Christ has no body...

Ritual has always had the power to help a community delineate its identity. In the celebration of the Passover, even centuries after the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites would gather around the table and say, "We were slaves in Egypt." Engrained into the very nature of ritual is the identification and reinforcement of boundaries as identity markers. This is inevitably how all communities function. It is not necessarily to identify itself as antagonistic to another group or community, but it is to express that they are in a fact distinct.

The practice that we have come to in our gathering is no different. We do this because of who we are, and we are who we are because this is one of the things that we do. This table affirms that we are in a community of people who recognize that we are dependent upon the mercy and grace of God.

For a long time this table has been used as an opportunity for the exclusion of others. It has been an identity marker which has functioned to clearly show who is "in" and who is " out." And while it is true that for many people, that this table has little or no meaning, it is not the case that this table functions as a form of exclusion.

This is what is distinct about Christian practices. While maintaining a distinction between the community of believers and the place where the church finds itself, Christian practices, and especially the table, serve not to reinforce walls between the church and the world, but to function as gateways, entrances, and invitations. This table does not function to exclude, but to welcome. It doesn't seek to condemn but to call for transformation. And it doesn't seek to affirm merely it's coming salvation, but to live for the sake of the world.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582), the sixteenth century mystic describes it poetically in this way:

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks,
Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks,
compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

We are God's work in the world. You are his missionary people, called to lives of love and service for the sake of others. If God is at work in the world, and he most certainly is, he desires to manifest himself in this world through you. And this table is the place where we acknowledge and seek grace for the awesome responsibility and commission we have been given.

Christ has no body on earth but yours.

Michael Hanegan