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Finding Refuge in Christ’s Wounded Side

The Song of Songs is a profoundly symbolic poem in the very center of the Bible. Rich in imagery and allegory, the saints have discovered insights into the eros of God within its often difficult language. The Song of Songs, as interpreted within the mystical tradition of saints such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Catherine of Siena, reveals mysteries of Christ’s Most Sacred Heart and His passionate love for us. Verse 2:14 speaks of a cleft in the rock, a metaphorical representation of the wound in Christ’s side, carrying deep implications for our spiritual growth, healing, and intimacy with Christ, our Divine Bridegroom.

“My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.’”

St. Bernard begins by focusing on the fact that the “cleft” is in the “rock” and reminds his audience that Jesus is “the Rock”, therefore, the “cleft” must be the Wound in His Side.

“But the piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The sword pierced his soul and came close to his heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses. Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously that in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Catherine of Siena emphasizes that this cleft is the only path to Christ’s Heart, a passage through which we can find refuge, healing, and intimacy. She provides a nuanced perspective on the stages of healing within Christ’s Wounded Side. She describes our progression into the “cleft of the rock” in three progressive stages: standing at the opening in His Side and being washed clean by His Blood and Water, gazing into the cleft as though it were a window into Christ’s Heart, and finally, entering fully within His Wound as though it were a cavern in which we, His doves, find refuge and rest. This progression reflects the soul’s spiritual growth and progress in obtaining divine union, spiritual marriage.

Regardless of the stage in your spiritual journey, the cleft in the rock remains a safe refuge. In times of sin and shame, we stand beneath the Bridegroom’s Cross, seeking cleansing and mercy. As our love and desire for union deepens, the cleft in the Rock offers us a vision of the Sacred Heart burning with love and desire for us. Ultimately, our hope and our prayer is to enter into the cavern of our Lord’s Side and be invited to hide within His Heart. As our broken heart presses against His, we become whole again.

The call to pass through the cleft in Christ’s side is an invitation to abandon self-protection and hiding within our own broken hearts and to seek refuge within the Bridegroom’s Heart that was pierced for our salvation. Another Catholic spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, teaches that healing truly begins when we take our focus off of our own brokenness and gaze upon the wounded and broken Christ. If we are willing to show Him our face and let Him hear our voice rather than remain hidden in our wounds, we will find solace and healing in the open side of Christ. This open door to His Sacred Heart, as revealed on the Cross, remains perpetually accessible and open to us.

Abandoning our need for self-protection and taking the leap out of our own brokenness can be scary. Mother Mary waits, at the foot of the Cross, ready to lift us up and into the cleft in Christ’s Side. She will be our strength and our intercessor. In moments of fear, pain, and exhaustion, if we call upon Mary, she will lift us in her motherly embrace and place us safely within the cleft in the Rock. This act of surrender and child-like dependence on Divine Mercy will be rewarded with the Bridegroom’s kiss of healing and love as we rest in the sanctuary of His Sacred Heart, the refuge that is the Wound in His Side.

Copyright 2024 – Laura Ercolino

Laura is a mother, writer, artist, spiritual mentor, and founder of Hope’s Garden. She has experienced the redemptive power of the spousal love of Christ the Bridegroom and like the Bride of The Song of Songs is passionate about sharing the truth of His intimate love for each one of us. Creativity and art have been at the heart of her healing journey and she feels called to share her creative talents with the hope of bringing beauty and the love of God to others.

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