I have a confession to make. As the Catholic stereotypes go, I’m a bit of a ToB nerd. To those that know me well this, I’m sure, comes as no surprise. I’m far from being an expert, but what I do know is that I weirdly love spending hours on end devouring page after page on it.
The first thing you think of when you hear the phrase ‘theology of the body’ is sex, right? So… what if I told you the reason I love ToB has absolutely nothing to do with sex?!
The theology of the body is something which is conceptually all too often confined to the bedroom, but which actually applies to every aspect of our lives! For example, I recently read about its implications for our work lives and the fact that fewer careers nowadays involve the fruits of physical labour. Thinking about this, I realised that it was true – I feel most alive and in tune with God when I’ve been to the gym or, better still, out for a run in the open air, not when I’m watching TV or sitting at my desk writing an essay. That’s because God created us body, mind and soul, and so when we’re not exercising all three in harmony we lack fulfilment.
What’s more, it shows that men and women are fundamentally different but that’s deliberate, and so as women we shouldn’t be extending our quest for equality to the point where we’re fighting to be men! I absolutely love being able to give out the Eucharist – the ineffable privilege of physically holding the body and blood of my Lord, and being able to share that with my brothers and sisters in Christ. But one of the most amazing things about it is that in the same sacred act, men and women can represent entirely different things.
As a female, being a Eucharistic Minister means exercising my feminine receptivity by embracing the gift of Jesus in my own two hands, and serving others by way of offering them the same opportunity. Yet when I see men step up to the altar to give out communion, I see them ‘stepping up’ in other ways too. I see them humbling themselves in order to provide for the congregation as they provide for their families. One action. Two equally beautiful symbolisations.
And so the real reason I love ToB…
After years of being afflicted with a deep hatred of my body – which I know the majority of women will identify with – it was so refreshing to discover that it’s possible to stand against that in the name of Jesus! God created us exactly how we are, and he ‘was pleased with what He saw’ (Genesis 1:12). He looks at us and He doesn’t just think ‘hmm, I did an alright job’, He is actively pleased! We define ourselves by earthly standards and so are faced with nothing but flaws, but God’s standards aren’t earthly standards. By God’s standards we are perfect.
‘God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ (Genesis 1:27). That was no mistake! Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Sometimes we resent the very things which make us feminine.
But, beautiful women, YOUR FEMININITY WAS NOT A MISTAKE!
Once we have the gift of this knowledge we can begin to fight back against the enemy, who truly hates what God has made and so wants to make us feel the same way. It is this knowledge that will allow us to see the beauty of God’s creation in our own flesh, understand that our bodies have as much purpose as our minds and our souls, and live out that purpose in all three aspects of our being.
So from today, I encourage you to start each day by looking in the mirror and reminding yourself that you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made!’, and before long, the belief will set in.