Tag Archives: celiac disease

Bread Transformed

I’m not going to pretend to have any deep thoughts about what happens when we take communion in the Orthodox Church.  There are plenty of blogs and books that can explain this mystery much better than I can.  But, I do want to describe what it means to me, especially since transitioning to this gluten free lifestyle.

During the liturgy, we believe that we are entering into the presence of God.  This is not a symbolic presence.  We come into the Presence of the Living God, along with all the saints from ages past, present, and future, the seraphim, and the cherubim.  At the height of this worship and celebration is the Eucharist: the receiving of the body and blood of Christ.  Through taking the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies, we join with Christ, and we join with all other Christians receiving the life-creating body and blood.  This joining is not merely symbolic, an exercise of our intellect, but is a physical and mystical reality.  It is “communion” in the greatest sense of the word.  We become the body of Christ. As a finger is an integrated part of our body, we are an integrated part of Christ’s body, with Christ as our head.  We are joined, united, to Christ and to all others.

As we believe that we are not just symbolic members of Christ’s body, we likewise believe that the Eucharistic sacrifice, the bread and wine, are not just symbolic of Christ’s body and blood.  Somehow, during the Eucharist we pray that the Holy Spirit will come down and transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. And we put our faith in God that He will do this.  The bread and wine, while remaining bread and wine, is also at the same time so much more than bread and wine.  It’s the physical and mystical reality of Christ.  It tastes like bread and wine, it feels like bread and wine, it looks like bread and wine, but at the same time that bread and wine is the deifying body and blood of Christ.

Why am I going to such great lengths to describe this?  Because I don’t get sick when I take communion.  In my normal life, I am sensitive enough to gluten that even a few crumbs of cake or a swallow of beer is enough to cause digestive problems and make me sick.  But, somehow, with faith and trust in God, and fear and trembling, I approach the cup, consume the Body and Blood of Christ / bread and wine, and don’t get sick.

I don’t understand why I don’t get sick, but the transforming power of God is at work. Glory to God.


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Crashing and Burning

Part of the purpose of this blog, aside from being an archive of thoughts, recipes, and prayers, is to provide me a place to voice my struggles as I attempt to lead a balanced life.  A life attuned.

I’m a late-stage graduate student in biochemistry – I’m trying to get a PhD.  During the past two years, I have been very sick, mysteriously sick.  I would get one diagnosis, then another, and still I was having odd neurological symptoms, extreme fatigue, and debilitating headaches.  I also went through several life-adjustments during this period of time: I lost both my grandmothers, who I miss daily, my house burned down and I lost all my material possessions, I rebuilt the house, and got married (not in that order).

Meanwhile, I was trying to be “a good graduate student”.  I was trying to live up to an unrealistic expectation of what I imagined to be the ideal graduate student:  a great multitasker, balancing 3-4 projects at once, 100% focused on work, and working 60-80 hours a week.  For some people, this is what grad school is like – and they do spectacularly.  It almost destroyed me.

After pushing myself, while being sick, for more than a year, my body gave up.  I missed four months of work and had to take a leave-of absence from my studies.  During the worst of those four months, I was hardly able to leave my bed.  I would push myself to get out of bed in the mornings, take a shower, and walk downstairs to the couch, where I would lay for the rest of the day.  This was an accomplishment.

Meanwhile, in my spiritual life, I had just about given up on God.  Like Job, I felt abandoned and angry at times.  Getting through morning and evening prayers was a struggle for me.  I was too sick (or thought I was) to attend liturgy except sporadically.  If it weren’t for the strength of my husband, and the prayers of all my friends and family, I would have stayed in this physical and spiritual state.

Finally, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an auto-immune reaction which results in mal-absorption of nutrients and extreme malnutrition.  All of the symptoms I experienced were the result of my body not getting the food I needed.

By the grace of God I’m here today.  I’m getting healthier, both physically and spiritually.  I’ve adjusted to the new diet I have to be on, and I pray that spiritually I am on the right path again too.

Now, as I start working on my thesis research again, in a stressful environment, I want to live a balanced life.  I’m praying for humility and patience as I basically start over in my research. And, I’m trying to be aware of the bad habits I had before and correct them.  God has given me a second chance at grad school.  I want to lean on Him, and His strength to guide me.  I want to keep my work-life, friend and family relationships, my spiritual life, and my health in balance. Attuned.

So now I’m reflecting on a few questions:

  • What does a balanced life look like for me?
  • How can I resist getting sucked into the competitiveness that is grad school again?
  • What are the most important things in my life?
  • Do I make time for them regularly?

What about you? How do you keep your life balanced?  Can you suggest some strategies to me?  What are the important things in your life?

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