This Is My Body
At the Last Supper, when Jesus held up the bread and spoke the words “This is my Body,” I believe he was speaking not just about the bread right in front of him, but about the whole universe, about every thing that is physical, material, and yet also spirit-filled. (Sunday)
Wherever the material and the spiritual coincide, we have the Christ. That includes the material world, the natural world, the animal world (including humans), and moves all the way to the elemental world, symbolized by bread and wine. (Monday)
How daring and shocking it was for Jesus to turn the whole tradition of impure blood upside down and make blood holy! (Tuesday)
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. (Wednesday)
In the Eucharist, a true believer is eating what he or she is afraid to see and afraid to accept: The whole universe is the body of God, both in its essence and in its suffering. (Thursday)
[To] experience the ordinary as extraordinary . . . is experiencing the world as God’s body, the ordinariness of all bodies contained within and empowered by the divine. —Sallie McFague (Friday)
Practice: Foot Washing
As we explored this week, the Eucharist is a startling ritual. It is bloody, embodied, and sensual, shocking us into a realization of oneness with God. Jesus gave us another physical practice to teach us grace and forgiveness (John 13:1-8, 12-17, NIV):
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
While sometimes reserved for Holy Thursday, foot washing as contemplative practice can happen any time, with anyone. Invite someone to share this ritual with you—if you both are comfortable having your feet touched by each other. No particular script or special space is needed, just a basin, warm water, towels, and your authentic presence. You might choose to wash in silence, focusing on the physical sensations. Or you may wish to talk about what you mean to each other, express gratitude, or ask for forgiveness. However you choose to practice foot washing, I hope it helps you experience your own and your companion’s bodies as God’s body.
For Further Study:
Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Fortress Press: 1993)
Richard Rohr, Christ, Cosmology, & Consciousness: A Reframing of How We See (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), MP3 download
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)