The Body of Christ

The term Body of Christ means three things: 1) the actual physical body of Jesus; 2) the Church (with a capital “C”) because we as individual persons are church, parts of the Body, branches on the Vine; and 3) the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament. (Note: Some believers have issues with the third one. There is a plausible explanation below.)

God seeks us. He wants to have an I-You relationship (or I-Thou if you wish to be more formal). That means person-to-person, subject-to-subject, not subject-to-object. Objects are used and manipulated. Persons are in relation with each other, to communicate, to commune, to love, to be together. God will not—cannot—ever be an object. Unfortunately we often treat Him as an object for our own benefit and desires. We try to cajole and manipulate God into doing things for us like we cajole and manipulate other people. We do not seek relationship, union, community. We use. We manipulate. We are selfish. If we do not even treat other people as persons most of the time, how can we treat God as a person?

Some have described the humiliation that God must have endured to lower Himself to become a mere creature—to be born, to live, and to die as a human. Ah! The mystery of the Incarnation. But there is even more humility hidden within this one act. God not only risked becoming human, He also risked becoming an object. In becoming human, He not only bridged the gap between humanity and God to bring home His lost children, but He also showed us how to be fully human. Also in becoming human, God risked the objectification of His person, of becoming an object that could be manipulated and used, idolized or discarded. By risking to become an object to us, God is another bridge for us to rise above the slavery of subject-object, the I-It way of seeing life, to the freedom of the subject-subject relationship, the I-You of union and community.

There is no love or mutual respect in I-It. This is control, judgment, labeling, which leads to pride. (The Biblical term is slavery.) Only in I-You is there love and mutual respect, and the paradox of union and liberation.

So, in the term Body of Christ, I can recognize the person of Jesus in His actual body. I can recognize the person in other people (when I open my heart). Can I recognize the person in the Eucharist? Do I see the Eucharist as an object, some “thing” to be used for consumption? How do I see this little thin waffer of bread as the Bread of Life, as the person of Jesus, as God? How can I rise above the I-It-ness of this object and recognize the I-You-ness of Jesus?

No wonder so many of Jesus’ followers left Him as described near the end of John 6. No wonder some believers still have issues with the Eucharist today. It is hard enough to believe God came in the Incarnation as a mere creature, but it is even harder to believe God is in what appears to be an object. And neither, man or object, can be made an idol.

When I attempt to contemplate the I-You-ness of the Eucharist, I enter into silence. I am speechless, thoughtless. My thoughts and words fade as the objects they are, gently blown away in the sweet breathe of the Holy Spirit. Part of my mind wants to hold onto those thoughts, but mind only deals in objects. You are above that. And I am in silence.

As the sounds and thoughts return, I see kenosis connecting all three connotations of the Body of Christ. You gave Your life for me. I am called to give my life to others. I see the pattern of the Trinity in this. And in the Eucharist, You once again give yourself to me. You are the gift given to me so that I may give to others. You are the energy for me in this giving like the Holy Spirit is often described as the personification of the love between the Father and the Son. I am to risk being object too for others to manipulate and use, to idolize or discard, in the hopes of raising them above the I-It-ness of this world to the I-You-ness of your Reality.

My Lord and my God, Jesus Christ, purify my heart so that I may see You, so that I may see You in others, and that others may see You in me. Help me to see You in the Body of Christ, within your Church, within your Eucharist. Lead me into proper relationship with all people and all things.