I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—saw the veil between the seen and the unseen rent in twain while serving at the altar of the Most High. This man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—when a daughter of the Father knelt at the rail and opened her mouth to receive the body of Jesus, saw something inexpressible. On behalf of such a man I will boast, and I will disclose the mystery his eyes beheld.
The church was small. The pastor was young. The season was summer. Men showed up in Wranglers and boots. Most of the women wore dresses, and the occasional miniskirt added a flash of flesh to the mix. Kim was wearing a dress. She was a lovely woman, not young, not old. Her attendance was sporadic. This Sunday, she too had confessed her sins and been absolved, sung the hymns, listened to the sermon, and came forward to receive the Sacrament.
The rail held only six to eight communicants, depending on the girth of the people in question. Ushers had to be Johnny-on-the-spot with mathematics lest too many saints be sardined between pulpit and lectern. As the hymns were sung, the pastor did the sideways walk, holding up each holy host between thumb and forefinger and declaring, “The Body of Christ, for you”, before placing it on the tongue of the eater.
Kim knelt, the pastor stepped in front of her, held up the bread, and as the words left his mouth, the wafer slipped from his hand. Feather-like, it began its descent, wafting left and wafting right, spinning and somersaulting downward, until it caught in the fabric of Kim’s dress, right at the point where her right breast extended to its furthermost point. And there it hung, attached, going nowhere. The recovering hand froze in midair. Kim looked up at him. Their eyes widened, laughed, and believed.
Late in the winter night, far away, years before, a teenager held her baby boy close to her virgin body to keep him warm. Her breasts had been expanding as the nativity of the child drew nigh. The warm liquid of life, pooled in her breasts, was now her baby’s to drink to his heart’s content. And drink he did, as cattle slept and far-off angels sang to shepherds. From his mother’s bosom would come the nourishment his body needed to grow, to remain healthy, to take the next step in his odyssey of life and death and life again. “With milk was fed the Lord of all, who feeds the ravens when they call,” as the poet says. The God who creates life nurses life from the woman he himself gave life to, that he might grow to give life to all.
Back in the church, with her own hand, Kim took the wafer, the body of Jesus, from her breast and placed in her mouth. Her Lord had promised that in his Supper he gives his body to eat and his blood to drink. And she believed it, for if there is a man to doubt, it is surely not one who rose from the dead. The sliver of bread dissolved on her tongue, was swallowed, and became part of her body. Body to body, Jesus to Kim. It was no longer Kim who lived, but Christ who lived in her, who gave himself up for her.
Mary holds the baby Jesus close. He nurses at her breast. And in those infant eyes there sparkles a prophesy, of a place far away, years later, when a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—would behold a mystery, and would write the inexpressible story of a God who receives in order that he might give.