Lent with St Edith Stein Day 6: Body and Soul

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 6: Body and Soul

“The soul is housed in a body on whose vigor and health its own vigor and health depend—even if not exclusively nor simply. On the other hand, the body receives its nature as body—life, motion, form, gestalt, and spiritual significance—through the soul.”

 St Edith Stein, Spiritualty of the Christian Woman

               I saw a meme a while back that said something like, “You are not a body. You have a body, you are a soul.” While I wholly support focusing on the soul, it is impossible to deny the correlation between body and soul. You are both. When the soul is under great stress, the body reacts with tension which leads to physical pain. Likewise, when the body is in chronic pain due to poor physical health, it eats away at the soul until both are in distress. Anyone who has suffered through years of physical pain can attest that it’s not only physical but psychological. Body and soul rely on and reflect each other.

               Although not all of us are blessed as mothers, we can particularly see the correlation between body and soul in motherhood, particularly pregnancy. We’ve discussed previously that women have a natural desire to nurture others, especially their children. In pregnancy, this is not only spiritual, it is physical as the body forms and nurtures the child within. A woman does not become a mother upon giving birth, but at the moment of conception. That is when the work of forming and nourishing a child begins. And that work is a beautiful union between the body and soul of a woman.

               There is, of course, a danger we must look out for once we have recognized the close link between body and soul. When we focus too much on satisfying our physical desires, our bodies become demanding and our spiritual life suffers as we surrender to the will of our bodies. That is precisely why it is so important that we practice self-denial during Lent and always. The discipline of the body directly contributes to discipline of the soul. So don’t let anyone tell you that giving up sweets for Lent is not a noble penance. We cannot expect discipline in our souls without discipline in our bodies.

               Self-denial is not the only need our bodies and souls have. They require proper nourishment, care, and exercise. We must learn to give up sugary lattes and greasy potato chips for water and vegetables. At the same time, we must also learn to give up social media for scripture reading. Or Netflix for holy hours. Our physical and spiritual health must be a priority for us if we want to continue to grow.


Question for further reflection:

Is there anything standing in the way of my physical or spiritual health that I should give up or moderate?

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