The Body of Christ

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While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
-Acts 1:10

This is a kind of limbo Sunday, poised between Thursday’s feast of the Ascension and our celebration of the Day of Pentecost which comes next Sunday. As the story would have it, the risen Christ is no longer here, and the Holy Spirit has not yet arrived. It is a kind of liminal, in-between time.

One can almost imagine the disciples, as Jesus disappeared, craning their necks looking high into the sky, wondering what to do next. And then those two men in white robes (whoever they were) say to them: “Men of Galilee why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

And they lower their heads, maybe look around at each other, shrug their shoulders, and then look at one another. What were they to do?

No returning to their fishing boats or tax collecting tables. All that Jesus had done they were now called to do: heal the sick, embrace the outcast, bless the poor, show compassion, grant forgiveness, feed the hungry, wash feet, lift up the lowly.

The Risen Christ was no longer bodily present. And having looked down and gazed at one another, their eyes perhaps shifted to their own hands, their own feet, their own hearts. And, then the realization. “Now, I guess it’s up to us.” What were they to do now? They were Christ’s body. It was their job now.

And, now, of course, it is up to us.

In the words of 16th century mystic St. Theresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion
of Christ is to look out on a hurting world.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless now.

A tall order, perhaps, but in the words of today’s Collect for the Day, God does not leave us comfortless, but sends the Holy Spirit to strengthen us (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 226). And, whatever in-between times we find ourselves in, we don’t have to wait a week for that. The Spirit is already here.

-Nancy Hopkins-Greene

Take a few minutes today to do this brief meditation: Sit quietly, and look down at your hands. Reflect on all that they do in a day. (Prepare food? Wash dishes? Play the piano? Hold others’ hands?) And then crossing those hands over your heart, sink into an awareness of the fact that your hands and your heart are Christ’s in the world today.

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