The Hands of Christ

In Sara Miles' wonderful book Take This Bread she talks about the practice of anointing hands at her church St. Gregory. That act of consecration and blessing really struck me and I used it last week at Freedom Fellowship in preparation for Pentecost Sunday.

I started by reading Genesis 2.7:
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 
I noted how the body of Adam had to be filled with the breath/spirit of God to become a living being. In the same way, I argued, the church--the body of Christ on earth--needed to be filled, like Adam was, with the breath/spirit of God. And that's what happened on Pentecost. The body of believers was filled with God's breath and became Christ's living, spirit-filled body on earth.

And if that is so, the message of Pentecost is that we are Christ's body on earth. Christ's hands and Christ's feet and Christ's eyes.

So I called the people forward with this prayer from St. Teresa of Avila:
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.
At the front we presented our palms to Mary and Darrell for the anointing.

A touch of oil, the sign of the cross made in your left palm. The words.

"In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

A touch of oil, the sign of the cross made in your right palm. The words.

"May you be the hands of Christ in the world."

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8 thoughts on “The Hands of Christ”

  1. I love it. I've been thinking and writing a bit about the "Practical body of Christ"...sometimes called the "Mystical body of Christ." But sure enough, the body is both mystical and practical. Jon Haidt's argument for the role of moral perception in enabling the formation of collective bodies / super-organisms strikes me as particularly relevant and exciting here. That concept provides a way to build quite a few, different, bridges between Genesis and Pentecost. At the moment, I'm particularly intrigued by the way that moral perception (of the type that we have) makes the formation of abusive collective bodies possible (cities focused on idols that demand sacrifice, corporations whose boundaries are monitored by the implicit death threat of firing, nation states that demand the sacrifice of our children as soldiers, etc). In a world like ours, the body of Christ provides a real, practical and mystical answer.

  2. Except Christ does have a glorified, resurrected body as well. It's not quite accurate to say he has no hands but ours. What about those pierced hands that made Thomas cry out My Lord and My God?

  3. True enough. I'd just say, by way of conversation, that the word "accuracy" is relative to a theological system. Within a given theological system the notion that Christ "has no hands but ours" might be inaccurate or quite accurate.

  4. Yeah, I've been bugged by that. Then I decided to read/sing the first line in light of the qualifier in the second line "No hands, no feet on earth but yours." And then I thought about NT Wright's own wonderfully weird and sci-fi-ey interpretation of heaven as a kind of additional dimension, and I decided it wasn't worth starting a schism over. I'm not entirely sure of the difference between a hyperdimensional heavenly body and only being embodied through others, and I suspect no one else is terribly sure about this either.

  5. Abraham Joshua Heschel said someone once asked him, "Where was God during the Holocaust?" He replied, "Where was man?"

  6. I love this-I've never heard of putting oil on someone's hands. It's a beautiful idea :)

    This seemed to connect....

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