This month, I’m continuing to reflect on some of the graced moments I experienced during the Spiritual Directors International’s Conference last month in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In this post, I want to share how I came to a deeper comprehension and appreciation of a traditional Christian religious concept with which I’ve not really connected before: the wound of love.
The medieval Spanish mystic Teresa of Ávila wrote about the wound of love in the second chapter of her classic treatise The Interior Castle. She’s trying to describe the indescribable sense of God’s grace “arousing” the soul “suddenly as if by a swiftly flashing comet or by a clap of thunder.” The soul responds by crying out, though it “feels no pain . . . conscious of having received a delicious wound but cannot discover how, nor who gave it, yet recognizes it as a most precious grace and hopes the hurt will never heal.”
To me, this idea has always felt strange, esoteric, and beyond my experience. Perhaps because I’ve also seen numerous gory and seemingly excessive images of the bleeding Sacred Heart of Jesus, this idea just didn’t fit into my (staid Protestant?!) spiritual lexicon.
Then, in a presentation by Beverly Lanzetta (who, by the way, founded the Hesychia School of Spiritual Direction, where I now teach), I received a new window into this idea of the wound of love—one to which I could more readily relate.
Lanzetta was speaking of a deep mystical soul that’s in touch with its eternal source. She said the soul has two states of consciousness. The “lower” is engaged with and susceptible to the energies of the world, while the “higher” is turned inward and always infused with divine light.
So, when we are wounded in trauma, the “lower” self that engages with the world does suffer, but the “higher” self retains equanimity. She then stated that the door between the two is always open. We can move into deeper interiority and reconnect with that equanimity, even during and after trauma.
She then said, “Though we cannot rectify all wounds and suffering, our passionate longing for that to be so brings blessedness to others and God. This is the wound of love.”
Aha! This makes sense to me! The idea that through our higher soul, we are connected with both all the pain of the world and all the grace and blessing of God—that I can comprehend. In fact, with my strong level of empathy, I can imagine how our longing for wholeness in the world feels like a wound. I can see how our pain and rage over the state of the world can be rooted and grounded in love.
I can also therefore comprehend more clearly how Woman Stands Shining, whom I wrote about last week, was able to have a capacity for love even though she had not experienced it at a human level. Her higher self had never been disconnected from the divine, no matter how little her lower self had missed being taught or experiencing love. Through somatic healing, she connected with that higher soul and found a previously incomprehensible euphoria that had always existed.
By the way, I’m intentionally using the word “comprehend” here as one small attempt to express how this is deeper and more complex than just a mental “understanding.” So much of the focus of the SDI conference was on embodied healing and engagement with the world. As someone who leads Embodied Prayer sessions, the need to move(!) beyond mere “understanding” forms part of that visceral connection with the idea of the wound of love.
So, what have you heard or learned or believed—if anything—about the wound of love? What do you make of what I have shared here? How might you be invited by God to explore this concept more deeply?
I had not heard of “the wound of love” before. What you report from Beverly provides another container for current, lived experience.
Lots to reflect upon, thank you.
You’re welcome, Damien. Glad to give you another tool for deepening your spiritual experience.
Yes, I can see what you mean by saying that the wound of love is our connection to the pain of the world. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling an inner joy even as I am aware of all the pain in the world. So the grace of God must be the very fact that we can feel that inner joy in spite of all that’s going on around us, and to know that God wants us to be joyful as well as sorrowful?
Hi, Aston, and thank you for this important question. I do think God wants us to be joyful as well as sorrowful, to recognize that a full life involves both. We are invited to embrace all that life has for us. After all, we cannot draw water from an empty well; we must refill our joy reservoir so we can share hope with others….
Loving the idea of the open door… Connecting me with so many learnings on the spiritual path… The more we love the more we are hurt by the loss. And connecting with the holiness in our midst will not protect us from the pain. A false narrative in so many faith practices. Thank you, Shirin.
You’re welcome, Barbara! I’m glad my ponderings opened a door for you. 🙂