibility’ to society is good and helpful. What truly makes the Jesus Movement readable and compelling in society is sacrificial service – to the poor, the pushed-to-the-edge, the persecuted. A contemporary example is the Church of Pakistan, where the church stresses reconciliation amid persecution and serves the downtrodden and the privileged alike in the majority Muslim community.

  13. This is quite complicated stuff and not easily reducible to a 3 mn video. Do you have something I could read that would lay out the steps in your argument here in a bit less telegraphic form? Really appreciate your effort to push the community to think differently.

  14. My wounded heart knows, Christ died for us. To forgive us, to love us. I know all I do wrong, I love Christ and I know he loves me. I pray to always remember what this perfect man did for all. To save us.

  15. tending is the mark that speaks to me. i have been blessed with the ability to help people heal themselves in mind/body/spirit. it is a huge responsibility that sometimes weighs heavily but i thank God every day for making me who i am and do my best to live up to the calling.

  16. When I saw the image of the arma christi I was moved in particular by the wounded heart and lifeblood flowing into the chalice
    It just seems to be such a raw wound that has greater significance for me than the hands or feet. Our heart is a symbol of love, compassion and devotion that we use every day.
    The image bothers me and sticks with me because it appears so gruesome yet goes to the heart of our ability to love

  17. Although my heart has not been wounded in my own life, it has remained quite closed. This reflection has helped me open my heart to the the wounds of others, and to see that my closed heart is indeed a wound.

  18. I feel there are two that are closest to my heart: TEND and TRANSFORM. In my job and in my family, I have always been moved by the hurt, sadness, and woundedness of others. I have always felt compassion, even for total strangers. I also feel as though I was created to build teams, develop consensus, and heal disunity. Therefore, I feel as though I am called to help transform others, and creation–for the better– as I seek to transform myself.

  19. One of the stumbling blocks for me as a non-Christian was the perceived fascination of the church on the violence of Jesus’ death. When, as a young mother, I decided to attend church, I proclaimed, “I’ll just ignore all that blood and violence stuff.”

    Over the years, I’ve come to understand his suffering, not as an unnecessary gornographic display, but as a visual sign of ultimate empathy with us, Jesus’ sisters and brothers, in the messiness and woundedness of our own lives.

    Yet, my initial response to the Coat of Arms was revulsion. After all these years, it turns out that it’s still hard for me to get past my distaste for the violence perpetrated upon Jesus, and the integral part his wounds have in the Christian imagination. I clearly have more work to do in this regard.

  20. Visual prayer is new to me. The Brother’s presentation of it with the Marks of Mission is compelling, but I cannot yet say which Mark most resonates within me.

  21. “Transform” speaks most to me. I know I have a lot of work to do to transform, to become more Christ-like, to think more of others than myself.

  22. The wound of the heart symbolizes so many things. The puncture can be seen as when you feel a great loss, a deep hurt of unkind actions/words, lonliness, depression, unemployment, illness, fear, etc. The flow of blood I see as the flow of love so great in nature that it defies our understanding. It’s the healing for all wounds.

  23. When I see the blood of Christ flowing down for me (and others), I cannot but help sense being so very thankful that Jesus died for my sins and I am washed clean in that precious blood, that my mission is to go out and spread and share the Good News of this great sacrifice! I feel so unworthy.

  24. I do not see my heart as wounded, I see it as sinful and needing the good news that in Jesus I have been fiorgiven and reconciled to God and through Jesus have been given a new heart by the Holy Spirit.

  25. The bottom line, however, is the resurrection. I remember with sorrow his shedding of his blood for me and the whole world. But, thank God, he arose from the dead and sits on the throne! Christ has died. He is risen! He will come again.

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