Four summers ago I had a wonderful morning routine. I would rise at dawn and jump on my bike to ride 25 minutes to another neighborhood of the city where I would meet a friend at the local pool and swim laps for about a half hour. Then we’d go to her apartment, eat breakfast with the man who would become her husband, and ride our bikes a few more miles to the college, where she was working and I was taking classes that summer.
This is the kind of routine that only works during a certain season of the year, a certain season of life. I have been thinking about those months a lot lately, remembering them with fondness and trying to determine why I cherish them so much.
Was it because I was finding a familial routine in a city away from my own family? Was it because I was starting to discover the amazing richness of adult friendships? Was it because it meant exploring the city in the morning light, or because I had the feeling that I was indulging by sneaking in such adventures before the day even began?
It was probably all of these things, but as I lay sweating on my yoga mat recently and nearly wept at the knowledge of how the years are piling up between my now and that then, a new possibility struck me. Could those mornings be even more precious because of how we exerted ourselves?
Today the Catholic church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption, on which we recall that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven.
Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule [of bodily corruption after death]. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body. – Munificentissimus Deus 5
This is a rich dogma, and the kernel I take from it today is this: our bodies matter. How the give us pleasure, how we nourish them and they sustain us all matter. Mary’s special privilege is that she doesn’t have to wait until the end of time to get hers back.
What other evidence do I have for this? That contact with another person’s body in an embrace can be absolute bliss. That food gives me delight as well as nourishment. That athletic exertion is renewing, even for someone like me who struggled with athleticism her whole life. And that smiling across a kitchen table at a workout partner while refueling with an English muffin remains in my heart as a tangible sign of God’s presence.
If we truly believe in the sanctity of the body, it will have enormous consequences. We are called to respectful, prayerful and appropriate expressions of sexuality. Self-care is demanded of us, as are the physical boundaries that maintain the bodily integrity of other people.
Even though at times my body gives me grief, I do my best to reverence it and recognize it as a gift from God. Today’s feast reminds me that this is worthy spiritual work, and that God has plans for all us, body and soul.