Kneeling at the communion rail, Hannah Shanks heard the familiar words “The body of Christ, broken for you” as the server tore off a piece of bread and placed it in her hands. And then “The blood of Christ, shed for you” as she dipped her bread into the common cup. Just hours before she had found out she was pregnant. Now she heard the words “This is my body” as she’d never heard them before.
It occurred to her that Jesus’ words spoken at the Last Supper“This is my body, broken; This is my blood poured out”—were as fitting a description of birth as they are of death. Not only do the words describe Jesus’ death, but they also apply to every birth that has ever taken place. Making this connection shifted Shanks’s thinking about the familiar ritual of communion.
This Is My Body is a journey of discovery and reclamation, of finding familiar paths in unfamiliar territory and new facets to ancient rituals. Part personal narrative and part unearthing of scripture passages from a woman’s point of view, it draws women and men closer to the God we profess, a God who is in all things, a God who is present in all genders and beyond them. Readers discover that God can be seen through the eyes, bodies, and experiences of women just as God has long been viewed from a male perspective. Using the communion liturgy and elements of the common table (where all are welcome) as a framework, the book offers much material for reflection on this central act of Christianity.
This Is My Body is about getting surprised by positivity toward one’s body in a time of life when negativity is expected. It is about finding a new relationship to the acts of Christian community through the experience of a woman’s body, including pregnancy and birth. The author approaches motherhood with one foot in the sacred and the other in the often difficult space of the stereotypes the church attaches to mothering.