How the Wounds of Christ Are Like a Faraday Cage
“Where can we find a place of firm security and peace,” said St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “except in the wounds of the Savior?”
When discussing static electricity and lightning in my physics classes, it is not uncommon for a student to assert the common misunderstanding that people are safe from lightning in a car because cars have rubber tires.
But the lightning is “jumping through” hundreds of feet of open air, so a few inches of rubber will make no difference when it comes to averting lightning strikes. Rather, passengers in a car (as long it is not a convertible) are safe from lightning because they are in an enclosed metal container, and electrical current is conducted along the outside of such containers.
Educators at science museums often astonish their audiences by touching the inside of a metal cage while it is being zapped by bolts of electricity. It is the same principle, and these metal enclosures are called Faraday cages. Anything inside a Faraday cage is safe from shock because the electrical field inside an empty, enclosed conductor, like metal, is zero. Outside electric fields are neutralized.
A few years ago, while learning the Anima Christi prayer, I was inspired but deeply puzzled by the phrase “Within Thy wounds, hide me.” There was something about it that seemed beautiful, rich and real, but it also struck me as mysterious — poetic, but enigmatic. What could it mean to hide within the wounds of Christ?
I kept this question in the back of my mind for a long time. I asked some friends what they thought about it. I realize that it might mean different things to different people because it involves a unique encounter with Jesus, but here is what it has come to mean for me.
One day, I came across Psalm 48:13-14: “Go about Zion, walk all around it, note the number of its towers. Consider the ramparts, examine its citadels, that you may tell future generations: that this is God, our God forever and ever.” St. Augustine tells us that this Psalm is about the Cross. We are invited to walk around the Cross and examine it as if it were a castle, a strong defense in times of war. The rooms and safe holds in the castle? The wounds of Christ.
What kind of battle do we fight? One of virtue and goodness against vice and sin. Attacks of temptation, shame and guilt assail us without reprieve. So, where can we go for safety? The strong man? The powerful man? A building made to withstand any force? An army? No amount of worldly strength can help.
Instead, the way up is down, and we descend all the way to the bloody wounds in the broken body of a crucified and abandoned criminal; revolting to the sight, but a place of impenetrable refuge for those humble enough to make the descent; spiritually, the wellspring of redemption and museum of Divine Love, and so repulsive to all forces of darkness. Christ’s body is the strongest spiritual tower, and his wounds are rooms of safety. If we take refuge in such a wounded place, as opposed to some “happy place,” what can harm us? If we go to the lowest place, the place of lonely pain and suffering, then what else could possibly happen to us? In other words, what can separate us from the love of Christ?
“Where can we find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior?” wrote Bernard of Clairvaux.
All who take refuge in the wounds of Christ are safe from the constant spiritual storms in the world, just as anyone inside a metal enclosure is safe from electrical disturbances. The wounds of Christ are a Faraday cage — frightening from the outside, but secure within. The unshakable confidence of the saints in times of tumult is grounded in their knowledge and experience of these spiritual laws, just as the docents in science museums get their confidence from their trust in the laws of science. The difference, of course, is that one will keep your body safe in particular situations in this life while the other will keep your soul safe for eternity.
And so we pray, “Within Thy wounds, hide me.”
- holy wounds