July 18, 2019

Christ Has No Body but Yours

By Chaplain Mike

At my church today, our pastor began a series on Vocation, a theme we began to explore on Labor Day in our post, “The Masks of God.”

We will continue to explore this vital theological theme in days to come. On this Lord’s Day, here’s a chance to meditate on the subject before the Lord through the meditative music of John Michael Talbot. This is his setting of “St. Theresa’s Prayer.”

St. Theresa of Avila lived in Spain in the days of Martin Luther (1515-1582). She entered a Carmelite convent in 1535 and was beset by illness and poor health most of her life there. She began to receive mystical visions, many of which were disturbing, but was helped to discern God’s voice in them through the guidance of several priests. Her most famous book is an autobiographical account of her spiritual life called the Interior Castle. She founded and later reformed convents of both friars and nuns throughout Spain, often in the face of opposition and persecution. St. Theresa’s primary contribution to mystical theology consists of her intensely personal testimony of her life with God, of which she was given deep insight.

One of her most famous poems (prayers) challenges each Christian and all of us together in the realm of our God-given vocation.

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world
Yours are the hands
Yours are the feet
Yours are the eyes
You are His body
Christ has no body now on earth but yours

Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this! this is probably my favorite John Michael Talbot song. peace

  2. Mike (the other chaplain) says

    You should have a “like” button on IM, like Facebook!

  3. That Other Jean says

    “Christ has no body but yours.” How easy that is to forget, and to slip into thinking that religion is just about the state of your own soul.

  4. The Interior Castle is a great book to read, although my perception is that one has to have a certain level of maturity to appreciate the progressive sections. The first time I read the book, I stopped partway through because I felt things were getting beyond my own real experience. Later, I’ve tried to add readings further on when I felt I could better relate to what was being described.

  5. Jesus does have a body. He was raised bodily and ascended bodily. He will return bodily. To hear “Christ has no body” makes me cringe as much as the more contemporary version: “we are Jesus with skin on”. Sounds like monophysitism to me. That probably sounds like theological nit-picking, but the bodiless Jesus seems to be a prominent view among evangelicals and a siginificant cause its gnostic-like dualism.

    • That struck me too, dumb ox, but I think we can allow Theresa some poetic license here. We are the only body Jesus has on earth .

    • In reminding ourselves and others that we are Christ in the world, Theresa of Avila not denying the bodily resurrection, How else can we live the Gospel without trying to be Christ to the people in it and see Christ in the people in it? When we feed the hungry, clothe the poor and visit those in prison, we are feeding and clothing and visiting Christ and also being his body – his arms, legs and hands, on earth. This is not a denial of the nature of the risen Christ, rather a call to live out our role in the Incarnation as parts of the body of Christ.

    • I am certain that St. Teresa, as doctor of the church, got it right; I just think that there a lot of evangelicals who don’t get it. Again, I can’t tell you in recent memory how many times I have heard the phrase, “we are Jesus with skin on”. I can’t figure out who started it, but it is a common statement. I have heard it from the lips of some very prominent evangelicals who I think should know better.

      I think looking more deeply at the idea that we are the “body of Christ” from the context of Ephesians 5:29-32 helps avoid error but it also lends much more depth, beauty and mystery. It isn’t that Jesus doesn’t have a body; it is that our bodies are united with Christ through the new covenant, so that we glorify Christ in our bodies as one flesh, in contrast with committing adultery through idolatry and worldliness. The significance of the Eucharist seems obvious. In the video series, “That the World May Know”, Ray Vander Laan states that Jesus’ offering of his body and blood through the bread and wine is more than an allusion to the Jewish marriage proposal custom. Maybe that’s just too much for macho evangelicals to handle; perhaps believing in a disembodied Jesus and the church as a proxy body of Christ is far more palatable. It seems down-right creepy to me.

  6. This is a great feel-good post and I like what it’s saying, but let’s think about the ramifications of what we say. If Christ doesn’t have a literal body, then, well, Christianity needs to rethink all of its theology. There’s no reason to be Christ’s body here on earth if his literal body didn’t rise from the dead and ascend to his rightful place with the Father. I know, I know, I’m being the bad guy here, but when we speak or affirm the speech of others, especially about theology, there’s a lot at stake every single time (read that again, preachers). Just something to think about.

    • Again, we are the body of Christ on earth. This is not a theological reflection on the Person of Christ, but on the calling of his people. Perhaps poetic language like this will confuse some, but I think it’s easily explained.

      • You said, “perhaps poetic language like this will confuse some.” Really? Aiming a bit low, don’t ya think? Yeah I read that last line of the poem with “on earth,” but the title of this post is still “Christ has no body but yours” and the first line of the poem is still “Christ has no body now but yours.” In those spots there’s nothing about “on earth.”

        Like I said, I knew I was being the “bad guy” by pointing that out, but for me it’s an important point of theology and we lose a lot of theology by minimalizing it. I was never “confused,” but thanks a lot for the low blow anyways, I guess.

  7. We are the “bride” of Christ; in that sense, we are His body – one body with him. What we do in our bodies should be honoring and faithful to Him – through love and selfless service, rather than selfishness, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life.

    “No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:29-32.

  8. Christ has no body now but yours
    No hands, no feet . . . ON EARTH . . . but yours.

    Note that Theresa does make the clarification as well. She reminding us that “what you do the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.”

  9. Let us all become the answers to our prayers, just like the book title by Clabourne(sp?) Suggests.