The other day I was walking down the sidewalk and started kicking a pile of leaves that had accumulated in my way. Suddenly a scent arouse from the pile that rang the alarm of many deep memories within me of fall days throughout my life. It was a delightful and deep surge of remembered joys. It is amazing to me how our bodies remember and hold onto memories through our senses, habits, muscles and mind. It seems to me that all of our personal history is held in the various parts of our body, only waiting for a spark to light the connections; perhaps a smell, a color, or the experience of a hurt that brings back past memories.
Christianity is an incarnational faith, in other words it is a faith that is understood and known by the experience of our human existence. The story of Jesus is that of God come into the human condition, and in doing so, broke down any barrier or distance that might have been experienced between God and humanity. The driving force of God’s love was to be directly and intimately connected and with all of us. As such our bodies and all of its systems and structure hold the links or pieces whereby we can experience this love of God.
So often we think of faith and religion in the form of words; beliefs, ideas, stories and sayings or dogmas. Yet, our experience of God is often understood in our bodies, which are more complicated than just our minds. Smells of church, sounds of music, the actions of our body in kneeling or reaching out, the effects of stress on our nervous systems when we do not forgive, or when we do forgive; these are just some of the ways our bodies incorporate the experience of God.
The holidays are a cornucopia of sensual stimulants which ignite many of our deep memories and understandings of who and what we are all about. It is a time when we experience faith and our religion more clearly through all of our senses, in the smells of a kitchen, or the sounds of people gathering, or the emptiness of a house. Prayer is not just the words we use in our mind, but the way we move and breathe and react to our mortality and the experience of time happening in the present.