Lectio Divina for the Body

Christianity contains a rich tradition of how to treat to the body. In modern times, the body has become prominent, yet so has much confusion in our attitudes..

 Min read
June 28, 2023

Christianity contains a rich tradition of how to treat to the body. In modern times, the body has become prominent, yet so has much confusion in our attitudes towards it. The Body of Christ and Body of Mary meditations build a good Christian attitude to the body by using a bread and butter Christian practice, lectio divina. They are meditations on the main events of Christ’s and Mary’s life from scripture that relate to a body. The body participates in the life of grace by overflow (STh, Supp., Q85, A1). These prayers help to deeply take in Christ and Mary’s attitude to their bodies. They will help to relax and rejuvenate the body, as well as help it to suffer and express emotion in a godly way. Focus on meditating on the scripture verses. You can also imagine yourself as part of the scene. Ask God for the grace to make these wondrous mysteries your own, to live them in the way that he uniquely calls you to.

The Body of Christ Meditation

These meditations are on Christ’s mysterious workings after his passion, to help draw closer to Him. The stillness of the tomb, pain inflicted on Christ, separation of the soul, and the resurrection are key events of Christ's victory to bring God's kingdom onto earth. They reveal important lessons about his attitude towards his assumed body. They also complement four crucial aspects of Christian spirituality: still presence to listen deeply to God, emptying oneself into the world as a sacrifice to deepen Truth and Love, detaching from the temporal world to deepen spiritually, and bringing sanctifying life into the world. Lie down with your arms on your side or sit upright in a chair. Lying on a bed on top of your covers is fine, although do not get under the covers because that would promote too much comfort. Meditate first on the work of Christ. You can focus on the scripture verse or imagining the specific scene. Then focus on your own experience and ask God for the corresponding grace.

1. Silence: Call to mind the complete and utter stillness of Christ's tomb. Sealed with a rock and lying dead, his body was at perfect rest in the heavy silence. For, in rest you shall be saved, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength (Isaiah 30:15). Ask God for the grace to abide to stillness, to rest in God’s presence and draw strength from it.

2. Suffering: At the garden at Gethsemane, Christ fully claimed the mission given to him by God. Such awesome responsibility came with such an immense burden that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44). Through his passion, he completely emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, in loving service (Phil 2:7). His body bears the many wounds from the scourging on his back, thorns on his head, nails in his hands and feet, and piercing in his side. Ask God for the grace to accept the suffering in your own body that comes from emptying yourself in service, and even to open your heart to the pain to enable healing.

- It may be good to focus on a specific injury. Ask God for the grace to accept the suffering that comes with it and ask for his healing. On the positive side, it may be good to focus on a specific type of alignment. Ask for God’s grace to teach you to move with more perfect alignment.

3. Soul: Meditate on how Christ's soul remained separate from his body to accomplish the spiritual mission given to him by God, of being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison (1 Pet 3:18-19). Through his sacrifice, he penetrated to all the lower parts of the earth to enlighten all that hope in the Lord (Sirach 24:45). Ask God for the grace to turn your soul away from fixation on the flesh and to penetrate more deeply into your spiritual calling given by God.  

- You may be able to even sense your soul with the eye of the heart, to recollect yourself in it.

- When the soul gets too fixated on the body, it can hamper the body through excessive control.

4. Renewal: Now meditate on the awesome resurrection of Christ as his soul rejoins his lifeless body, transforming his body into a glorious perfection. Before the fall, God intended our bodies to be free of the corruption that plagues them. Ask God for the grace of renewal to transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21), so that they may be as God originally intended.

- Again, you can focus on a specific injury or improvement to ask for God’s help.

Body of Mary Meditation

This meditation is on the great works of Mary in scripture. It is intended to bring your body closer to Mary's, engaging your emotions, rejuvenating your body, and turning it all towards God.

1. Fiat: Mary so completely devoted herself to God, exclaiming, behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38). She had such receptivity that she let God conceive inside of her. Ask for the grace to invite that which is of God, and only that which is of God, into your body, for nothing defiled gains entrance into her (Wisdom 7:25).

2. Flow: After her wondrous encounter with the Angel, Mary hurried to Elizabeth's house and proclaimed, my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior (Luke 1:46-47). What strong emotions! All devoted to God! It betrays a spirit that is subtle, manifold, clear, and more mobile than any motion (Wisdom 7:22-24). Meditate on the flow of feelings that must have propelled her to Elizabeth's house and how her voice must have resonated with them while saying the Magnificat. Ask God for the radiant feeling that comes with such intimacy.

- See if God is drawing your intuition to more specific feelings. Specific possible mediation points: the fear of having big demands placed on you, the excitement of great consolations, or Mary's eagerness to share with Elizabeth and serve God.

3. Follow: Mary sacrificed her body in support of Christ's glorious mission, to be his helper. She watched with fear as resistance grew to his ministry, and, at the crucifixion, a sword pierced through her own soul, to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed (Luke 2:35). Although her body was not being physically harmed, her pain must have been similar to Christ’s. All the while, her spirit remained beneficent, steadfast, loving the good, humane, free from anxiety (Wisdom 7:22-23), enlivening Christ's mission through her support. Ask God for the grace to accept the suffering that comes with supporting Godly purposes, making the sacrifice to give them life.

4. Assumption: Mary's perfection was such that even her body was taken up to heaven, so that it appeared in heaven, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars (Rev 12:1). Ask God for the grace to sanctify your body in a humble imitation of Mary.

May these practices help gain a body that is agile, aligned, and active. May they help you to grow in humble imitation of the great works of Christ and Mary, so that our bodies may be able to better participate in the life of grace by overflow and encourage the sanctity of the soul.

Alexander Frank

Alexander Frank came to the Catholic Church after a confused quest through everything “cool” in secular society, especially a form of yoga called Kashmiri Shaivism. He is now married and lives in Denver, Colorado, and is a student at the Augustine Institute. Originally from Washington DC, he served five years as a US Army Ranger, when he learned the importance of stretching and alignment exercise. He holds a Bachelors in Physics and a Law Degree from Yale. In his free time he enjoys skiing, rugby, and reading St. Teresa of Avila, especially her use of military metaphors to describe the contemplative life.