The Body of Christ

Are there times when you’ve been connected to others in a profound way? In that experience of connectedness with another, did you sense a deep, spiritual presence?

In late May, I was spending a week at a Benedictine monastery for a time of rest and retreat. Sunday of that week happened to be the Roman Catholic observance of “Corpus Christi”, Latin for “the Body of Christ.”

This feast day celebration was of particular importance to my hosts: the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. These monastic women, with roots to a monastery in Switzerland, practice a contemplative spirituality focused on the presence of Christ in the communion bread, a devotion that originated in the Middle Ages when only priests partook of the communion bread.

When speaking with any of these women, mostly in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, you immediately felt a profound peace and serenity. After years of prayer and contemplative practice, their lives had truly been transformed.

That Sunday, about two dozen nuns were joined by some outside guests for the Mass. While the priest was delivering his homily, I became aware of something very fundamental. While the priest spoke of the bread-like wafer as the body of Christ, I realized that it was actually the congregation gathered that was the real Body of Christ, the true “Corpus Christi”. Those gathered were well past midlife and showed signs of aging in their bodies. But in their faith, they gathered and sang and expressed something rich and deep that was life giving for them. These women, many stooped and bent with arthritis, were like the communion bread: blessed, broken, and given. In their spiritual growth and transformation, they were clearly blessed and had become a blessing for others. As they had grown in age, not only were their bodies breaking but they had broken down the illusions of wealth, fame, and fortune by living out their lives in simplicity. They have given their lives to prayer and spiritual practice, striving to be a source of healing and hope for others. As I looked around the chapel, I knew that the Body of Christ was not the wafer in the priest’s hands, but was the holy communion shared among the women who lived a monastic life, committed to prayer and to each other. I found myself gazing with adoration at the true Body of Christ.

When people gather to share deeply of themselves and give of who they are for the life of others, the Body of Christ becomes alive and real in the world. I see that each day as I watch a neighbor visiting a woman on my street who is home bound; as I see a guy down the street giving his time to play sports with the kids in our neighborhood; and, as I witness the devotion displayed by a married couple to each other on their morning walks. It’s in these gatherings where the Body of Christ is real, for it’s in these gatherings that life is renewed.

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How are your spiritual practices leading you to deeper communion with others? How is this spiritual connection life-giving for you and for others?

 

To learn more about the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, visit www.benedictinesisters.org

Photo credit: BostonCatholic via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

© 2016, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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