Thursday, 20 May 2010

Body and blood


All the way to Elizabeth
and in the months afterward
she wove him, pondering,
"this is my body, my blood!"

Beneath the watching eyes
of donkey, ox, and sheep
she rocked him crooning
"this is my body, my blood!"

In the search for her young lost boy
and the foreboding day of his leaving she let him go , knowing
"This is my body, my blood!"

Under the blood smeared cross
she rocked his mangled bones,
re-membering him, moaning,
"This is my body, my blood!"

When darkness, stones , and tomb
bloomed to Easter morning,
She ran to him shouting,
"this is my body, my blood!"

And no one thought to tell her:
"Woman, it is not fitting
for you to say those words.
You don't resemble him."

I found this poem by Irene Zimmerman and I thought it fitting given the moves towards the allow women as bishops in the Church of England. You may recollect that when women were first admitted to the priesthood some opposed to this move expressed concern over what would happen if the woman giving communion happened to be menstruating at the time! Not only was this totally illogical and a double standard, it was also completely contrary to the gospels in that Christ seems very unconcerned about the touch or association with women generally, including quite of few of dubious reputation and female aliments. The theology of taint works at several levels, and is also seen in the belief of some that ordained men will also need to prove a "pure blood line" if they are to be truly priests.
Zimmerman draws attention to the physical relationship of Mary to Christ's body, but it brings to mind the many other women in the gospels who are involved in touching or proximity - the touch of healing, annointing, acceptance and comfort. Her last line seems to imply that it is the similarity of flesh and blood ( or shared humanity) that links Christ and women, not a focus on difference and cleverly links this to the concept of women's ministry in the communion service.

Above is some of the art that depicts moments of female touch in the gospels.


  1. Suem, thank you so much for posting this, I love it. I have long thought, and argued, that Mary's 'touch' is the key for women's ministry.

    'And no one thought to tell her' - alas today the voices are loud, angry, often offensive, but wrong.

  2. I wish to state that as a "priest of a pure blood line", I have never been touched by a woman.

  3. Not having been interested in such things when they were happening, I'd not heard that strange and daft objection to women becoming priests before.

    I'd also not heard the term 'Theology of taint' before today (sue - you have a typo there). I do find it frustrating that such a focus is put (by all parties involved) on ordination. We do not have a priesthood like there was in ancient Israel. Quite why someone needs to be 'ordained' by the church in order to qualify for distributing communion is beyond me. But that's another issue, sorry.

    I am generally a philistine when it comes to poetry (I like them to rhyme and begin with 'There was an old man from .....') but I liked that poem. It's amazing to think that Mary (an unmarried pregnant teenager) carried God in her womb. Completely amazing.

  4. Fr Hugh Jass : I am completely convinced of your purity in this respect :)

  5. I am glad you liked this poem and post, Andy. I think you get my seal of approval for those views as well :)

  6. Hi Achristiandad,
    It is a strange and daft objection isn't it?

    In the C of E you don't need to be ordained to distribute the communion (just licensed to do so), but you do to consecrate it, I think.

    I think some people believe that the presence of God isn't in the bread and wine until it has been consecrated. But then there are very different views on this one, some believe the elements actually become the body and blood, others that the presence is there, but the elements don't transform in any way. I never really got any of that consubstantiation and transubstantion rubbish anyhow ( does anyone know if anyone still obsesses over that?) Some, of course, believe it is just a way of remembering or representing Christ's sacrifice.

    As for me, I think people invest it with their own significance and, like all rituals, it has no "magic" in itself, it is the meaning people bring to it that helps them to be closer to God.

    Now you all know what a heretic I am :)

    Thanks for pointing out the typo and feel free to correct me if I got any of the above wrong. I am not very "churchy."