Which side of Jesus was pierced?

By Fr. John Broussard | Special To The Compass | March 22, 2022


“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (Jn 19:34). Did the soldier drive the spear into the heart of Jesus? When I see crucifixes, they always have the wound on the right side of the chest, rather than the left, closer to the heart. — Appleton


St. John the Evangelist tells us that Jesus’ side was pierced but does not say which side. Crucifixes are artistic renderings, not exact reproductions, so the depiction of Christ’s chest wound on the right side is symbolic of the nature of salvation itself. 

In Scripture, those on Jesus’ right are the ones to be saved (Mt 25:32–33) and they are saved by the blood that he shed for them (Mt 26:28). 

It is through the waters of baptism that we are made children of God just as the waters flowed from the right side of the temple (Ez 47) that washed away the sacrifice, the expiation for sins in the old law. Christ, as the new Law Incarnate, washes us clean with the blood and water that flowed from his side, the temple of his body. 

It is conceivable the spear came up and from the right side and pierced a sack of water and blood that has been known to form around the heart when the heart is placed under extreme stress. This would respect both the images prefigured throughout salvation history and grant the possibility of being pierced on the right while still penetrating our Lord’s Sacred Heart.    

Editor’s note: This depiction of the saved standing by Christ’s right side while he is on the cross — and those who are not saved — can be seen on the mural behind the altar at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay: sfxcathedralgb.com/history.

Fr. Broussard, a Father of Mercy, is rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis.         

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