In Praise of Transfigured Flesh

In Praise of Transfigured Flesh April 25, 2017

This morning I burned my hair on the curling iron. I’ve been using a curling iron my whole life, but today I somehow managed to lose almost an entire lock of hair to the hissing, smoking, smell of death that is human hair burning. I am a disaster, but nothing if not honest. When you see a purple-haired woman with a wild look in her eyes and a chunk of hair missing, you found me.

Yet, as I frantically tried to fix what was left of the lock and open windows to get the god-awful smell out of my house, I started thinking about bodies, more specifically because I have one, female bodies. Maybe because it’s the Easter season and our Gospel the last two weekends has been all about resurrection and belief and bodies broken and redeemed, but accidentally burning my hair right off my head reminded me of the connection between Jesus and my female flesh.

I’m part of a small faith sharing group that my husband and I attend together with a few other couples. Each week we reflect on and discuss the Mass readings – at last week’s gathering we reflected on the Easter miracle. Deep in that miracle is this truth: Christ’s rising from the dead is our miracle as much as it is his. The body and soul of Christ were separated during those days between Good Friday and the resurrection – the reunification of that which previously was permanently torn asunder is the miracle of Easter. The power of love triumphs over violence and blood-shed.

When I burned my hair, when I put my glasses on my face each morning, when I take the medication that helps my pancreas function as it ought to, when I reach for my children and remember their bones being built inside of me, I am reminded of the fact that my body is a paradoxical blend of broken and beautiful. The human person is, in its capacity for joy, wonder, pain, rage, and love, the most majestic and certainly infuriating of all Creation. Yet there is not one person alive whose body never betrays them. Everything from gray hair, stubbed toes, postpartum depression, cancer, and eventually death tells the story of bodies betrayed.

On Easter, God gives us the gift of a new paradigm. Yes, our bodies will still betray. Christ died – his sacred human flesh suffered the same fate as all our sacred flesh will. His defeated broken body, hanging on the cross, cemented sacredness in all our suffering bodies. The new paradigm – one of bodies in complete unity of body and soul – is a song of praise we sing on Easter. His transfigured body, glowing like the sun before the startled grieving face of Mary Magdalene, is the opening line in our song of praise offered for the transfiguration of our own flesh.

The power of this continues to be unfurled. I have a body, female. I walk through life knit together with muscles and bones that stretch taught across hips made wide through childbearing, and with hills and valleys both stronger than death and capable of nourishing life. My female body has been treated by my country, my culture, my church as a prize to be claimed, a landscape to be conquered or a dangerous problem to be solved. Perhaps most mysteriously is to be treated as all three at once. To inhabit a female body is to wrestle with possibility and limitation, with unbelievable strength dismissed and demeaned. To be female is to bear worlds inside of you while fighting to be acquitted for the crime of being born in the same body needed by the world.

In Christ, our female flesh is transfigured. No more are our bodies prize, problem and eternal other. Easter invites us to re-imagine being female, no longer forced to divorce our bodies from our souls, mangled to fit inside the tiny boxes created by frightened men, but to be the unity of body and soul that we remember in a primordial place – where Eve is alive inside us. During this Easter season we raise our voices, singing in praise of our transfigured bodies, burned hair and all.



(image via Pixaby)

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