“You are in me and I am in you”

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This is the second of my paintings reflecting on a poem by the Spanish mystic St John of the Cross.

They reach towards the experience of a deep and intimate engagement with Christ. They are not about sex per se but there is an erotic aspect to them. Sexual desire, our desire for the other, to be close to them and entwined with them is, to my mind, an echo of our desire for God and God’s desire for us. In the Christian tradition that is expressed in God coming close to us in the body of Christ.

This painting explores part of the gospel story when the risen Jesus meets his friend Thomas. The rest of the group have already seen Jesus walking and talking after he’d been crucified but Thomas wasn’t there. He doesn’t believe their story (who can blame him, I wouldn’t believe it either) and says that he will only believe if he is able to put his fingers in the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and to put his hand into the wound in Jesus’ side. When Jesus finally does meet him a week later he says “Thomas, Put your finger here and see my hands, reach out your hand and put it in my side”.

This is an invitation to a physical and intimate act. Touch me, feel me, and enter me. I can imagine the warmth of his body and the smoothness of his skin. Then reaching out my hand shaking with awe, desire and anticipation as I explore the hole in his flesh and penetrate him. There is something fearful and wonderful in the act of exploring another person’s body; a sensation of falling as we abandon ourselves to the other. This is a wholly positive and creative act, a love that reaches out to touch and to draw close.

In another part of the gospel story Jesus says to his friends that one day they will be filled with the Holy Spirit and then they will realise that “…you are in me and I am in you”. This is the promise of an intimate and passionate intertwining: just as he invites me to enter into his body so I can invite him to enter into mine.

Symeon the new Theologian wrote an astounding prayer in the 10th century that reflects this thoroughly embodied faith, a faith that is about touching and feeling real things and real people. It begins thus:

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We awaken in Christ’s body

As Christ awakens our bodies

And my poor hand is Christ,

He enters my foot and is infinitely me.

 

Later he writes:

 

…all our body, all over,

Every most hidden part of it

Is realised in joy as Him

And he makes us utterly real.

 

The faith of Christ that I experience isn’t about separating myself off into some pristine spiritual sanctuary and escaping into a fantasy world. It is about bodies fully engaged together and giving oneself wholly to the other so as to become “utterly real”.

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One thought on ““You are in me and I am in you”

  1. Pingback: Sacred Stories of the Body | I ask for wonder

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