“The intimacy that exists between soul and body is a marvel of creation and a mystery of human existence. Yet we do wrong to think, because the soul will be judged after death while the body crumbles to the grave, that this mortal handful of dust is any less a gift of God, any less noble or beautiful than the immortal soul. It is in the body that we exist and work out our salvation. It is in the body that we see and take delight in the beauties of God’s created universe, and in the body that we ourselves bear the marks of Christ’s passion… We are constantly, day in and day out, hour after hour, under the influence of these mysterious workings of soul on body and body on soul.”
~Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., in He Leadeth Me
[Note: more on Ciszek and the body here]
“Sing, my tongue; sing, my hand; sing, my feet, my knee, my loins, my whole body. Indeed I am His choir,” wrote Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the great teachers of the medieval Catholic Church, honored with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor.
Although I am doing well overall, I feel physically zapped today. So reading Aquinas' dramatic, passionate statement recognizing his body as God's masterful creation, frankly overwhelms me more than inspires me!
Yet when God proclaims,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you” [Jer 1:5]God means this creaky and tender body of mine, as it is today.
Elenita, looking at herself in mirror
My friend Pat, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, recently reminded me that spiritual maturity requires that we not only merely accept, but to look in the mirror and downright acknowledge just how beautiful we are, physically.
I have a ways to go in learning, believing that I am God’s work of art, that I am God’s choir. It’s that different level of “understanding” that St. Ignatius of Loyola termed “knowing.”
I do want to “know” that all that I am, as I am, God created with specific and deliberate purpose and love so that I may claim my place in God’s choir in this world. This is the “more excellent way,” the way of Love that gives God glory and praise through my life.
There is not greater reality—and in truth, there is no greater challenge.
Cecilia, one month old
“You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.”