Honoring the Body

"To hold a newborn in one's arms is to know both the sacredness and the
vulnerability of the body; indeed, it is to know that there is an intimate
connection between sacredness and vulnerability."

— Stephanie Paulsell

The practice of honoring the body is born of the confidence that our bodies are made in the image of God's own goodness. As the place where the divine presence dwells, our bodies are worthy of care and blessing and ought never to be degraded or exploited. It is through our daily bodily acts that we might live more fully into the sacredness of our bodies and the bodies of others.

Stephanie Paulsell writes, "The practice of honoring the body challenges us to remember the sacredness of the body in every moment of our lives... Because our bodies are so vulnerable, we need each other to protect and care for them."

Bathing is one of the most fundamental ways we honor our bodies. Let bathing remind you that humans are created in God's image. In what ways might baptism be connected with daily bathing? How did Jesus care for the bodies of his friends when he washed their feet (John 13)?

Adornment is a way to protect ourselves, as well as to provide delight. Do you regularly notice what other people wear? What do you hope your clothing says about you and your commitments? In what cases does adornment separate us from others? When does it unite? Has adorning your body ever helped you be more attentive to God's presence?

Touching, when it is appropriate, seeks to honor, not diminish. Notice the touching in Luke 7:36-50. In what ways does the woman honor Jesus' body? What do we teach our children about "good" touch and "bad" touch? How do children learn to respect their own bodies and the bodies of others through touch? When have you been aware of a healing touch? Recall occasions when you have cared for another through touch. What do we learn about our bodies through liturgical acts of touching such as washing of feet, exchanging signs of peace, and anointing?

Sexuality is a source of both pleasure and vulnerability. In what ways does our society show respect for human sexuality? How is sexuality exploited? What rituals mark the physical development of young people and teach them to affirm the goodness of their bodies? What forms of "body knowledge" enable teenagers to honor their bodies and resist behaviors that degrade the body?

Jesus' Resurrected Body
Jesus' resurrected body teaches us that bodies matter and shows us the beauty God intends for all bodies. How might Jesus' broken body help us to see the bodies of the sick and wounded and exploited? As we seek God and each other in our bodies, as we pay attention to ways to honor the body, we remember that every body is blessed by God, deserving of protection and care.

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For it as you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

— Psalm 139:13-14

Your body is a temple of the Holy spirit within you.

— I Corinthians 6:19

© 2006-2011 The Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith