Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prayer, body, Incarnation: a short passage from When in Doubt, Sing

*****Taking seriously the Incarnation –God’s presence with us in the flesh– and worshiping with awareness and participation of the body are related. We are embodied beings. God is embodied. We are images of God. The word does not exist apart from the flesh. There is also another way of looking at incarnation and Jesus’ bodiliness: not just as God’s presence with us in the form of a human person, but in the dailiness and detail of it, the way in which Jesus, in his earthly life, dealt with bodies, day in and day out: hungry bodies, sick bodies, bodies of women and bodies of men, bodies of living children and of children who appeared to be dead. The Hebrew Bible is as a rule much more sensual and embodied than the Christian Testament, but the Gospels at least have their own sense of nature and of the body whole and healed, and with this we can pray. Read the Gospels with a focus on the life of Jesus. You will find bodiliness nearly everywhere. Jesus touches eyes, ears, mouths, restoring speech and sights. He heals lame and paralyzed people. He feels the need and the urgent pull of the unnamed woman with the flow of blood who touches his cloak. He eats with reprobates and high officials, drinks wine, multiplies loaves of bread and handfuls of fish. He weeps real tears when Lazarus dies, rests weary feet in the home of Martha and Mary, and receives anointing with fragrant oil from the woman whose name we do not know but whose gesture is recorded in all four Gospels.

*****Jesus walks in wheatfields and climbs hills, goes out on the water in a boat, tells parables of seeds and trees, rock and sand. In his stories, a young man guards pigs, another seeks out a sheep, a woman kneads dough, and another sweeps her house, looking for a lost coin. A hen is an image of God, covering her chicks with homely wings. A shepherd chasing errant sheep is another figure of the divine. Even after the Resurrection, Jesus is still dealing with bodies: breaking bread on the road to Emmaus, grilling fish on the beach for his friends, showing wounds to a doubting disciple.

*****Praying with the body is related to knowing with the body. Body knowledge is real knowledge, not lesser knowledge. To know God is to know with one’s bodily self. Many of us have learned our religion through the body. Orthodox and Catholic Christians especially have spoken to me of this learning, rooted in childhood. “We Catholics,” David Toolan writes, “were a pre-Gutenberg phenomenon with a bias for the charity of God made palpable to the five senses and the sympathetic nervous system.” ...

From chapter 4 ("Praying with the Body") of Jane Redmont, When in Doubt Sing: Prayer in Daily Life (Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books, 2008), 38-39. (c) Jane Redmont 1999, 2008

4 comments:

Donald Donato said...

Beautiful post. This is so important for people to understand...there is no division...

Thanks so much!

FranIAm said...

This is extraordinary. I can't wait to get more fully into the book. Dang that Richard V and all the reading he has assigned! Schillebeeckx or Redmont? Oh I must first go with ol' Schilly!

And in the tiny and amazing body wonder of the world, you and my instructor know each other and I know you both.

Grace upon grace indeed.

Magdalene6127 said...

This is one of my favorite chapters of the book, Jane. Thank you so much for reminding me of it!

pj said...

Oh Jane. Just gorgeous, marvelous, fantastic. And sensible.