Monday, August 15, 2011

The Assumption of Mary

At first glance this can seem to be another example of intellectual Catholic theology that doesn't touch my every day life. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I grew up with the same erroneous theology about the human body, as many Catholics. The idea was that "the outside's not important, it's who we are on the inside that matters." I thought that when I died, the body decayed, my soul, if I was good, went to heaven, end of story. I sure, in part, this error was drilled into me to keep me from feeling bad about my handicap.

The problem is that the deeper truth that links the Incarnation, the "resurrection of the body"(today's second reading) and today's solemnity the Assumption I did not understand, and would not come to understand until much later in life.

The simple truth of Christianity is that the body does matter. It is precisely the unity of body and soul, matter and spirit, that makes us human. And everything we do to or with one impacts the other. Today's solemnity is not about Mary's soul it's about her body, and by extension, it's about our bodies.

Four of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, and sloth) are all about the misuse of the body. In the Catholic and Orthodox Churches issues of vesture and postures during prayer are key parts to our liturgy. When I was growing up even the people in the congregation dressed as best they could to come to church, and the way we dressed effected how we behaved. The outside effects the inside; the outside reflects the inside.

It was brought to my attention recently that one of the fads on college campuses now is this retro-hippie-non-bathing phenomenon. My family didn't have money. My father worked in the mill and my mother was a homemaker, but to this day I remember her saying, "You can always afford soap." What few clothes we had were always presentable.

Is it possible for someone to be too concerned with their body? Of course. But most people are as close to that sin as they are to becoming religious fanatics.

Today's solemnity celebrating the assumption of Mary, invite each of us to reconnect our body to our souls. Perhaps we as churches need to go back to basics and consider respect for our bodies as part of our religious education. "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" Perhaps it's time to take a good hard look at temple maintenance.