By Jill Mraz
As we receive the body of Jesus on our tongue at Mass, it can be easy to mistake that He then becomes us but this is not so. We become Him. In consuming Christ, it is He who consumes us. Full intimacy with Jesus is always circular, always an exchange of love, always a movement towards oneness. He moves and abides in us, and we, in turn, move toward and abide in Him. Full stop? Hardly.
Our bodies, properly-recognized not as vessels which contain our souls but rather as flesh and blood animated and sustained by the soul, are made perfect in our posture of acquiescence and reception to Christ, our Host. That our human body will decay and die in our lifetime here on earth is of zero consequence in the fullness of time. In death, we can truly “rest in peace”, secure in the knowledge that our bodies (although left behind) matter and that the matter of our bodies will be resurrected and rejoined to our souls for life eternal as God intended. We shan’t be running about as unclad spirits in Heaven for all eternity, thanks be to God! Meanwhile, let us not be overly concerned with appearances.
In this life, the exterior is a losing battle. Do your best to care for your body and then let it go. To continue now in the bodily contemplation of host and consumption. Playing host is a big job, is it not? Indeed. I dare say the act of consuming is no small feat either. Coming off the high of Thanksgiving wherein my daughter and I worked our way to the moment of welcoming (with great joy) thirteen guests into our home, we then spent several days working our way through the leftovers in all their myriad shapes and movement – mostly directed towards our mouths. Having given the lion’s share of food away to willing recipients at the end of our lovely feast, we were still confronted by trembling triangles of pumpkin pie, slippery slivers of turkey and colossal clumps of clumsy stuffing. We managed to conquer them all, giving thanks for the gift of reciprocity and the reciprocity of gifts.
Arriving (rather breathless) at Mass on the first Sunday of Advent, we were presented with the pale, slender, silent Host, raised high for all to feast their eyes upon and receive. The bland taste, as usual, belied the sweet store stowed within, namely Jesus, who continues to confound the world by choosing to give Himself away, repeatedly, in the form of a small, dry wafer. Why? is a rhetorical question. It’s more like, if this isn’t love, what is? The Eucharist serves as the ultimate reversal of all our expectations of love.
More on shape and movement. An online quote states, “the circle is the strongest, most beautiful shape. As the ultimate curvilinear shape, the circle embodies all of the attributes that attract us: it is a safe, gentle, pleasant, graceful, dreamy space which evokes calmness, peace, and relaxation.”
It is also the most movable. When properly set in motion, a circle naturally turns, and re-turns. This concept, when applied to the interior life, lends our souls the properties of a circle. Created and set in motion by God, our souls are intended not to merely turn around and in on themselves like a spinning top, but rather to move forward like a wheel on a path, ever turning, evermore returning toward the One who beckons. Our souls know this instinctively yet our bodies often lag behind. Following eventually, we will our bodies to keep trying. We keep failing and trying and failing again. Spirit willing, flesh weak.
Through cooperation and effort and wanting with all our hearts to be a saint, we can and do become more closely encircled around Christ. Consuming and being consumed by Love often, we are drawn further in. Grace abounds, we are riding high, and it is in this euphoric state that hubris often creeps in, stealthy in its imperceptibility. Our awareness of God working in our lives shrinks to a trembling sliver, a clumsy guess or blurred glimpses of passing fragments caught from the corner of our eye. Spinning out of control, we stop looking for Christ, forget to give thanks. Slipping gradually into darkness, we are only vaguely aware of going through the motions, of the shift in our forward movement to that of merely encircling ourselves until we dwindle slowly down to a skittering stop, frustrated, confused and sad. Grace persists, unbidden and unrecognized, working to bring a rise in us, oblivious in our desolation. And then one day, we inexplicably turn, squinting in the sharp morning light, dim-witted as bears emerging from their comatose-cave-ridden-stupor in spring. Hauling our bodies up, weak and shaking, we stumble back to our path.
Watching, as we pathetically struggle out of the thorn bushes on the side of the road, is Jesus, loving us. In turning and returning to our Beloved disguised within this humble circle of bread which we receive in faith, hope, and love, we invite Jesus to once again consume our lives. And again we are set in motion, propelled down that narrow path rimmed with thorns, now gaining momentum, now smiling, laughing even, we are made strong in our weakness. If we stay the course, our eventual death from this life of highs and lows, falling and rising, turning and returning to God, will be a happy one, crazy as that may sound. Finally, come full circle, we will one day rejoice in joining the vast assembly of saints perpetually in motion around the perfect, the consummate Host of heaven, our Lord and Love, Jesus Christ. Oh, happy day!
About the author:
Jill Mraz is a Catholic mother to one wonderful daughter. Residing in Minnesota they enjoy summer road trips to either coast, marveling at the stunning beauty of God’s natural world. Jill writes poems and essays which reflect upon motherhood and her beloved Catholic faith. She is a contributor for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization.