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All the Smells and Ills

The human body isn’t always pretty. Oh no. We all suffer, or will suffer, from one weakness or another, aches and pains and afflictions of countless kinds. Sometimes, just the things we do daily to survive – chewing, toileting, washing away sweat, dirt, and dead skin from our bodies – as well as being around those who might not wash themselves so well… let’s just say that there’s nothing pretty about any of this. Nothing romantic, lyrical, or ennobling.

And, yet…

When I go to Mass and chew upon the Eucharist, I am often humbled by the love of Christ, the selfless, generous humility of his love… his love, which desires me to gnaw upon him, under the form of bread, to pierce his flesh again, to consume him. What inconceivably beautiful love, for the divine to become incarnate…

human, human, so human, with all the smells and ills…

Yes, God loves us this much. To take human flesh upon his divinity, to live within the confines of a bodily form, to be dependent upon the functions of survival – eating, drinking, excreting, washing, sleeping, waking – my Lord and my God. To love human beings this much… enough to empty himself and to be born human, in the human body… human, human, so human, with all the smells and ills…

As we prepare for the celebration of God’s human birth, which is Christmas, I am reminded yet again of the profound and awesome shock of the Incarnation. This is no small thing that we believe. This is no mere trifling of fancy that makes for an entertaining story to tell. To believe that God, infinite and eternal, Creator of all, condescended to become a human being… a human being that knew poverty, hunger, thirst, sweat, dirt, fatigue, pain, loss, sorrow, rejection, ridicule, betrayal, hatred, dread, and agony; a human being that was falsely accused, tortured, and killed, asphyxiated to death. And he did it all, he suffered it all, for love… for love of you.

No human mind can truly comprehend this, no human person can fully grasp and appreciate the meaning and full impact of this, no way, no how. We can only be in awe… and have a sense of gratitude… of joy… of peace… of love beyond all telling. We can only celebrate in our very human ways, with songs, foods, and bright and beautiful decorations, with the people that we love around us, giving them little gifts that are only shades of a reflection of a fraction of the joy of knowing what God gives to us. God gives us His love, divine love, unconditionally, without end… quietly and humbly in a stable’s feeding trough… quietly and humbly in the Eucharist.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Christina Chase View All

Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.

11 thoughts on “All the Smells and Ills Leave a comment

  1. I didn’t know where you were going with this in the beginning paragraph, but then was blown away by the contrast in the second paragraph, how Good loves us inspire of our loneliness! Such a beautiful reflection!


    • I wasn’t sure if I was coming on too strong in the first paragraph, but…human reality is human reality — and really thinking about the Incarnation always blows me away! Thank you for reflecting with me upon this awesome Mystery.


  2. Reblogged this on Divine. Incarnate. and commented:

    We hear a lot about the “spirit of Christmas” and the “meaning of Christmas” this time of year, on movies and musical specials, in commercials and greeting cards. Commercial interpretations, no matter how heartfelt, always leave me wanting. In this post, I am sharing again what Christmas is – the whole utter shock of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Chewing on the Eucharist — now that gets to the heart of the matter, or maybe to the heart of matter. It’s partly what turns some away, confuses others, and astounds everyone. Eating God? It changes my whole conception of reality, if (or rather, when) I let it.

    But that Sacrament came years after God came to earth, to matter–an event that seems even more incomprehensible than any holy communion. What a wondrous belief we have! So wondrous that we can hardly believe.

    I should speak only for myself, but there are too many family members and Christian-reared friends whose lives, and even words at times, speak of the struggle with faith or the fight against doubt. Your words here are a support. Keep talking to us.


    • I shall endeavor to do my best, Albert – please keep reflecting with me! Thank you for your words of much-needed encouragement.

      I, too, have many family members and Christian-reared friends who struggle with faith. The way that they seem to deal with this is to simply not think about it or talk about it much. They just go through the motions – and, sadly, never plunge deeply into the heart of the matter. Without asking the questions, we will never be given the mysteriously beautiful answers; without seeking the truth, we will never be set free by wonder and awe. People usually want concrete facts and calculations, but the fullness of life isn’t like that – just as love isn’t like that.

      The whole of reality cannot fit into our limited brains – so we shouldn’t be surprised when some tenets of faith are mind blowing. We have to leave the doors of our minds (and hearts) open to let what we cannot grasp enter in. Humility is needed to accept that we’ll never understand everything – but a little ego shattering never did the soul any harm 🙂

      You wrote: “the struggle with faith or the fight against doubt”. Yes, perhaps those are two different things. Thank you for this thought! I invite you to read this very short post that I’ve pasted at the bottom of this comment – and I would love to hear any of your thoughts on the same subject. Thank you again and God bless!


      • Yes, I just read it. I’m tempted to say, “You said it!” But one meaning of that expression, the literal one, wouldn’t be a compliment. In fact it might negate what you said. I mean, maybe you didnt really say it by yourself. Some important words about faith come to us from . . . where. . . faith, probably. Sometime we are not the authors of our expressions, are we; maybe transmitters, if we are blessed —

        You do convey confidence, which I lack–so i plan to keep reading, and rereading, if only to get some of that. Not “only” of course. There is honesty in your reflections. And wisdom. I need to look back through your writings to see where those qualities came from. Out of curiosity, not envy.

        I have to be careful. I had forgotten all about envy. Wouldn’t that be ironic–possibly tragic–if I fell down while hoping to rise. But, I am encouraged by a story I read *– maybe I already told you?–about an old monk who, when asked by a visitor what monks do all day in their monasteries or sketes or caves, replied (with a gleam in his eye, I imagine): “We fall down. Then we get up. Then we fall down again. And we get up” and so on until probably the questioner left, either enlightened or totally confused.

        I reread your “My Journey” and “Who I Am.” It is good know you, and travel along.

        * Saw this anecdote somewhere at
        and I liked it so much that I keep retelling it.


  4. Great anecdote! (I love Fr. Freeman’s blog!) And I agree with you completely – you said it – that our words are so often not our own and whatever thoughts we share that have any kind of wisdom or goodness to them are divinely inspired. This is God’s story being narrated through us. (Borrowing that imagery from a recent post in Glory to God for All Things.)

    I’m also really glad that you brought up envy – so easy to fall into in this blogging world and in social media in general! When I’m suffering from follower-number envy, sometimes I’m able to hear the better angels remind me what’s important: there is a story that only I can tell and I must tell it, not because it’s better than others in any way, but because it’s the story that God gave to me. If I have any confidence at all (it surprises me that you see me as confident) it’s only in this: the truth will set me free.

    I enjoy your tellings! Keep writing the stories that God gives to you!


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