Christ's body + Our bodies + The body
Philosophers will tell you that we have been on a headlong flight into dis-embodiment since the Enlightenment. As our values become more privatized, as our identity is centered on "I think, therefore I am," it is easy in this modern world to think that we are mere "islands" - rushing around with our agendas, not really facing our intrinsic need for physical contact, our need for others, or our basic loneliness.
But Covid-19 has changed all that.
As we are forced to meet online, as we cannot see or touch other people, our embodiment is something we must reckon with again. And isn't it wonderful (mysterious! crazy!) that God has already reckoned with our embodiment - and celebrates it? His blessing on our bodies, our need for connection, is all held in that mysterious gift/phrase he left us called the "Body of Christ."
Think about it: what first came to your mind with the phrase "body of Christ": did you first think about communion (the "body of Christ")? or did you first think about being part of the local and worldwide church (also called his body!)
There is a wonderful and intentional ambiguity about this phrase - does this refer to us? to him? or is that precisely the point?
Perhaps more than any other Church Father, Augustine - in the 4th century AD - loved the interplay of these words. One Sunday, when preaching to his small (and lucky!) congregation, he explained communion to them as:
This is the Body of Christ: behold what you are; become what you receive.
I imagine him holding up the communion loaf, and reminding them that in some mysterious way they are face to face with Jesus. And also with themselves. And that their journey is not over - that they had a lot of "becoming" yet to do. Over the past few weeks, Carson and I have been reviewing our liturgy, various Anglican liturgies, and working on coordinating them with the church calendar. We are going to adopt this remarkable phrase from Augustine into one of our seasonal communion liturgies as a reminder of how important Jesus' body is for our spiritual journey. We ARE the body of Christ. And as we become more and more like him, this is a journey for our whole selves - bodies, relationships, addictions, work, family. May we become what we receive, to greater and greater depths. Julie PS I had to add the photo of Matt prepping communion, both to assure you how safely we are preparing this for you - but also the irony of Matt, masked, putting the elements into separate little brown bags. I love how this is not a problem for the God who redeems all things and all circumstances! It reminds me that we are all anxious for the day when we can gather again and partake of one loaf and one cup, reminding us of our true identity as united to Christ, and united in Christ.