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 Sacred Heart in Scripture and Strawberries

strawberries

June is the month devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Catholic Church. You may ask, what is meant by the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Well, the Sacred Heart is Jesus. And devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion to the love of Jesus, devoting oneself to loving   Him entirely.  The heart is a symbol of love, of course, but also an ancient symbol for the core of one’s being, the sacred abode in which God dwells with the person… and more. I wrote more about the heart HERE, HERE, and HERE. For an article on the more scholarly particulars of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, please click HERE.

What does any of this have to do with strawberries? The answer to that is at the end, after a bit of reflective exploration…

Why Does Anything Exist?

Continue reading

Something about Mary

Mary statue close-up Catholic Suncook

There sure are a lot of titles for Mary, the mother of Jesus – more than I can list, or even know and remember. Virgin Mary. Blessed Mother. Our Lady. Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Queen of Heaven and Earth. And so on, and on, and on… besides the names given to her apparitions throughout the world, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima…. All Mary.

Why?

I think it’s a case of giddiness – the good kind.

We Catholic Christians are Continue reading

The Holy Trinity Is like… Really Confusing

Confusion isn’t always a bad thing…

Re-presenting here, in honor of Trinity Sunday, my thoughts on 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]

Consubstantial

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.

Let’s Go with That…

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.

Father

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.

Spirit

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]

Son

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.

In the End

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 that seeks understanding.

 unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase
with additions © 2015 Christina Chase

[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

Job’s Christmas

“And you beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,

who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow…”

There is so much suffering in the world. War, disease, starvation, abuse, murder… the heartache of billions of human beings. And we naturally question life, the universe, the powers that be, wondering why – why?????

I sit in the dark turmoil of my own brokenness and limitations with Job. Job, who not only lost his wealth, security, health and strength, but also his family – all of his loved ones dead. And, after all of that, he was supposed to still love God. But, how??? If this is what can happen to a good person who is loved by God, then what good is that supposed love?

Job questioned, too. His questions, in the divine light, were “words without knowledge”, merely obfuscating divine reason. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, and, so, the answer for Job’s WHY began like this:

lightning

God thunders forth marvels with his voice;

he does great things beyond our knowing.

He says to the snow, “Fall to the earth”;

likewise to his heavy, drenching rain…

Out of its chamber the tempest comes forth;

from the north winds, the cold.

With his breath God brings the frost,

and the broad waters congeal.

The clouds too are laden with moisture,

the storm-cloud scatters its light.

He it is who changes their rounds, according to his plans,

to do all that he commands them

across the inhabited world.[1]

Across the inhabited world, the Unmoved Mover has unquestionable power, unlimited might. We are but creatures, who, like the grass, may fall dead with the first breath of winter. Who are we to question God? As intelligent and imaginative as we are, human beings are dependent upon Creation and the Creator behind it all. Helplessly and hopelessly limited are we, at the mercy of the Almighty One, who makes and rules the universe and beyond.

It is only reasonable that we suffer Continue reading

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

First Friday and the Incarnate Image

Last year, I was searching for a Madonna and Child print to hang in my bedroom. I had thought that I wanted an icon or medieval painting. After looking at hundreds of depictions, however, I grew weary of so many grave madonnas tolerating so many, adult-like babies. Where was the wonder and joy of the Incarnation? Nothing moved me with the touch of human tenderness, with the divine light of living, breathing love.

And then, I found it. “The Virgin of the Grapes” by Piere Mignard, circa 1640-1650.

Virgin of the Grapes

Although, historcally speaking, the picture is far from accurate, the spirit of the work is exquisite in blessedness. The Christ Child is shown as a real child, with sweet baby flesh and a near mischievous little face. His mother Mary is beautifully peaceful, a joyful serenity on her visage. She delights in her child, but doesn’t smother. Her eyes are shown cast downward so as not to take away from the eager gaze of Jesus. He is seated on her, reminiscent of the ancient style, symbolizing Christ as the King seated on a throne – the throne being the soft, loving folds of Mary’s arms and lap. For Mary makes possible the Incarnation with her selfless submission to the will of God and with the humility of her generous motherhood. And none of this is dour. None of this is somber, burdensome piety. This is the beauty of love, this is the light of divine joy brought to us through human forms.

Even in this happy little scene, there is a touch of the sacrifice that is to come when the infant is grown into manhood. Mary innocently holds out a cluster of grapes that Jesus grasps fully with his baby fingers. The grapes symbolize the blood of the Eucharist – the Blood of Christ, poured out from the Cross, poured out for the multitude so that our sins may be forgiven. I believe a touch of the sacrifice must be shown in any good depiction of Jesus – for a good portrait shows the true identity of a person. Here we have a hint of the suffering amidst the joy of the coming of God among us. Should it not be so? As God is the fullness of reality, let us embrace reality fully – and not be afraid.

For God, in infinite love for us, comes intimately among us to reveal the divine light in the human. In Mignard’s painting, baby Jesus is playing partially beneath the veil that is covering his mother’s hair. In his sweet innocence, Christ is lifting the veil and peeking out to us.

Yes, let the angels sing, for Christ Jesus truly lifts the veil and reveals God to all of humankind. This is the holy Mystery of the Incarnation, inexhaustibly wondrous, profound, unfathomable… and as sweet and real as a little baby at play.

So, I take this image as my Faith Facilitator for this First Friday of December.

Prayer

Oh, God, You so love the world

that You humbled Yourself to become one of us,

to live as we live so that we may love as You love –

lift the veil from my eyes,

lift the veil from my heart,

help me to pierce through time to eternity,

through space to infinity,

through my humanity to your divinity,

so that I may be transformed into the truth of your image and likeness

and bear love where there is hate,

bear hope where despair,

pardon where injury,

faith where doubt,

joy where sadness,

and light where darkness.[1]

Amen.

© 2014 Christina Chase

[This is part of the Faith Facilitators series. Read more here.]

 

[1] borrowing from the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Childlike Joy

autumn leaves Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

How immature am I?

I went up the driveway for the sole purpose of coming down through the fallen leaves, which the wind had furrowed at the edge. That crisp, crackling sound of autumn underfoot, with the few remnants of golden leaves clinging to the bare limbs overhead, always elicits within me a feeling of merriment and rhythm of mirth. I did think that I must look like a person with diminished mental capacities (my most dreaded stereotype) going out of my way like that in order to maneuver my wheelchair over the dry leaves. But, I did it anyway.

To zigzag a sidewalk just to crunch the newly fallen oak leaves; to drive through the colorful drifts on rural roads; to rake up piles of the brittle bygones and jump in…. Perhaps the ones who are immature are those that consider this childish – while it is considered simply and blessedly childlike by those who are more fully human, fully alive.

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 18:3]

The dipping flight of brightly colored birds first lit the imagination of the child, joyfully kicking his baby legs upon his mother’s knee. How many birds did he startle into flight when he first began to run, his own pulse rising with the fluttering of their wings? The sultry scent of summer’s twilight, heavy with blossom and ripening fruit, stirred within the growing youth the sweet ache of beauty and a deep sense of longing and mourning, feelings he did not yet understand, the ebb and flow of earth. How many thick leaves did he pull from hedges to crush within his hand, the sharp pungency clearing his mind to marvel at the tender, green flesh on his muscled own? When grown, he submerged in clear running waters, traced patterns in fine soil, felt the swaying tips of grains brush his fingers as he walked, and knelt in grassy garden beneath the stars and evening trees….

The Creator is an awestruck creature; and no blade of grass, no pebble, bud, or grain of sand is left unloved.

The secret years of Christ were neither for his public ministry nor for the record of sacred books – they were for him. For his body and soul, senses, imagination, memory, and delight – for his sacrifice. For, the blood that he poured out from his Sacred Heart upon the Cross was the blood of a man who lived, who loved, who knew the exquisite beauty and childlike joy of body and soul.

How mature it is, then – the blessed privilege of a redeemed and sanctified human being – to travel the paths of earthly splendor with a heart full of heavenly delight.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

© 2014 Christina Chase

The Human Body and First Friday Observation

“I sing the body electric…”     

One Particular Body

Have you ever looked at your fingers? I mean, have you seriously looked at your fingers to really see them? Intricate workings of flesh – fiber, sinew, nerve, muscle, blood, and bone – delicate and strong, with the sensitivity of touch and the power to press and to grasp…

fingers praying

I don’t remember the last time that my fingers grasped anything. So small and light are they… with only enough strength of movement still to press an easily triggered mouse button – though, as always, the sense of touch alive and electric, DSCN6403but what I touch now must come to me… for the muscle of my arm can no longer reach my fingers out to the surface of skin or petal that I desire, of wood, fur, liquid, stone, or glass. The weakness of my hands cause my fingers to tremble in motion, like the new and uncertain legs of a fawn. And, so, it is with a kind of sad affection that I gaze upon my fingers… and, thus gazing, marvel at what lies beneath and what lies beyond…

The Marvel of the Human

The human body is amazing – wondrous are all lifeforms of flora and fauna, soul animated and alive, quivering with quickness like the hummingbird and dragonfly, ponderous in muscularity like the whale and rhinoceros, bare slowness of movement like the sunflower and grass. But, the human body quivers and ponders as well in the bare workings of mind – brain and body alive with a conscious presence that is Mystery and Spirit. And the far-flung galaxies and twinklings of other worlds, within and without, are as much home to our hearts as hearth and bed bower.

I am a human being. And my body is weakened and deformed by tiny lapses of cells – and yet I am wonderful. In just such human form as mine, God was pleased to dwell… though in prime of life rendered physically debilitated and immobile…

For humans are the special love of God, our forms sanctified….

The Soul and the Body As One Person

Gravity and electromagnetism, forces weak and strong, have gathered and coalesced stardust and chemistry into my particular form under the direction of the Divine Composer and Maestro, who breathes my life into me. My life is a gift of Creation: material body and spiritual soul united as one person in the unfolding of Divine Will. My body would not be my body without the divine gift of my soul – and my soul would not be my soul without the divine gift of my body. My soul is of spirit and spirit is eternal, but my one, unique and particular soul only came to be this one, unique and particular soul in the animation of my body. The human body needs the soul and the human soul needs the body. There is only paradise, pure and perfect bliss, when one is transformed in immortality and the other fulfilled in eternity, one never ailing the other, transcending stardust and chemistry and the limitations of the mind.

My body is not a prison for my soul to escape. Neither is my body a meaningless shell with which I can do whatever I please. My body is part of the universe, belonging to the Creator and Master of the universe, alive, real, essential, and hereme. Every breath I take is the Will of God. Every movement I make is within the cosmic dance, sometimes misaligned, sometimes in accord. And within accord, within harmony, is the reason for suns burning and waters churning and the spinning of every planet, meteor, seed pod, and bee. And every apple, egg, and nut that I have eaten, every grain of wheat and slice of meat ground up and consumed, is the making of me. I am formed and sustained, body and soul, with every story heard, song sung, and gentle kiss felt; with every moon-rising seen, flower smelled, and syrup tasted. No cheek that I’ve caressed, though long ago, is wasted; the water drunk, the laughter shared, the tears shed, the wound received, and the prayer expressed shape me and become me, and the air, and ground, and people around me likewise impress and are impressed.

Humans, more than any other of the divinely created animals, are responsive to the cosmic song in the Unmoved Mover – even when we choose less than responsibly. Because we have the capacity for freely chosen and unconditionally willed love, if we don’t muck it up and fill that capacity in with the dense lead of finite and selfish concerns, then the breath of God will fill us eternally with the divine gift of life – body and soul, now and forever.

 Catholic Dogma

For this reason, a human person, a woman named Mary, who was the mother of Jesus – the mother of God – was received, body and soul, into the immortal realm beyond finite space and time, so that she would never cease to be what she was most wonderfully: human. Catholic and Orthodox Churches proclaim this in doctrine and dogma and feast days of joy, hope, and gratitude, so that every human being may acknowledge and remember that the human body is sacred and that we are most fully ourselves, who God created us to be, when we are truly human – fully united in body and soul. And, so, I contemplate the sanctity of the human body on this First Friday of the month of August, the month in which we commemorate and celebrate, in the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this profound truth: matter matters to God, Who loves humankind and sees, in its loved and fulfilled entirety, divine good without ceasing…

Prayer:

Lord of All,

help me to remember and to celebrate

the sanctity of my body

and the fullness of who you created me to be,

body and soul.

I am yours…

 fully,

the dense and the electric, the strong and the weak.

Help me also to better believe

in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.

 

(This is part of the First Friday Facilitators Series. For more about this series, please read the introductory post. You may also like the other posts in this series: April   May   June  July )

© 2014 Christina Chase

How Good We Have It

            Enough said:

            “But your eyes are blessed, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I’m telling you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”[1] ~ Jesus, God Incarnate

            Do we know how good we have it?

            The brightest geniuses from all antiquity searched in vain for what we have, though we may be neither clever nor brilliant. Even in the common era, now, and into the future, great minds will peer into the depths of lifeforms and the universe, scrutinizing matter and energy looking for something that their fine intellects and technologies cannot disclose to them. And yet, we, though we may be neither skilled nor ambitious, have that Something More right before us in loving embrace.

            We, who are believers, impeded neither by historic circumstance nor advanced ignorance, have seen and heard Truth in profound intimacy. The Mystery of Ultimate Reality, the reason and meaning of the finite and the infinite, all revealed through the Will of the Uncaused Cause: we are allowed to find the divine Logos – the Word of God – through the Word of God Made Flesh, who became one of us in order to lead us, transform us, and save us from the darkness of our intellects and the weakness of our wills. We hear and we see. This is true Transcendence, not through measurements or calculations or even awe – not through some thing, but through some One.

            They long to see what we see and hear what we hear – but they are blind and deaf. Have pity on them, practice true compassion, and, in sharing in the wonder and delight of what we can know in common, let us pray that they may be wholly healed and that we may not shut our eyes and ears to the truth with which we have been blessed.

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

[1] Matthew 13:16-17 – Gospel reading from the Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne