This Is My Body

The most fundamental experience of being human is biological. We enter the world in a state of biological dependence, having left an utterly symbiotic existence in the womb. Parents’ first thoughts about a child are consumed with biological issues. Nursing, digestion, sleep, and various discomforts rightly occupy the often sleep-deprived parents of newborns. Conversations among young mothers tend to circle around those issues. Biology is primary. When something is biologically amiss, everything else has a way of being diminished. As years go by, our biological attention sometimes wanes, particularly when things are physically going well. We take our bodies for granted and begin to imagine that the world of thought and social interaction are primary. Of course, aging has a way of bringing things full circle. I warn people these days when they ask, “How are you doing?” I tell them that asking an old man how he is doing is an invitation to an information dump.

This pattern, our movement from the biological to the social and psychological, is also a pattern that can be seen in the history of our species. Civilization did not come into existence at the same time as our biology. Mere survival for hunters and gatherers required some level of cooperation. However, what we think of as civilization (villages and such) only came with the advent of an abundance that placed less immediacy on the primary needs of the body.

This is reflected in the incarnation of Christ. God became man, making Himself accessible in a manner that acknowledged the primacy of our embodied existence. God did not become an idea, a mere expression as a message from a prophet. He became a biological human being. St. John wrote:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…(1 John 1:1–2)

or, most famously: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)

As “civilized” people, however, we seem to have a drive towards an imaginary, disembodied existence. In our contemporary setting of the internet-webbed world, this drive is all the stronger. Jesus as “idea” is all the more tempting. The life of the early Church was, on the contrary, a life of sacrament, a world in which the taste, touch, and feel of Christ and the gospel were primary. It was also a world in which, to an extent far greater than today, the biological aspect of our existence was far more prominent and undeniable. Technology has allowed us to “manage” the necessity of biology in a manner in which it largely becomes an inconvenience in comparison to the unfettered imaginary existence of the mind. We say of the passions that run through our brains, “This is my true self, my freedom, my undeniable truth,” while we suppress our biological reality with baths of chemicals and surgeries, which, like the costumes we assume, seek to hide and obscure the naked truth of our being.

HolyEucharist-IconTo this, God says, “This is my Body,” pressing the broken, bleeding, biology of His crucified Incarnation into our mouths. “Take, eat…drink this…” Almost immediately we seek to transmute His tasty flesh into an idea, as though He had said, “Take, think….”

That huge segments of the Christian world have negated the reality of His Body and Blood is not surprising. At the same time, the doctrine of the atonement has been transformed into a moral transaction in which the biology of His suffering becomes a problem to be explained (often reduced to a moral tale – “Look what pain your sin caused!”) In such scenarios, sin is reduced to moral failing. But the Scriptures are clear: the biology of sin is primary. “In the day that you eat of it you shall die.” More than anything, sin is mortality. Whatever moral issues we might have spring from the biological death to which we are subject.

And so our embodied Savior says, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” And, “Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will never die.” The ultimate seal of His promise is found in His resurrection. There, His body is not put away, some temporary thing whose purpose is fulfilled. Instead, that temporal biology becomes the eternal vehicle of Life (bios becomes zoe).

St. Paul, in discussing problems surrounding marriage, adultery, and fornication, ends with an astounding statment: “Glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:20). The body and its proper sexual action is not a moral problem, but a locus for the glory of God. The old English marriage service, in the Book of Common Prayer, has the groom speaking this phrase:

With this ring I thee wed;
With my body I thee worship;
With all my worldly goods I thee endow.

I can think of no other place in English literature that more completely describes the fullness of marriage in its utter union of husband and wife. It is sacrament.

The atonement is rightly understood as Christ’s direct assault on death itself. It is for this reason that St. Paul describes us as being “baptized into His death.” In His death and descent into Hades, Christ “tramples down death by death.” His triumphant death now becomes our death by water and the Spirit, so that our death is now a Passover and not our destruction.

Many of the abstract theories that surround the atonement, as well as modern pietistic Christianity, are divorced from our bodies. Being “born again” has been divorced from Baptism (whose connection is quite clear in Scripture), and reinterpreted as a quasi-emotional experience, a definition that is no older than the 18th century or so. Baptism itself is often reduced to nothing more than token ritual. In the same manner, the Eucharist, the undisputed center of the Christian life for 1500 years, has equally been reduced and gutted. For some modern Christians, the only doctrine of the Eucharist cherished by the faithful is that it is not the actual Body and Blood of Christ. It becomes a “sacrament” of anti-Catholicism.

St. John makes this simple declaration in his second epistle:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

This, of course, is not the intention of those who have evolved a non-sacramental Christianity. However, the deep anti-embodiment that permeates our culture (and fuels such theology) has set itself on a course towards an antichrist of St. John’s definition. Given the increasing alienation of what it means to be human from our own bodies, Christ’s words, “This is my body,” need to be carefully re-read.

Along with this admonition, we need to return to a consciousness righty grounded in our own embodiment. To live embodied is to acknowledge limits, and to properly respect them. The limits of our bodies should be honored rather than treated as cumbersome obstacles. Our bodies are not given to us as objects to be transcended. Medical experimentation, however noble in its intentions, needs to be reined in with genuine regard and veneration for our limits. An embryo, for example, is a human being, not a scientific tool or toy.

St. John of Damascus offers a profound statement for our consideration:

I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take his abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honor it, but not as God.

Glory to God who gives us His flesh and blood as the food of immortality. May He grant us grace to glorify Him in our own bodies!

Source: Glory To God For All Things

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    One Comment
    1. samir sardana

      What is the future of Christianity,in South Asia and East Asia ? Is is the faith of Abraham and Jesus ? It is another matter that the proclaimed seed and followers of Abraham,id.est., the Jews,do not believe in Jesus.

      Is Christianity in South and East Asia, a compromise or a dilution or a corruption of theology and metaphysics ?

      Sample these Indonassean NOMINAL Christians,who exhume their dead and dress them up,light a cigar for them,and then talk to them,and eat with them and then bury them,in their graves (with the new clothes and cigar)

      https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/2115027/living-corpses-how-indonesias-toraja-people-deal
      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/indonesia-village-dead-corpses-dress-up-toraja-indonesia-south-sulawesi-alive-annual-festival-tourist-a7694541.html

      Then we have the Goan Limpets who have “a dead body” of Francis Xavier,without a toe and a hand and a forearm,which is prayed to as a living deity and a miracle.The toe,hand and forearm travel all over the world,and are also prayed to.There are many saints in Christianity,and none have their bodies displayed for 5 days or 550 years as in this case).In turns out that some crank Portugese woman bit of the toe of Francis Xavier,as a relic ! Baturally, the Nassara say that the body was preserved w/o chemicals for 550 years – and people believe it ! Goa till 30 days ago,had 4000 daily cases and close to 100 dead a day,which is the HIGHEST PER CAPITA FOR COVID,for any nation at any time.Neither Jesus nor Xavier,could save these people !

      http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1988719_1988728_1988722,00.html

      Is this evolution ?

      However,one has to admit that these Converts are better off,than without Christianity,and it is the only hope for the destitutes of India and Asia.They probably will not get spiritual salvation, but will be empowered and emancipated,and then,in a century or so,will have a spiritual awakening.

      These kinks in Christianity,in South Asia and East Asia,capture the Core DNA of the people, as in, IDOLATORY in Indians.Whether they are Christians or Muslims,that innate weakness to pray to a body or an idol,as an intermediary,lies at the core of the Indians,South Asians and East Asians.

      But then a man like Stan Swamy comes along and captures the CORE DNA of Jesus,and makes the experiment worthwhile.Even his Church did not try to save him.His sacrifice has no peer in India,as no Indian was killed by a state,as powerful as, India is today,and no Indian was killed for a class struggle.Stan Swamy was not converting people – unlike Tegh Bahadur and company,who were killed (so called) for religious conversions,heresy and blasphemy.

      Even Judas Thomas was killed by Kali worshippers,as a part of a religious war, and not a class war !

      The mistake that Stan Swamy’s team made,was that they relied on the worthless Indian Judiciary and Constitution.Jesus also made that mistake – but it was a “purposeful mistake”,as he wanted to be killed,at the hands of the Pharisees.

      Perhaps the Indians need to canonise Stan Swamy and start an Order after him.dindooohindoo

      Christians need to ponder over the words of Pope Francis in the St Patrick cathedral in NY,as under :

      “we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ENDED IN FAILURE,THE FAILURE OF THE CROSS”

      https://abcnews.go.com/US/read-pope-francis-yorks-st-patricks-cathedral/story?id=34023376

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