This is my broken body

When illness took over my life, I developed a new understanding of the Eucharist.

In the decade that I taught classes on worship, I probably said “the work of the people” a gazillion times. Each and every time I believed that I knew what it meant. “Liturgy is the work of the people,” I said. “It’s what we do when we are gathered together as the body.” My students nodded in assent, audibly clicking away on their laptops, taking notes. As practitioners of worship we gloried in the gathered body. We explored the body as image, metaphor, symbol; as story and scaffolding; as liturgy and Eucharist and people; as salvation and strength.

In hindsight, however, I regretfully realize that I should have put it differently. I should always have talked about gathering together specifically as the broken body.

The story of Jesus begins with a baby born to a fragile family. It soon segues to the trauma of a broken body and the reality of unassuageable grief. Michelangelo’s Pietà comes to mind as an archetype of this grief: the body of a dead young man being given to his mother, who tenderly holds him, grieving. As the broken bodies pile up in Ukraine, the broken body at the center of Christianity’s story testifies to a shared, universal grief beating like a mother’s shattered heart at the center of the universe.