This is what I am: watching the spider
rebuild — “patiently”, they say,

but I recognize in her
impatience — my own —

the passion to make and make again
where such unmaking reigns

the refusal to be a victim
we have lived with violence so long

Am I to go on saying
for myself, for her

This is my body, 
take and destroy it?

— Adrienne Rich, from ‘Natural Resources’

As I stood at the altar yesterday saying the Eucharistic prayer, these words from Adrienne Rich swirled in my head. Recently illness, death and violence have seemed very near, and I felt powerless in the face of fear, grief and confusion. It’s not my fear, not my grief, not my confusion. I know I can’t fix it. But even so. the passion to make and make again / where such unmaking reigns.

My voice caught as I prayed:
He is the Word existing beyond time … 
bringing to wholeness all that is made. 

The wholeness is not mine to bring. It is not my gift to give. I cannot force it. But neither can I, as priest — as person — absent myself from its source, from its agonisingly slow coming.

All I can do is stand in that place where illness, death and violence collide with healing, hope and love. But even there, what savagery is done to bodies. Where does This is my body, / take and destroy it  meet This is my body: it is broken for you? The two felt too intertwined. I nearly confused the words. I thought of the families now broken by death. Bodies broken by disease and abuse. Communities broken by violence. Broken or destroyed? Taken or given? Yesterday, I wasn’t sure, and I nearly shuddered at the fraction.

And there I stood, helpless, in the midst of it all, broken hearted, broken bread in my hands. I wondered if I was beginning to understand for the first time what another priest meant when she wrote: ‘This is only bearable because it’s true’. I know nothing other than this: that there are times when I can do little else but merely show up and be there to say the words and break the bread, to stand in that excruciating place of truth over and over and over again despite the ache which at times feels as though it’s going to tear me in two.

where such unmaking reigns

this is my body, taken, broken

bringing to wholeness all that is made.

2 thoughts on “this is what i am

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