Day 10: Leaping Inside the Womb

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

-Luke 1:41-42

I am sad to say goodbye to the tenacious Japanese team, which scored the second-strangest goal in the World Cup (dropping into the runner up slot only after Haji Wright’s physics-defying goal against the Netherlands). But I will miss the Japanese fans as much as the players. The fans with their costumes and drums and cheers, who tune their bodies to their players as if trying to add their energy from stands into the bodies on the field.

I heard someone say once that we are all trying to find our way back to our first home in the womb. That’s why we love things that cradle us: hammocks, rocking chairs… football stadiums. Bear with me. To be a fan inside the gentle curve of a stadium, surrounded by the white noise of other bodies, is a womb-like experience. It connects you to something bigger than yourself but fully inside your body.

I wrote earlier that football was the best tool my church had for teaching embodied theology, and that is true for fandom as well as players. Being a fan accounts for the body, something the Western church has struggled to do for centuries, in spite of worshiping a God who put on a body. Perhaps that is why sports have usurped church participation so thoroughly in the past few decades (but that’s a discussion for another day). 

Elizabeth’s exclamation to Mary is stunning because of the way so many bodies perceive and sync with each other at once: Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s baby, Mary, Mary’s baby. How the bodies are connected and separate and coordinated and aware of and echoing each other’s joy. It is unbelievable, but just barely, as we all know the feeling of our body shifting in relation to someone else’s. Your joy is so complete it becomes our joy. 

We don’t need our churches to be football stadiums, but we need churches that recognize and celebrate bodies. Churches that encourage us to physically leap into each other’s joy, rather than sitting still in stiff pews. As Elizabeth said, we already know we are blessed when our bodies are attuned to joy.

A colorful 1503 painting in which Mary stands, leaning into the face a shorter Elizebeth. Two of their hands are clasped, while Elizabeth's other hand reaches to pull Mary into an embrace and Mary rests a hand on her chest as if catching her breath.
Mariotto Albertinelli’s Visitation, which looks curiously like some goal celebrations we’ve seen recently.

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