Copyright © Michelle Voss Roberts. All rights reserved.
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.
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).