Sunday, October 28, 2018

surplus of form

It is very strange to me, I have noticed, how the word “conform” is seen as somehow dry. Someone told me they thought it was "overly technical" and cold. But "conform" is a word of deepest intimacy.

Forming ourselves into something else is a sacramental act. Forming ourselves into something that is other than ourselves is the most human action.

As I stood in the shower, and water fell all over my naked hips and breasts, I found, almost to my dismay, that I was not alone here. My body was no longer just a landscape of myself, but a shared topography. As I gingerly touch myself in the act of cleaning, my fingers turn into matches. My body flames with memories of you. My body has become a space that is a sacrament of the people who have been there, much like the couch that used to be in my living room or my kitchen table. My body is also a site of hospitality, but of a much more intimate variety.

I can not longer even touch myself without touching you. Your form is stamped on mind. Lightly, perhaps, but inescapably.

Memory is not just something takes up space inside our minds, or that inundates our hearts, it sinks into our cheeks and takes over the hairs on our arms. Our entire bodies become sacraments of who has been there. Our bodies become sacramental memories; but they are not orderly, categorized entities.

I cannot comprehend the sheer horror of having someone in your body you do not want there. You want to rip out the offending party, to utterly erase them from your life, and you discover that they are still embedded in your bones.

Our noses smell their breath, the squish of their coat on ours, and the pull of their arms on our back.
The memories, repeated as our skin cells multiply, encoded in each new cell's DNA, make me want to vomit or retch, or scrape away whatever layer of epidermis those memories hover within. I want to burn whatever it is that still holds these old memories. But the memories are inescapable—the memories make up me, not just my past, but the building blocks of who I am here in the present: I cannot erase the presence of his chest against mine, unless I evacuate my chest of anything that gives mine meaning.

Perhaps this is what the wounds on resurrected Christ mean: we are made up of scars. Christ cannot rip away the burning voids flaming through his hands and feet. The vacuum of skin caused by sin is stamped upon Christ's body, even in the perfection of resurrection. It is how the disciples know that it is him.

This sort of inedible physical presence is challenging. How can it be redeemed? Christ is not just scarred, but also resurrected.

We are not only our bodies and we are not tethered to the clay of simply our own lives.

Eucharist makes up a space where we can re-discover ourselves as spaces of memory not of who has visited us at night, but at the God who comes to save the human race through touch.
The Eucharist is a sacrament of anamnesis, where we do this "in memory of me." The body Christ gives us is his body in memory, and it becomes a piece of our own body's memories.

We do not transcend our bodies; bread is not vanquished in the Eucharist, rather, it is—they are—consecrated. In its intimate encounter with the holy our bodies are utterly transformed—they are conformed.

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