In search of a body

by Kim on April 26, 2011

In the study of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century spirituality entitled The Mystic of the Fable, [the French Jesuit polymath Michel] de Certeau said this: “Christianity was founded upon the loss of a body — the loss of the body of Jesus Christ, compounded with the loss of the ‘body’ of Israel, of a ‘nation’ and its genealogy.” It is, I think, a striking and perceptive image.

It is, in the first place, an image of the empty tomb. “‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him’” (John 20:13). Christianity was founded upon the loss of a body, the body of Jesus Christ. Christians remain, until the end of time, a people in search of a body; in search of the body of the risen Christ; in search of God’s fleshed wisdom, God’s housed holiness, in the world.

Christianity was founded upon the loss of a body. “They have taken away my Lord.” The power of de Certeau’s observation derives from the insistent recognition that the loss, the dislocation, upon which Christianity is founded, is, at one and the same time, the emptiness of a tomb and an interruption in the story of a people. The drama of the story of the early Church is the drama of a people who are no longer quite sure who they are. Children of Abraham? Yes, of course, but — also, something else. People of Israel? Yes, indeed, and yet — not quite, or not quite in the way they were before. Is Israel’s story, Israel’s “genealogy”, still ours? Yes, and yet: our story seems both less than that — a break of some kind has occurred, the faultlines of which are legible throughout the books of the New Testament — and also, in some measure, more. There are no boundaries now, to this new people, this strange nation whose story is declared to be, in principle, the history of every tribe and nation of the earth. To search for the body of the risen Christ is to search for a society which would be the reconciliation, in justice and in peace, of all human kind.

From Nicholas Lash, “In search of a body”, in Seeing in the Dark: University Sermons (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005), pp. 159-60.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }


doug 04.26.11 at 8:55 pm

However, when Jesus revealed Himself to her after the resurrection and she recognized she said “My Savior and My Lord.” The great thing to know is that as Christians we HAVE found the risen Lord. We may not see Him but we know at the Second Coming of Christ that the literal Christ will come and “We shall see Him as He is.” Did the Apostles when they saw the Acension say “we have lost the Body.” When He was with Him for over 40 days after the resurrection before the Acension? and one thing I know is that Christianity is not some fable. It seems the writer that Kim is referencing is attempting to diminish the nature of the resurrection. For the resurrection of the dead is lteral not figurative.


doug 04.26.11 at 9:27 pm

…also included in the foundation is Christ being the perfect Sacrifice and the propitiation between God and humankind.


Teach 04.27.11 at 10:57 am

Lost a body but gained the Holy Spirit. A pretty amazing trade off.

Goes to prove that the body is only a vessel for the spirit, which is so much more important.


Richard 04.27.11 at 12:36 pm

A hearty amen to your first paragraph.

No No No! to the second.


Joseph W 04.27.11 at 5:19 pm

Goes to prove that the body is only a vessel for the spirit, which is so much more important.

I disagree, body and spirit go together!


doug 04.27.11 at 6:23 pm

but we haven’t lost the Body because Jesus is alive and resurrected. His Body, albeit tranfigured Body, is alive. Have you all been to the tomb? It is empty.


Kim 04.27.11 at 7:39 pm

Yep, Professor Lash is such a moron. He goes from town to town, visiting lost property offices, and asking, “Have you seen Jesus?” “Nope,” he is told. He is downcast, but he doesn’t give up. I hear he’s just passed through Clarksdale, Mississippi, and is now heading towards Tupelo. Persistent bugger.

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