This Is My Body

Recently writing about my current medical issues and concerns, I’ve decided that perhaps it is true: a picture is worth a thousand words.  So, I’m sharing with all of you a picture of my body – an x-ray image of my torso.  Although the image was taken in order to look for pneumonia, you can see my spine in it and, so, the interesting twists and turns of my backbone and deformity of my ribs.  (Don’t say that I ever held back in bearing myself to you, letting you know me inside and out!)

scoliosis x-ray

Is it any wonder that surgery is not an option for me?

Last Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi, The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.  On this great day, we are called to ponder the wondrous and generous Mystery and mercy of Christ’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist – as he perpetually gives himself wholly to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity.  We also call to mind the profound Mystery of the Incarnation itself.  God, The Creator and Master of the Universe, became a human being, one of us, with his own human body to live, suffer, and die.  This is the most sublime and awesome act of love and unity.

In contemplating Christ’s sacred body, I consider my own little one.  Consider yours, as well.  Each of us is a frail, lovely, odd little creature – known and loved by God.  Every hair on my head is counted, every cell embraced, every moment that this body of mine grows and breathes and ages is held as exquisitely precious to my Lord and my God.

Of what shall I be afraid?

Be at peace, little one, live your life in your blessed little body and be not afraid, your soul rejoices in your eternal home always, says my Savior God to me…

© 2017 Christina Chase

The Humility of God and Holy Communion

Do you pray silently before receiving Communion or afterward?  What do you pray?  After receiving Christ in the Eucharist, my prayer is intimately personal.  Not always grand or uplifting, that’s for sure, but I do try to listen even though, when it comes to me and God, that’s difficult for me to do.  Before receiving, however, I always pray the same prayer as I have been doing for several years.  Technically, it might not be called a prayer as it isn’t communication directed to God, or even to a Saint.  But it is a prayerful meditation upon the Mysteries of God and a shared exhortation with a Saint to receive the blessings of these Mysteries – it’s a mindful, soulful attempt to connect with God.  It’s a prayer.

Before entering the profound Mystery of consuming the Body and Blood of Christ, I want to wake up, I want to be alert.  I want to truly and profoundly receive.  So I say in my mind and my heart, I pray, these remembered words of St. Francis of Assisi.  He wrote them to the fellow brothers of his Order concerning the Eucharist.  I know I don’t remember them exactly, but the meaning is here… the wonder, the joy, and the love are here…

Let everyone be struck with fear.  Let the whole world tremble and the heavens exalt when Christ, Son of the Living God, is made present on the altar in the hands of a priest.  Oh, wonderful heights of stupendous dignity!  Oh, sublime humility and humble sublimity!  That the Lord of the Universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that, for our salvation, He hides Himself under the little form of bread.  Oh brothers, look at the humility of God and pour your hearts out before Him!  Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He, who gives Himself totally to you, may receive you totally.

©2015 Christina Chase

What Is Holy Communion? How I’d like to Break It down to My Little Ones

Here is what I wish I was bold enough to say aloud about Holy Communion.

My nephews, ages 12 and nearly 10, seem to be uncomfortable around talk of religion – like their mother is and like I used to be. They go to Sunday Mass regularly because of their dad, but I don’t think they get it and I don’t think they like it. Did any of us as kids? Nobody broke it down for me when I was younger. So, here’s my attempt for them – at least on paper…

Holy Communion is spiritual food. Your soul needs to be healthy. Communion, or the Eucharist, gives you spiritual strength to help you to be brave, to be kind, to be merciful, to be generous, and to have wisdom to help you to make good decisions. In the consecrated bread and wine, Jesus gives you himself so that you can be powerful like him.

Now, of course, we’re only human. We make mistakes. We have flaws. And life isn’t always easy in this world. God knows. When Jesus lived among us, a human being like us, even though he is also God, he had it pretty rough sometimes. He and his family were poor. People made fun of him, thought he was crazy, spit at him, and beat him up. I mean – they even nailed him to a cross to die! But, even though Jesus got scared, tired, sad, even angry at times, and even though he terribly dreaded what he would have to suffer on the cross, so much so that he sweated blood – he got through it. He even got through death. Death had no power over him. He rose up from the dead, alive again, body and soul. And he now lives, in a mysterious way, in Heaven and gives himself to us, also in a mysterious way, in the Eucharist, so that we can be strong like him and get through anything, even death, and live forever.

Spiritual food doesn’t just help us get through the rough times. Holy Communion helps us to better enjoy the happy things of life, too, like love, laughter, fun, accomplishments, even forgiveness – which is a kind of joy because it’s so freeing. Spiritually strong, we can become more grateful, peaceful, and happier, because we carry a little bit of Heaven within us.

Remember that we can’t be truly healthy and truly happy unless we take care of both our bodies and our souls. We call Jesus the Bread of Life. And that’s why Jesus invites us to the altar to receive him in the Eucharist – to feed our souls, to help us to be strong, healthy, and happy, with his never-ending love always in our hearts.

Yup. I’d like to say all these things to my nephews… but I probably won’t be brave enough. Other people’s discomfort makes me uncomfortable, too.  Yes… I seem to be afraid of what children who love me will think of me.  Heavy sigh.

Maybe I need to listen to my own words and receive the courage that Jesus is giving to me when he feeds and strengthens my soul in the Eucharist….

© 2015 Christina Chase

All the Smells and Ills

The human body isn’t always pretty. Oh no. We all suffer, or will suffer, from one weakness or another, aches and pains and afflictions of countless kinds. Sometimes, just the things we do daily to survive – chewing, toileting, washing away sweat, dirt, and dead skin from our bodies – as well as being around those who might not wash themselves so well… let’s just say that there’s nothing pretty about any of this. Nothing romantic, lyrical, or ennobling.

And, yet… Continue reading

Minecraft Cats and the Worship of God

Bear with me.

One weekend this summer, after having my nephews over to play on the Xbox and going to church the next day, the thought came to me that our relationship with God is a lot like a feature in the videogame called Minecraft. In that game, which is about mining, gathering, building and surviving in a PG landscape, a player can tame wild creatures, called ocelots, and change them into kitty cats. I tried to use this imagery from the ordinary lives of my little ones to teach them about Life Itself – and in the process, I learned something, too.

From the Minecraft Game

From the Minecraft Game

The Minecraft player has to trap the ocelot into a confined space and hold a fish, offering it to the creature. The wild creature will briefly look at the player and then go away into a corner, sometimes hesitating there a long while before coming back. Hearts will start to form over the creature’s head, indicating not only its desire for the offered fish, but also its growing affability toward the player. Sometimes, eye contact will be held between the ocelot and the player for several minutes, with many hearts floating up – and then the ocelot will skitter away again, turning its back on the player. The player will move in front of the creature again and wait some more. Sometimes, the waiting is quite long (and I’m impressed that my young nephews have had the patience to wait it out.) Then, finally, after much eye contact and a sea of hearts, just when you think it will never happen – the change occurs.

The spotted, wild creature has become a domesticated cat.

It even looks different, like a black-and-white cat, a siamese, or an orange tabby, although you never know what specific kind of kitty the ocelot will become until after the change. The transformed animal will follow the player wherever the player goes – it will even teleport through closed doors to be by the player’s side, unless the player makes the cat sit down before leaving. Wherever they may be sitting, the cats will always recognize the player passing by and meow.

So… how is this like our relationship with God?

Well, we are like wild creatures whom God desires to change into higher versions of ourselves. Sadly, too often, we totally ignore God and so never enter into a divinely loving and transforming relationship with Him. So we are never changed. But, God continually does things to get our attention. Sometimes, those things make us feel like we are stuck in confined spaces. It is right there, however, in that tough spot, that God is offering us something wonderful – something much more than fish or any perishable food. God offers us God’s very self and wants us to look at Him and receive His love.

God does this most directly and pointedly when He comes down from Heaven to live among us: Christ Jesus. In him, through him, and with him, we are able to intimately enter into loving relationship with God – as God offers Himself to us through the Incarnation and the Sacrifice on the Cross.  And, so, also, perpetually, God offers Godself to us in Holy Communion and through all of the Sacraments –  through the Church, the priests, and even through our fellow human beings who act in the loving ways of God.

What do we do in response?

Well, some desire might be stirred up within us (a heart or two may appear over our heads) but we often run away. We turn our backs on God.  Perhaps, we are afraid of the unknown – we are afraid of the pending transformation that we can sense in our souls. We are afraid that being transformed will mean that we will no longer be able to be ourselves – we want to do our own thing, wild, and we do not want to follow God’s will, tamed. But, what we don’t realize is that we only become fully ourselves through the transformative power of divine love – through the worship of God. We were never meant to be ocelots and we will never be truly joyful by remaining wild. We were always meant to be transformed by receiving God’s love and all that God has to offer us, to follow God’s will. Then, and only then, we are able to give divine love ourselves and know true, deep, and lasting joy.

Out Of the Mouths of Babes

I told my nephews (ages 11 and 8) a much shorter and simpler version of this thought, trying to use everything I can to catechize them.

Matthew, the oldest, looked at me with his big blue eyes and I knew that a part of him was uncomfortable with this kind of God talk (he is my cautious/studious one). But he was really listening and I believe that a seed was sown. Nathan, the youngest, was listening and thinking about what I said, too. And it made him remember what he did the last time that he transformed ocelots into cats. He tried to justify why he had kept killing the siamese cats after they had been transformed. I knew it was because he and Matthew only wanted one tabby cat and one black-and-white, to be like the real cats that they have at home. (And, yes – I could go through a whole lesson just from that! I admit it disturbed me when they were doing it, but I did have to remember that it’s just a game.) On the day that I gave the comparison to God’s love, however, Nathan told me why he did what he did in a different way.

I could see him, with a cute look on his face, trying to explain it in a way that would fit the analogy of my storytelling (he is my poet). He said that he killed the videogame cats because he had a demon in him – because he was the devil. That got a big grin from me and Matthew laughed. “That’s brilliant,” I said, “because it just goes to show you that you need to be careful what you worship. You may want something and obsess over it and worship it – but then it turns out to be the devil and it kills you.”

We are only to worship God, and we are to worship God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength – nothing else will do for our fulfillment. For, as St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in You.”

© 2014 Christina Chase

Sitting in the Back and the Real Presence: for Corpus Christi

Communion Wafers

Most people who will read this are probably not Catholic – and I am very much aware that some Catholic beliefs seem strange, like superstitious nonsense.  Do we really believe that the consecrated bread and wine of Holy Communion has become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?  Yes, we do.  Not symbolically.  Really.  Truly.

We don’t believe that we are eating an ear or a foot or anything, yes, crazy like that.  Christ Jesus isn’t physically present, but he is substantially present.  Sacramentally present, you could say spiritually present – but this does not mean symbolically present.  We believe that we are eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man, just like Jesus tells us through the Gospel of John, chapter 6, and through what the Apostles have handed down to us in Scripture and Tradition.  Now, this is a very difficult thing to believe – that the consecrated bread and wine is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.  And there are many Catholics who have to say, “Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24.)  I’m not quite sure if I would have even said to God that I believe (for God sees the truth of my heart better than I do) if it weren’t for one blessed day…

My journey as a new Christian, a born-again Catholic, if you will, was still young and I was just beginning to go to Mass every Sunday that I was physically able. (I was nearly 30.)  In fact, I had only begun attending Mass every week because our priest had just left due to personal difficulties and he had knelt down beside me on his last day and asked me to pray for him.  I can’t tell you how many times people have looked at me in my wheelchair and asked me to pray for them.  But, I knew he needed the prayers and so I made the decision to truly do something for this man.  I would push myself to go to church every Sunday.  On this particular Sunday, I had to sit in the very back of the church because the front pews were taken for First Communion recipients and their families. (I either have to sit in the very front, which I most always do, or in the very back because of my wheelchair.) So, when I returned to my place in the back after receiving Holy Communion, I was alone, with no one looking at me.

For once, I wasn’t self-conscious.  Too many times in my life have I been beset by self-consciousness.  But, that day, with the consecrated bread in my mouth, I was completely relaxed in the dim silence.  Just me… and… and I remember biting into the Host with my teeth and being completely struck with the awareness of the Real Presence.  Alone and silent, the core of my being took over and I was thinking of how God became human for me and how God Incarnate wanted me to “gnaw upon his flesh”. He wants to feed me with His very self, He wants to give Himself completely to me, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity…. My eyeteeth pierced through the Body of Christ as did the nails on the Cross and I was overwhelmed… I wept, unmindful of the tears.

God comes to me in the Most Blessed Sacrament so that I may consume Him… and in that moment, as I humbly received the Body of Christ into my own body, in wonder and awe, I was consumed by His love….

For almost a year afterward, I silently cried after receiving Christ in Holy Communion.  I would always be embarrassed, but I was willing for God to do with me whatsoever He willed.  And it was such a gift, those were such moments of grace, such blessings, for it is very rare when we experience a knowing of what we believe.  They didn’t last.  I knew they wouldn’t.  It is not God’s will for us to always feel Him, to regularly experience, with the fullness of our bodies, minds, and senses, His Divine Presence.  For, if we were forever in those deep and heightened moments of ecstasy, we could not function as creatures of this earth.

God put us here for a reason.  And the reason is not to feel good.  The reason is to be good.  “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Jesus told this to Thomas because there is something more beautiful and powerful than physical experience or sure knowledge – and that is faith.  Perhaps I am not weeping in peace and joyful love every time that I receive Christ in the Eucharist… But I – my mind, heart, and soul – am leaping in faith.

© 2014 Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

Cloud, Snow, River: H2O and the Holy Trinity

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday in the Catholic Church, a time to reflect upon the unfathomable Mystery of the Holy Trinity. And by “unfathomable”, I mean totally confusing. I can tell you that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not three separate gods, but, rather, three different Persons of the same (only) God – but that doesn’t mean I can understand it. As a former atheist, then deist, who chose Christianity in 2002, I am actually grateful for the endless confusion that is this Mystery of the Holy Trinity. It was rather easy when I believed in God without the triune majesty aspect – it was like, God is one and I’m done. But, trying to understand God as three Divine Persons is, well… impossible for my little human brain. And that’s a very good thing. For, as St. Augustine says, “Why wonder that you do not understand? For if you understand, then it is not God.”[1]

Over the last 2000 years, there have been countless explanations and teachings about the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, all of which are worthy of contemplation, though, in the end, poor shadows and incomplete. But, I wanted to share one here. It uses a simple comparison to a very common substance on earth: H2O, or water. H2O takes on three different and distinct forms: vapor, water, and ice. A glacier is not a river, a cloud is not a puddle, and steam is not an ice cube, yet all are the same compound of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. God the Father is not God the Son is not God the Holy Spirit, yet all three are the same divine substance – all are equal Persons of the one true, living God.

So, let’s just go with that and see where it takes us…

With this analogy of H2O and the Holy Trinity, I’ve often wondered which form of water might be like which Divine Person and why. My wondering led me to this thought: vapor is like the Father, ice is like the Son, and liquid water is like the Holy Spirit.

No one “… has seen the Father…”[2] God the Father is, to me, the most mysterious of the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. He is our Source, our Creator. He is over our heads, above us in being, like the clouds in the sky that send the nourishing rains. Therefore, water vapor is like God the Father, difficult to contain, always rising upward, if you will, toward the heavens.

The rain that comes down to us from the heavens is like the Holy Spirit, sent to renew the face of the earth[3]. Water seeks containment, as does the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are mostly made up of water and Saint Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit[4]. The power of the Holy Spirit is given to us through the waters of baptism and it pools within us to give us true life – just as we need water to live. And yet, if water remains still it becomes stagnant, for it is its purest when it flows. So, too, the Holy Spirit seeks to flow through us, to work through us to erode obstacles and wash away sins. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit our cups run over and we share the abundance with others. Another thing about this analogy: rain always makes us look up toward the heavens, to the source – and the Holy Spirit in us causes us to cry out, “Abba! Father!”[5]

The Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity really doesn’t need an earthly comparison. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, the Word of God made Flesh. He is made Flesh so that we may come closer to God, so that we may see God and hear God and touch God… and, through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, eat God. For this analogy of H2O, to better understand the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, I liken ice to the Son of God. Of the three forms of H2O, only ice has solid definition. Ice has definite shape and form, as does our Lord, Jesus. Ice can be held between our fingertips. We can smash and break ice. So humble and fragile was Jesus while He was with us on earth. And now, in the Eucharist, we can hold Him in our hands and we can crush Him with our teeth. (Mystery of Mysteries!) We can know that God is with us, substantially, given the right conditions, in the Divine Person of God the Son. Once He came to earth in the “ice age,” so to speak – and He will come again, as will another ice age. Meanwhile, when we receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament, Jesus is substantially within us for a short while… for about as long as it takes for an ice cube to melt.

This is an interesting way to try to understand the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, but by no means is it the only or best way. God, by being God, is always, necessarily, beyond our ultimate comprehension. Truly, there is nothing else like God. All analogies that we humans make to try to better understand God are limited because they are human. But, because our souls will always long for God, even while we are limited, there is inexhaustible blessing in faith seeking understanding.

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

[1] St. Augustine, Sermons 117, 5

[2] John 6:46

[3] Psalm 104

[4] 1 Corinthians 6:19

[5] Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6