Human Dignity · sexual assault

The Eucharist for Sexual Assault Victims

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I used to have really low self-esteem, incredibly low. I mean, so low that I don’t know how it is possible that it could be any lower. Today I don’t. I have my bad days, but overall I know who I am and I value myself and my contributions. In this present culture that values people based on their looks, their earnings, and their “productivity”, I think probably quite a lot of people either don’t value themselves, or else they value themselves for the wrong reasons.

A lot of factors contributed to helping me learn to value myself, including the utmost respect my husband shows me daily, but someone else who witnessed to my human dignity was Jesus Christ Himself. No, I didn’t have a vision of Him coming to me and talking to me or anything like that, but I have spent time with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.

I have a great devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. As a survivor of Sexual Assault, (an act which humiliates and denigrates the dignity of a person like nothing else can) there’s something so beautiful and moving to me about Jesus coming to us in his utmost humility and gentleness. When I struggled to believe that I also possessed the same dignity with which everyone else received at their creation – the dignity of a person created very good and of being created in the image and likeness of God, I found that meditating in front of the Eucharist was extremely beneficial.

In adoration, here was the Almighty God, Creator of the universe who holds all creation in being by His will alone, sitting there with me. I would feel very privileged if I was able to meet the pope or a king or another important person, and yet, here was God Himself, giving me a private audience. What’s more, in this meeting with Him, He did not come to me in all His might and power. He came to me as a piece of bread. He set aside all His dignity as God, and went even beyond this. He set aside all His dignity as a person and even the dignity of a living thing. He came to me bearing the appearance of an inanimate object. The God who created all things by His will alone, took the form of something made by human hands. The God who said, “Let there be this”, and so it came to be, obeyed the words of a man, taking the appearance of bread when the priest said the words of consecration. The all-good, all-knowing, all-perfect, all-powerful God spends time with me looking like a plain piece of nothing-special bread.

It struck me one evening in adoration, that when I sat before the Eucharist, I still retained all my dignity as a human person. I retained all my dignity as a person made in the image and likeness of God and as a daughter of the High King. As Jesus chose to set aside all of His dignity in the Eucharist, however, it was as though God were bowing before me.

I thought to myself, “How can I think that I don’t matter if God Himself is humbling Himself to be in my presence? How can I believe that I don’t deserve to be treated with respect and great reverence, when God Himself goes to such lengths to show me otherwise and in fact, bows before me?

When I have bad days, when I have made one too many mistake and I am tempted to revert to my old ways of thinking poorly about myself and I’m tempted to deny my own dignity, I think of the Eucharist. God bows before me, so how dare I deny what God Himself has declared to be true? How dare anyone else deny, what God Himself says is true.

If we could comprehend the Eucharist, I feel we would walk with great confidence and hold our heads high having the air of royalty, because we are. At the same time, at each person we met, we would bow our heads and treat them too with great humility and reverence, recognizing in them a person that God Himself also bows to and so we must also do. For others who also may be survivors of assault or abuse; for those who want to believe the societal messages that say your worth depends upon how you look, or how much worldly success you have, or on any thing other than the fact that you are loved by God, you must try to realize the truth about yourselves: God loves you so much and has bestowed so much dignity upon you that He Himself bows before you.

May you live according to the truth of your great worth.

 

photo credit: Canonization 2014 – The Power of the Cross via photopin (license)

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