These words sound otherworldly, carrying the sense of the sacred. Many of us were raised in traditions which include the eucharist, or communion. Some folks enter that space every month, some every week. For some, it is a shared table, some approach one by one, some wait for a plate to be passed, others wait to be served individually with palms up. Always it is sacred, not to be taken lightly.
This is not a post about communion. We are sitting this month with the theme of physicality. Why did Jesus imbue something as physical as food and drink with such meaning? These “last words” play in my head.
I was a young teen when I first began to experience an eating disorder. My world had shattered, and if I didn’t eat, I felt a semblance of control. Decades into the work of story, the roots of this finally came to light. I began in my 2nd half of life to welcome food, relishing the taste and texture and beauty of its goodness.
It was a much younger girl, though, who first learned contempt for the body. Even still, it comes out third person. The body….her body….my body. As a survivor, whose day child and night child did not talk, I carried the common belief that my body had betrayed me. The ability to feel was too risky. An auto immune disease embodied that in a visceral way, as the cells themselves turned against me. The body was always the enemy, not to be trusted.
This week, self care looked like craniosacral therapy and yoga. The craniosacral therapist put her hands over my belly, just above the pelvis, asking permission first. “There’s a lot here.” Yes. Yes there is. In yoga, the teacher invited us to notice where the other end of the gluteal muscles connect, in the core of the pelvis. Gently, she asked us to soften there, describing the sensation of melting. We played with that for half the class, noticing.
It is a testament to the work I have done that I can even feel. Once, I saw a statue made of stone. No head, no arms, no legs….just a torso, with ivy winding upward. It struck me in a physical way. That was me! So with the yoga teacher guiding us, I gave myself permission to feel, as an act of courage. As I lay on the mat, the question formed, “I wonder what messages I took in about my pelvic area as a girl?” That night, in response, the images began to flow, giving form and color and snippets of sound to that bold question. I was not born with those messages.
So here is the crazy thing I have been wrestling with for the last year.
When I, as a survivor, look in the mirror and behold my body with eyes of kindness, is that the Eucharist?
When I can see the edges of my body softening, the curves changing as I learn to nourish and receive, I feel delight. Yes! This is MY body…is that the Eucharist? When I take a shower, or change my clothes, and welcome what I see, naming it as good….is that the Eucharist?
I know there are deep theological implications in what Jesus did that night. But I also know that Jesus took crazy hard stuff and worked it out in physical ways, with fish and flowers, friends and wine and clay pots.
So maybe it is not heresy, to think about the Eucharist in very personal ways. When I receive the goodness of my body, redeemed by the one who loves me without harm, I am receiving the Body. When I allow the kindness of my own heart to bless this grown up girl, it is a drink of healing.
Jesus showed up, and moved into the neighborhood. That is the crazy truth of incarnation. And then, when ready to move back Home, there was this Body thing, to remember. I am remembering. And that is Eucharisteo.
Joanna Wilder is a lover of truth. She is a birthkeeper and a professor. She is a mom of six, and married to one bold man. She is a desert girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest for a season of change.