they tasted the sweet exultancy of the fear of God
and all day long, God Spoke to them; the clean voice of God, in his tremendous peacefulness, spending truth within them as simply and directly as water wells up in a spring.
--Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (by way of Paul Elie)
You're studying theology now? people ask, their voices slightly askew with askance. But it's a necessary pursuit, I silently respond. Where else can I go but into truth to make up what is lacking in me? I escape into theology to escape from myself. I escape into the study of God to heal my own hedonism. The teeth marks of my own carnality, stamped upon my shoulders and bicep, bruising purple and a sickly, jaundiced green are a call for that escape seared into my skin.
It would seem counter-intuitive, perhaps, to heal a malady of the body by an exercise of the mind. But theology, I realize is not a purely mental undertaking. I find myself frustrated with the academic cage so many place it in; for theology is always of the body. Theology is not just done on one's knees, it forces the theologian to her knees. Theology transforms our selves, our bodies, our ways of being. As it infects our reason with pure truth, it ought to trickle down into our vital spirits, transforming our very heartbeat.
And our actions. Rowan Williams writes that a conversion of the Christian that does not find itself enacted in this wounded, hurting world, is only half a conversion. If Christ is truly risen from the dead, then His followers must seek to enact the healing of Christ the victim in the world around them. Christianity is not a mental religion--Christ's body is missing. Christ's body is resurrected: the not only idea of Christ is alive, not just spirit of Christ is alive, but Christ's body is in a resurrected state. Theology has everything to do with bodies.
I read of Merton, of Day, and in their stories, I find soulmates. I see fellow strugglers, who also could be lost in the heady carnival of the world, who wallow in poverty, riches, decadence, and hurt, who have fathered and mothered children. They too, have found their soaring spirits trapped in bodies; but they respond neither with gnostic despair and disdain, nor with sordid pandering to their desires, but with the severing love of Incarnation, that pulls us from our groins, and en-souls us with a new vision of the world. That re-soles our worn out shoes of flesh, that gives us new spirits, new eyes, and new bodies.