By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published April 16, 2014
The phrase “entering the body of the church” is common enough that it needs no explanation. Yet it is odd that the word “body” is not used when referring to other places. You do not hear people saying that they are entering the body of the supermarket, or the body of a restaurant or the body of an airline terminal.
I once read that in the early church, the word ecclesia roughly meant a gathering of people whose reason for being together was the gift of the Spirit. Where and when people were gathered through the grace of the spirit, there was church. It was and is more of an active verb than a noun. It would only be much later that church came to mean an edifice built of stone and stained glass—a place that housed worshippers. It was reduced, somewhat hardened, to a destination made by human hands.
It had lost its primary meaning as being an activity of God. The word church was stripped of its sense of mystery of what people became when called and gathered by God’s movement in their lives.
Our lives are scattered—we occupy separate and many types of dwellings. Most of us are still accustomed to the common usage of the word church as a place to which we go. But that does not stop the movement and vitality of the Spirit in our midst, the Spirit who gathers us here that we may know and live what God means for us.
We enter this body where we become the body of Christ. We, like Jesus, are roused from death and our awakening is his gift to us. He lives in us and rises in us.
We commonly hope for the miraculous as signs of God’s definitive presence in this world. If only we could see someone rise from the dead, or taste wine that was once water, we would then know that God is in our midst. But on this morning, we are asked by God to believe that the miraculous has taken root and blossomed from the ordinary places of daily life. Not only does God gather us here as church. But he also tells us something about ourselves that we need to hear over and over again. The Resurrection is about our life as we live it now. Jesus has poured his spirit into us so that we might truly live. And eternal life moves us to know its presence and power in the daily ebb and flow of human living. In author Willa Cather’s words: “The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much upon voices or healing power coming suddenly to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always” (from “Death Comes for the Archbishop”).
Yes, there are abundant signs and miracles that fill the pages of the New Testament. The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead rise: People of long ago who were touched and healed by Jesus. And we are the church of this day and age, empowered by God to live and testify to the miraculous in our midst. We as church can truly lead each other to better see, better walk, better hear and better share our lives. This day is given us so that we may set aside our doubts and fears and to ask God to live not from them but from our hearts, where he now lives and from which he enters the world.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at www.abbeystore.com.