Love uses permanent ink
For centuries, tattoos have been part of some people’s culture in various parts of the world. For some cultures, tattoos are part of the ritual of admission from youth to adulthood; in others, it is just a way to embellish their physical appearance or make it more fearsome; in others, it is a way of resembling or imitating the characteristics of a powerful or beautiful animal. In my opinion, tattoos are a search for belonging, a way to permanently merge with a person, animal or object tattooed or marked on the skin.
Advanced technology in the world of tattoos allows people to erase from their skin the ink that was intended to be indelible. Unlike tattoo ink, authentic love leaves a permanent print; divine love uses indelible ink.
The Bible describes an intense search for loving fusion with similar images: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For Love is strong as Death, longing is fierce as Sheol. Its arrows are arrows of fire, flames of the divine. Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away.” (Song of Songs 8:6-7)
“I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10)
Marks or tattoos on the skin are perceived in many ways in our strongly heterogeneous Western societies, but there always subsists in all the search for fusion and permanent belonging as a sign of love.
The venerable Mexican mystic Conchita Cabrera wrote in her diary that one day when she saw, on the ranch where she lived, that the animals were marked with the name of their owner, inflamed with love for God, it occurred to her that as those animals she wanted to carry a sign in her body of belonging to her beloved master and Lord Jesus. With that image in mind, one day with a pair of scissors she cut her chest with the letters JHS and cauterized them with a curling iron, with great physical pain, but with the strength and passion of divine love, “for love is stronger than death and hell.”
For the rest of her life, Conchita carried with joy that hidden and intimate sign of belonging to her divine master and eternal love.
My mother, may she rest in peace, used to say that the she didn’t need to see the calendar to remind her of important dates, as her punctual and joyful heart reminded her of them. The important things were engraved on her heart, with the indelible ink of love.
We have no evidence or indications in the Gospels that the Virgin Mary marked or tattooed her skin as a sign of her love and belonging to God or her intimate unity with Jesus, but the Gospel tells us that she kept everything in her heart. I am sure that the apostles and all those who came in contact with Mary found that her life was full of peace, freedom and deep joy. They found the beautiful tattoo of God’s love, her soul was a refined canvas in which the Almighty captured all the immortal and indelible beauty.
Without question, and to the extent we continue to grow in unity and love with Jesus, he will engrave his image in our interiors with the indelible ink of his love, as he has done with all his great disciples. He knows how to print masterpieces even when our inner canvases are coarse and full of roughness.
The world around us will see the tattoos of the passion, death and resurrection of our beloved in all of our actions. Everyone will see our belonging to Jesus in our forgiveness, service, joy, perseverance, work, rest, unity and justice, and in our continual search for his perfect image — his image engraved in the skin of our soul, by the best divine love tattoo artist, Jesus.
Unlike the tattoos on our skin, the tattoos that God makes on our soul neither wrinkle nor deform when we grow old or when our skin loses its freshness. The tattoos of the soul not only maintain their firmness but they also acquire new and bright colors as time goes by. The master of love tattoos knows how to perfect the rough canvas of our heart and the coarseness of our soul, to tattoo what he wants others to contemplate in delight.
The world, by looking at us like this, will also desire to have a loving tattoo done by the Divine Artist, Jesus.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - September 2018
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx