On the Five Wounds of Christ
The following guest post is by frequent contributor Fr. Donald Kloster, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The Five Wounds of Christ include the two nail wounds through each palm and wrist as well as two nail wounds through each foot resting on the suppedaneum or foot rest. The fifth wound was inflicted on the right side of Jesus’s chest.
The Romans were experts in the art of torture. The two hand nails (7 to 9 inches long) would have passed through the palm of the hand and out of the back side of the wrist. They were designed to sever the median nerve on impact causing excruciating pain.
The feet were also nailed to the cross through the dorsal pedal artery of each foot which elicited extreme pain as well. It must be noted that the head, hands, and feet have the most pain receptors in the human body.
The Shroud of Turin has the left foot placed over the right foot and passed through with a single nail, but many crosses in art throughout history have shown the right foot nailed over the left. One even sees fewer crosses with the feet nailed side by side.
The spear wound entered Jesus’ upper side where the blood and water surrounding the heart and lungs were pierced; the fifth wound would have allowed for the body fluids to pour out. The water symbolizes Holy Baptism and the Blood symbolizes Holy Communion.
The Jewish leadership supposed Jesus was an imposter, but they knew He had a great following in the average people of the region. The Sanhedrin and Pharisees possessed a spiritual jealousy and a particular theological a priori preference of who the Messiah was supposed to be in the model of their perceptions. One can easily see the parallel today on an interpersonal level and a theological level. There is a spiritual jealousy between the Jewish leadership and Jesus.
One can compare the attempts to subterfuge one of the two expressions of the Roman Rite in Holy Mass. Today, the Novus Ordo remains the preferred Mass and the Vetus Ordo is undergoing a gradual suppression. Then too, one can see our modern Catholic Prelates giving the Novus Ordo an a priori preference in worship in spite of the fact that the average Traditional Latin Mass is helping to fruitfully promote the Gospel while the Novus Ordo Mass continues on its methodically downward slide by a decades long production of very scarce fruit.
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been many Saints who have endured the Stigmata. These include St. Paul, St. Francis, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Rita, and St. Padre Pio. St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Italy lived until 1968, so there are still plenty of people alive presently who saw his five wounds up closely and personally.
Let us now connect the Five Wounds to our worship in the Missal. One may take note that there are three clear sets of five crosses in the Canon of the Missal. Beginning with the Quam Oblationem, the priest makes three crosses over the unconsecrated oblata together. He then completes the five crosses with one over the host alone and another over the chalice alone. Secondly, there is the Unde et Memores. The priest makes three crosses over the now consecrated oblata.
Next, he makes a single cross over the host alone and the chalice alone. It happens for a third time at the Per Ipsum. The priest makes three crosses with the consecrated host over the chalice. He then makes two crosses with the Consecrated Host over the corporal between the Chalice and the edge of the altar.
As the Canon begins with the Te Igitur, soon after comes yet a fourth disconnected five crosses. The Haec Dona begins three more crosses and they are completed by the two crosses at the Consecration of the Host and the Chalice. These five crosses usher us into the eternal sacrifice being offered. The fifth disconnected five crosses happen shortly before we exit the eternal sacrifice. The Pax Domini has three crosses that are joined by the two crosses at the blessing before Holy Communion and the Final Blessing. These last two sets of five crosses are the book ends of our participation in the once and future Sacrifice of the Mass.
Five sets of five crosses deeply imprint on our souls the importance of the five wounds of Christ. These five wounds are also commemorated in the most Solemn Holy Liturgy during the Easter Vigil when the priest inserts five grains of incense; piercing them into the Paschal Candle. Traditionally, incense is also burned into five crosses on newly consecrated altars since an altar represents the Body of Our Lord. “By His wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
The Novus Ordo only has 7 crosses left of the 54 that occur in the Vetus Ordo and 52% of the prayers were eliminated from the 1962 Missal of John XXIII to the Pope Paul VI Mass of 1970. Any essential connection of the five wounds of Christ and the Missal reenforcement of that deeply powerful imprint has seemingly and purposely been disposed. Since there are no five sets of five crosses in the 1970 Missal, it cuts corners and cuts out many of the graces gained from the five wounds.
Catholic teaching, theology, and the Traditional Latin Mass have the “stigma” (pun intended) of snatching light and life from the seemingly insurmountable odds of continual vicious secular attacks; indeed from the jaws of darkness and death!