“This is my body that is for you, Do this in remembrance of me.”
Springtime, 2006: My roommates and I walk the four blocks to the blood bank in our neighborhood for our new every-six-weeks tradition of giving blood. I’m guided to the comfy chair, my feet are elevated, and I feel the hollow needle slide into my vein. I squeeze one of the tension balls that are left lying around, watching the dark red blood fill the bag. After we’ve rested and eaten our cookies, we walk home in the sun. Dinner is build your own venison burritos, and as we take our seats around the table, Becky raises a tortilla over her head.
“The body of Christ,” she boldly declares. “Amen,” we hungrily reply.
Springtime, 2010: My six month old son Liam and I are engaging in our daily ritual. After I pick him up from day care we rush home, let the dog out, and plop down on a sunny spot on the sofa to nurse. He hungrily sucks and swallows, grabbing my nose, pushing his tiny foot in my face, and laughing heartily when blow raspberries on his toes. “This is my body that is for you.” The words regularly come unbidden since giving birth. Many times in pain and darkness – when I first looked at my sagging postpartum belly, when my nipples cracked from a bad latch, when I felt like I was buckling under the exhaustion. But as I sit in the sun, looking at that precious pudgy face, those words come to me again in pure joy. The magic of breastfeeding – that my body can make the most perfect food, that I produce it effortlessly and it is received with such utter delight. That even when I felt most broken, I could still sustain another life.
As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, these are the images that come to mind – so common and mundane. How many people are giving blood right now, lying on couches and gurneys in offices and bloodmobiles? How many women are nursing their babies in every corner of the planet? Every day in every imaginable place, we are giving of our bodies to each other. Not just blood donors and breastfeeding mothers, but those who join a bone marrow registry or grow their hair out for Locks of Love. It’s amazing how glorious the human body is and how many ways it can give and give for the love of others. As Catholics, the Eucharist is more than just a nice ritual or a metaphor, it is inherent to our faith that it truly is the body and blood of Christ made manifest. In gentleness and humility (which I’m fond of reminding myself has the same root as “human”) Jesus, in the most cosmic way, becomes the nursing mother, sustaining us with his body.
It’s the most human thing the God-Man can do.
On this Feast of Corpus Christi, let us give thanks for the Eucharist, but also for the opportunities that arise each day for us to be Eucharist for one another.
Johanna Hatch is a feminist activist, writer, and amateur hagiographer. She currently resides in Wisconsin with her spouse Evan, son Liam, and their mostly blind dachshund.