I wrote this a while ago and couldn’t decide if I should run it. Sometimes I leave things as drafts for a few weeks figuring out whether they’re “personal” or “public.” I think this one is going public. Be gentle on me.
We brought Kiddo#4 to church for the first time on Sunday, April 6th, and I don’t have a “disaster post” for you. That’s bad from a “funny weblog” perspective (I know you were looking forward to a tale of me being spit up-on or dealing with four screaming Kiddos) but good from a “Philangelus keeps her sanity” perspective.
The worst that happened was a well-timed poop by Kiddo#4, so I went downstairs during the offering of the gifts to do a quick-change. (Don’t “tsk” me: my Patient Husband had the envelopes.) I got back at the consecration just in time for Kiddo#4 to decide pooping had made room for more milk, and therefore it must be my responsibility to put more there.
You know those “epiphany” moments? I had one right then, and it lasted right until the end of Mass.
There are only two times in the average human being’s life when we can expect to say “this is my body” to another human being. One of them would be a mother with her baby: first, a mother giving her body over to her baby for the purpose of gestation and later on for nursing. The mother is giving from her physical self solely for the benefit of someone else. Her uterus exists only for the nurturance of a different human being. And really, the same can be said of her breasts. That whole system is there only to benefit someone who is not her. In fact, she might be healthier if those systems were removed, and many women can and do live a full life without ever using those systems.
The second situation would be lovers in an act of physical intimacy: a man effectively says “this is my body” to his bride, or a woman to her husband. Again it’s other-oriented for the most part: Take me; this is my body. I am yours.
And for the rest of the Mass, right through Communion, I was struck by the way Jesus had said that to us, the tender vulnerability of a man approaching his spouse or the concern of a mother feeding her baby. The chance of rejection. The openness to the needs of the other. The awkwardness of someone who loves someone else.
For a moment there, I could feel that awkwardness, the “nakedness” of God before us, how God wants our souls naked before Him and divested of all the baffles we create to hide ourselves. How we, as lovers, feel ugly and unlovable and want to keep the lights off, but God wants to look at us with surprise and tenderness, and give everything and receive everything in return. This is my body — and this is yours.
It was all the more powerful when I realized that after Jesus said those words, the next day He said “this is my body” in one more way, and literally gave his body over and was killed.
This is my body, given for you.
Growing a baby. Meeting as a lover. An exchange of persons (which is, in effect, a covenant).
Jesus said in John 6 that if we didn’t take and eat, there was no life in us, and was fully prepared to let all His disciples walk away from Him if they couldn’t do it. Clearly it was important for Him that we let that nakedness happen, that giving, that ultimate feeding. This is my body: my milk, my love, my blood, my life. All of them and at the same time none of them. God as our parent and our lover and our beloved and our rescuer.
After Communion, I found myself crying. I couldn’t have said why because there was too much. It was a little thing, no word in the sentence more than four letters long, and yet it was everything, every important relationship we ever wanted but contained fully in none of them.