Jesus of the Scars
If we have never sought, we seek thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesu of the scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is thy balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy scars, we claim Thy grace.
The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a God has wounds, but thou alone.
This is one of the War poems that I treasure. It was written by the Revd Edward Shillito, a congregational minister. In 1919, after the First World War had ended, Shillito tried to make sense of its horrors by contemplating the Wounded Christ who through His Crucifixion offered to all a way of making sense of the insensible, or, at least putting the carnage, death and deep suffering into some sort of context. The God who in the Crucifixion of Jesus shows that the scars of war, as with all human suffering, ultimately finds it healing in the self -sacrificial love of Jesus.
There ia a fourth verse, which was the penultimate one but which is rarely quoted in Remembrance services today.
If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.
It alludes to the appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection to his disciples.
Its poignancy lies in the words “We know today what wounds are.” In the remembrance of all who gave their lives and suffered in wars and conflicts and those who have faced the darkness of incurable illnesses, we know today the bitterness of pain but, as Shillito reminds us, we also know the countersign – the Love of God stretched out for us on the Cross. A love that is not and cannot ever be defeated.