Monday, October 11, 2010

The Mystery of Stigmatization Part I

In one of the most bizarre phenomena ever recorded, hundreds of devout Christians have reported that the wounds suffered by Christ have spontaneously appeared on their bodies. It is still unclear whether these wounds, or stigmata, are self inflicted, or if they really come from god.
When we say that a person bears the stigma of guilt or failure, we really mean that the person has been marked by a particular experience. In the purely physical sense, a stigma is mark or brand that is cut or burned onto the skin. There are many cultures that use stigmatization, or scarring to decorate the body, to signify membership in a tribe or social group or to designate slaves or criminals. In the Christian religion, stigmatization has a specific meaning: if refers to bleeding wounds that regularly appear in the same places- the head and feet, sides and forehead and the shoulders and back. The origin of these signs is connected to an ecstatic experience of the passion of Christ, and the wounds correspond to those suffered by Jesus Christ when he has beaten and nailed to the cross.
 In his letter to the Galatians, contained in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote that he bore the stigmata of Christ on his body. He was referring to the wounds that he had suffered in his mission to spread the word of Christ.
The first proven case of spontaneous stigmatization was that of St Francis of Assisi founder of the Franciscan order of monks. In mid September, 1224, the saint went into solitude at Mount Laverna near Arezzo in Tuscany to fast and pray. In a vision, he saw a crucified angel. Deeply moved, he began to meditate on Passion of Christ, and noticed how the marks of the crucifixion appeared on his skin. For the rest of his life, he tried to hide the wounds from his brothers, but many were able to observe them at the moment of his death, as he lay naked on the ground.

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