Wednesday, March 30, 2011



The body is a sacrament. The Old, traditional definition of sacrament captures this beautifully. A sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace. In that definition there is a fine acknowledgement of how the unseen world comes to expression in the visible world. This desire for expression lies deep at the heart of the invisible world. All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. The body is a sacred threshold; and it deserves to be respected, minded and understood in its spiritual nature. This sense of the body is wonderfully expressed in the amazing phrase from the Catholic tradition: the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit holds the intimacy and distance of the Trinity alert and personified. To describe the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit recognizes that the body is suffused with wild and vital divinity. This theological insight shows that the sensuous is sacred in the deepest sense.

The body is also very truthful. You know from your own life that your body rarely lies. Your mind can deceive you and put all kinds of barriers between you and your nature; but your body does not lie. Your body tells you, if you attend to it, how your life is and whether you are living from your soul or from the labyrinth of your negativity. The body also has a wonderful intelligence. All of our movements, indeed everything we do, demands the most refined and detailed co-operation of each of our senses. The human body is the most complex, refined and harmonious totality.

The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you towards wisdom and holiness. It is unfortunate that it is only when we are ill that we realize how tender, fragile and precious is the house of belonging called the body. When you work with people who are ill, or awaiting surgery you can encourage them to have a conversation with the body area that is unwell. To talk to it as a partner; and to thank it for all it has done, for what it has suffered and to ask forgiveness of it for whatever pressure it may have had to endure. Each part of the body holds the memory of its own experience.

Your body is, in essence, a crowd of different members who work in harmony to make your belonging in the world possible. We should avoid this false dualism which separates the soul from the body. The soul is not simply within the body, hidden somewhere within its recesses. The truth is rather the converse. Your body is in the soul and the soul suffuses you completely. Therefore, all around you there is a secret and beautiful soul light. This recognition suggests a new art of prayer: close your eyes and relax into your body. Imagine a light all around you, the light of your soul. Then with your breath, draw that light into your body and bring it with you breath every area of your body.

This is a lovely way to pray because you are bringing the soul light, the shadowed shelter that surrounds you, right into the physical earth and clay of your presence. One of the oldest meditations is to imagine the light coming into you, and then on your outward breath to imagine you are exhaling the darkness or inner charcoal residue. People who are ill can be encouraged to pray physically in this way. When you bring cleansing, healing soul light into your body, you heal the neglected, tormented places. Your body knows you very intimately; it is aware of you whole spirit and soul life. Far sooner than you mind, you r body knows how privileged it is to be here. It is also aware of the presence of death. There is a wisdom in your physical, bodily presence that is luminous and profound. Frequently, the illnesses that come to us result form our self-neglect and our failure to listen to the voice of the body. The inner voices of the body want to speak to us, to inform us of the truths beneath the fixed surface of our external lives.

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