Body Worship

The ‘no make-up selfie’ discussion has largely passed us by in the monastery, but in an idle moment I did find myself wondering why Western society has become so obsessive about the body and preserving its youth and vitality for as long as possible. We all age; we all eventually die; but we like to keep those thoughts away from ourselves for as long as possible; and if going to the gym, dieting two days a week or a trip to the plastic surgeon will help preserve the illusion of immortality, what’s wrong with that?

At one level, there is nothing wrong with that. Our bodies are beautiful, no matter how flawed we think them, and we have a duty to look after them as well as we can. It is only through our bodies that we can know this world or prepare for the next. But, and it is a significant ‘but’, we are body-soul-spirit entities and the movement from birth to death, from youth to age, is more than a mere chronological sequence. It is an essential part of being human, part of the glory of being human. From this perspective, preoccupations with body image are secondary. What matters is that throughout life we allow our bodies to be exactly what they should be: the image and likeness of God. So, no negativity about the body, but no senseless exaltation of it, either!

The next time you look in the mirror and notice a spot or wrinkle, or think sadly of how you used to be able to run or jump, remember this: the body you were given was chosen for you from all eternity. It is the most perfect one you could have been given. It is not only how you know God but, even more important, how he knows you.

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