Dream word – RECONCILE
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” NKJV
I would not count it as a “feather in my cap” to be regarded as the patron saint of the insane, I would certainly not be pleased to have this accolade on my eternal Curriculum Vitae! This peculiar honour however, falls to a 12th century
Christina was orphaned aged 15 and proceeded to live the life of a contemplative shepherdess. There is no doubt that poverty as well as ascetic mysticism and the consequent mental and bodily ill health following this combination, led to her subsequent demise. It is after her death however, that the accounts of her life get just plain weird! Yes, I said her life after her death, for apparently it was at her funeral, even during the saying of the Mass, that she flew up from her coffin like a bird and perched herself in the rafters. Mind you, if you were ever wake up in a coffin during the saying of a Mass, I am sure me and you both, would do just the same! From this resurrection point onwards, the record of Christina’s life now takes on a very Roman Catholic flavour, in that purportedly now having spent some time in both heaven and in hell and also in that most useful and invented of Roman places called purgatory, “Christina the Astonishing”, then chooses not to remain with God but rather, to return to earth and publicly suffer the fires and pains of Purgatory before the astonished medieval masses.
Cynthia Large records that Christina found the stench of human sin most repugnant, choosing to perch high in the tree-tops, on the smallest of branches and pray with the birds. Christina’s recorded escapades range from throwing herself under mill wheels, to rolling in open fires and sitting inside bakers ovens, either screaming in agony due to the pulverising water, wood and heat, or tortured into terror by the scorching flames, then only to emerge completely and utterly unscathed! We won’t even go near her miraculous and virginal breast tonight, suffice to say, that like most Roman Catholic saints and earthly heroes, Christina The Astonishing publicly suffered for the sins of others, thereby filling up the merits which were left lacking in the sacrifice of Christ. Now, this terrifying titillation of the human conscience by Christina was later turned by an over indulgent Tetzel, into a magnificent medieval money maker for the Church of Rome, whose gross extravagance in turn helped formed the blow which struck the wedge of “Sola Fide” (by faith alone) into the very dry wood of the then visible church, splitting it, removing the living from the dead and thereby forming both one Roman Catholic and many Protestant denominations. In many respects I believe, the mad old mystic of Christina The Astonishing greatly contributed to this eventual reformation of the church.
Christina The Astonishing was either a mystic or a mad woman, or maybe even possibly both. A life so full of terrifying accounts of mental madness, meant both then and now, that the jury is still out on whether she was demonically possessed or divinely inspired! However, there is one recorded and I think most astonishing incident that is worthy of our consideration this night. Again Cynthia Large writes, “It seems that Christina's soul and body coexisted uneasily, as demonstrated in an account told by a priest who secretly trailed after her one day when she entered a church to pray. He concealed himself behind a pillar and observed her bitterly throw herself before the altar and cry out ‘O miserable and wretched body! How long will you torment me...Why do you delay me from seeing the face of Christ? When will you abandon me so that my soul can return freely to its Creator?’ The answering accusation came from the same mouth, ‘O miserable soul! Why are you tormenting me in this way? What is keeping you in me and what is it that you love in me? Why do you not allow me to return to the earth from whence I was taken...?’ Then, before his eyes, a loving reconciliation took place; Christina seized her feet in both hands and kissed their soles fervently, saying ‘O most beloved body! Why have I reviled you? O best and sweetest body, endure patiently...’”
Now I like that account very much and I do believe that in it, Miss Christina The Astonishing says something to us all in these most peculiar of 21st century days.
Despite the massive cult of Western body worship, there still exists a most uneasy coexistence of both body and soul in most people. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if we look and if we truly see, most tortured souls still in some way or another, also torture their own bodies. I lie in bed tonight, feeling the scar tissue of an old vasectomy, tracing my fingers over another hair line scar of an umbilical hernia repair, whilst resting a once dislocated elbow on currently broken abdominal muscles which even now, yield themselves to another this time, massive ventral hernia repair, and a few other unmentionable surgical invasions, and thinking of the damage, my breathing becomes slightly labored as air fights its way through nostrils twice repaired by rhino-plasty and past the 'dog's breakfast' removal of an ancient tonsilectomy. I could list a lot more evidence of bodily decay due to age and the ravages of sin but most disturbingly of all, I could list evidence of definite and soulish, physical self abuse.
Obesities, addictions, and a multitude of other bodily self-hatreds with all their attendant maladies and manifestations are here to be seen all around us and most especially in us. Over time, there has for all of us I am sure, been an uneasy co-existence between soul and body which for many of us, and especially you ladies, has grown into a repugnant, silent and stinky self-hatred of your own God-given body. To counteract the devastation of such a soulish self hatred, I believe the action of body and soulish reconciliation as observed by the hiding priest, yes, that very body and soul reconciliation which took place in Christina The Astonishing, in Christina, the patron saint of the mad and the mentally ill, needs to be adopted and put into practice by very many of us as well!
I wonder that if we gave voice to our bodies tonight, that they too would cry out to us in their need for more considerate care and more kindly concern? That they too would cry out to us tonight for a mightier mastery and a more helpful honour. That they too would cry out to us tonight for a truer love, for a more real respect and for right and righteous attention.
Methinks that some of you have some apologising to do to your bodies tonight. Some of you maybe have some cleaning to do in your physical house, some repairs and maybe even, much maintenance. I have no doubt that many of you have a great need of reconciliation within your most divided of houses. Yes, some of you need to weep over your own feet tonight, kiss them and embrace them to yourself. Yes, many of you have need of a righteous reconciliation with yourselves even this very night.
Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
Listen: “Do you not know that you are the
Pray: Lord, help me make my body a partner in Your service and not a beaten slave to mad desire. Lord, forgive me please the abuse of this Your temple and the disdain I have put upon myself and the disaster I may have brought myself to. Lord, I pray tonight for a healing reconciliation into wholeness, that my body soul and spirit may be one, even as You are with the Father and the blessed Holy Spirit, one in purpose, one in desire and one in direction. In Your great name I ask it, amen!
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