Bodily Knowing

This Is My Body

Bodily Knowing
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Ash Wednesday

Mutual desiring and indwelling is the intended impact of the Eucharist. We know that Jesus often referred to himself as the “bridegroom” (John 3:29; Matthew 9:15), and one of his first recorded acts of ministry was partying at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11), creating 150 gallons of intoxicating wine out of dutiful waters of purification! We also know that the very erotic Song of Songs somehow made its way into the Bible, and its images of union have been precious to mystics from the earliest centuries. Yet much of later Christianity has been rather prudish and ashamed of the human body, which God took on so happily through Jesus and then gave away to us so freely in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart, knowing Presence through our own offered presence. In the Eucharist, we move beyond mere words or rational thought and go to that place where we don’t talk about the Mystery anymore; we begin to chew on it. Jesus did not say, “Think about this” or “Stare at this” or even “Worship this.” Instead he said, “Eat this!”

We must move our knowing to the bodily, cellular, participative, and thus unitive level. We must keep eating and drinking the Mystery, until one day it dawns on us, in an undefended moment, “My God, I really am what I eat! I also am the Body of Christ.” Then we can trust and allow what has been true since the first moment of our existence. We have dignity and power flowing through us in our bare and naked existence—and everybody else does too, even though most do not know it. A body awareness of this sort is enough to steer and empower our entire faith life, while merely assenting to or saying the words will never give us the jolt we need to absorb the divine desire for us.

This is why I must hold to the orthodox belief that there is Real Presence in the bread and wine. For me, if we sacrifice Reality in the elements, we end up sacrificing the same Reality in ourselves.

The Eucharist is Christians’ ongoing touchstone for the spiritual journey, a place to which we must repeatedly return in order to find our face, our name, our absolute identity, who we are in Christ, and thus who we are forever. We are not just humans having a God experience. The Eucharist tells us that, in some mysterious way, we are God having a human experience!

Read these familiar words, perhaps inspired by Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582), aloud a couple times and let its message sink in to your marrow:

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 136, 137.

Image credit: Eucharistic Bread, painting in the early Christian catacomb of Saint Callixtus, Rome, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart, knowing Presence through our own offered presence. In the Eucharist, we move beyond mere words or rational thought and go to that place where we don’t talk about the Mystery anymore; we begin to chew on it. Jesus did not say, “Think about this” or “Stare at this” or even “Worship this.” Instead he said, “Eat this!” —Richard Rohr

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