“The body is a sacrament . . . a visible sign of invisible grace . . . The body is the mirror where the secret
world of the soul comes to expression.” – John O’Donohue in Anam Cara
before Lent started, I noticed that I’d fallen into an old habit of not eating,
getting by on half a piece of dry peanut-butter toast in the morning, for lack
of time and focus, and often skipping lunch too. I had stopped getting
groceries – really getting groceries – aside from dribs and drabs of necessities.
Meal preparation fell by the way-side as
well, so that dinner was a continual mad-scramble as I pulled things together
for one more meal.
consumption – my Achilles heel – was up too.
Back in seminary a daily diet coke poured over ice and served with a
slice of lemon was a treat, a symbol, if you will, of self-care in some deluded
sense. But lately I was up to two-a-day
and I’d given up using glasses. In a
moment of stress or frustration or simple thirst I would grab for the trusty
can, no longer even hearing the satisfying crack and snap of the tab-top
lifting, no longer tasting the welcome bite.
behind the refrigerator door gulping and placed the open can on the shelf,
returning at-will for a short, bracing nip of caffeine and carbonation. Drinking soda like that is like drinking wine
straight from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag – sly and empty, pure
need and no delight. Give that woman a
glass, I thought, as I saw myself in a rare moment of self-awareness.
There were many
years where I wouldn’t have noticed these things. I’ve always had a tendency to neglect my body,
to live in the lofty penthouse of my mind, conveniently removed from the dust
and dirt, the tumult of daily, embodied, life.
I turned a deaf ear to my body for a long time and I’m lucky I’ve not
paid a higher price for my neglect. Something
about three pregnancies, though, and the long-haul commitment of nursing four little bodies into strength and health, forced me to listen
more closely to my own body, if only for the sake of those little ones it
been a good friend to my body, never been a lover of it, but this year I’m sensing
the invitation to listen more closely, to care more deeply for the gift of this
frail tent that houses my soul. My “one
word” for 2013, as best as I can tell, is “embodied” and rather than mortifying
the flesh as I have for these many years this Lent I’m embracing the call to
care for my body as an extension of the body of Christ.
This year I’m
subtracting nothing other than my own disdain for the needs of the flesh. I’m listening more closely to this dwelling
place, this home for my soul as O’Donohue calls it, this sacrament of flesh and
blood. And, as a symbol of all of this, I’m
to observe the dryness of my mouth, the signs of thirst that were among the
first things I knew as an infant and, perhaps, among the first I put
aside when I thought I was old enough to outgrow the needs of the flesh.
the kitchen, where the sunlight pours through these old double windows lighting
up floral-fielded blinds, I reach for a glass.
I lift the handle on the faucet and watch the water flowing like a
stream of glistening light as it dances in the sun’s illumination. I catch the dance in my cup and watch as it
is filled, wait as my hand bears the weight.
Turning off the tap I lift the glass, clear now, but weighted with light
and life. Then, placing my lips to the
glass, I swallow down this dancing stream of life. I gulp, pressing myself to embrace what is
necessary but doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
Looking out through the bottom of the glass as this small, shining river flows into me, I see a world sparkling and shining with refracted light. As I drink, I
think of Christ in the desert and the thirst he bore, both there and on the
cross, and I know that I’m somehow more present to him as I become more present
to my own body.