Copyright © Michelle Voss Roberts. All rights reserved.

A Practice of the Engaged Body: Collage

For Reflection

  1. What did you see, hear, and feel as you used your organs of sensation and action in this exercise? What was it like for you to suspend your judging mind as you selected and arranged items?
  2. The engaged body’s senses and intuitions can also illuminate the symbolic body of Christ. Which members of your religious community are considered weaker, less honorable, or even dispensable? Who do you never consider at all? Fractures within the body of Christ mirror the larger fragmentation patterns in society. If you practice communion (Eucharist, Lord’s Supper), who is at your table? Who is missing? What would happen if you shared the sacrament face to face with people outside your ordinary social group?
  3. The “body of Christ” also refers back to the vulnerable, suffering body of Jesus. How might this remembrance inspire your engagement with a suffering world?

Christians talk quite a bit about the Body of Christ. This symbolism for the church and for the bread of the Eucharist can cause us to forget that Jesus Christ also has a flesh and bones body—incarnate and resurrected.

The church proclaims Jesus fully human and fully divine. The two natures interpenetrate and interanimate one another. Do Jesus’s hands, ears, and genitals belong to his divine nature, or are they merely human? Do these parts of being human reflect the image of God? This strange question is worth asking in a culture shaped by both the anti-body dualisms of the past and the reductive materialisms of the present. How might the organs of sensation and action—those that enable us to smell, taste, see, touch, hear, procreate, excrete, move about, grasp, speak, and more—reflect the divine image?

One thing that each of these parts of the "engaged body" has in common is that they put the human person in fundamental relation to others. We sense the world around us. We engage other people. We take food into ourselves, and we excrete waste. We experience pleasure, and we (pro)create. Our basic relationality bears the stamp of the relations enjoyed by the triune God and by the incarnate Christ.

Sensation and being-in-relation are available to everyone. Regardless of the impairment of any particular organ, we are hard wired to sense our environment. I invite you to explore your awareness of the divine image in the engaged body through the tactile, creative practice of collage.


  1. Gather a variety of old magazines, calendars, or art books that contain pictures.
  2. Suspending judgment, flip through these materials and tear or cut out any words or images that “speak” to you.
  3. Once you have a pile of images, begin to arrange them into a collage. You might glue them to a larger sheet of paper or simply keep rearranging the images in front of you.
  4. Take some time to contemplate what you have created. 
    • What did you select, and what did you reject, in the process of creating something new?  
    • What does your collage tell you about your life at this point in time?

Further Resources

  • Fulkerson, Mary McClintock and Marcia W. Mount Shoop. A Body Broken, a Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015.
  • Voss Roberts, Michelle. Body Parts: A Theological Anthropology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017, chapter 6.

The apostle Paul explains that the ritual meal incorporates each person into Christ’s body (1 Cor 10:16). He employs the body’s organs of sense and action to describe what it means for the church to be the body of Christ. Foot, hand, eye, and ear are all necessary parts of the body, for “if all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body” (1 Cor 12:19–20).