by Lexi Eikelboom



The womb is a rhythm. It pulses with life, communicates, pours itself out, interrupts, gives form. Rhythm both gives identity and interrupts identity. Each life is given particularity by the pace at which it moves and the shapes it makes, but that life can be disrupted by the interposition of other rhythms for good or ill. Rhythm both individuates and connects. I know you by your rhythm, the way that you walk and talk, but that rhythm can be made synchronous with others in a dance, a worship service, work, either wilfully or in subjection. Rhythm is ambivalent. It is capable of being manipulated but can never be altogether controlled and thus remains a site of protest and subversion. Rhythm is gyno-logical. It is an empty space that gives identity and disrupts it by breaking up those same structures of identity by inserting empty spaces within them.

Julia Kristeva says that the womb fractures language into rhythms (Revolution in Poetic Language, 186). The body is the birthplace of language and the womb is the birthplace of the body. Thus, this pre-linguistic, semiotic space is feminine, maternal. It is a matrix of love that forms the bodily identity that is prior to the linguistic subject. Before language, with its many patriarchal assumptions, objectives, and symbolic schemas, the individual is marked by the feminine by virtue of having a body. Language emerges from this body, is shaped by it. However, more than that, the semiotic interrupts language. Bodily rhythms rebel against the linguistic schemas that attempt to keep them under control. It is this semiotic interruption that gives us poetry by inserting empty spaces into our language (69). Kristeva calls this pre-linguistic, maternal space the Chora – the womb of the world. It gives identity, gives language by forming the body, but also interrupts what it has formed, threatening the patriarchal world of language, not with destruction, but with poetry. The womb gives rhythm.

Christ is the womb. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Yet “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself…” (Philippians 2:6-7). Current theologians are largely agreed that this self-emptying, this gyno-logic, was not something Christ did in conflict with his divinity, but is part of the very nature of the Trinity. The Trinity is a matrix of movements of self-emptying and receiving fullness. It is the primal Chora. It is the pre-linguistic maternal space of creation, the space in which all things were made. Christ, as part of this Chora, is the womb of the world. The Chora is Christ’s identity, just as the womb is the woman’s identity. Yet it is an identity that is self-effacing, disrupts itself. It is an identity without content – hollowed-out, empty, an identity of potential and protest, of calling that which is into question through that which could be. Christ is logos, word, but it is a gyno-logos, a self-emptying logos that pours itself out even into death. And in so doing, it makes new life possible. It interrupts the given cycles and symbols. Christ’s entry into the world does not operate according to a phalo-logic. Christ is not a thing imposed but a space for new life. The space is interruptive. It disrupts norms and expectations, the projects of the autonomous subject, by connecting us to, reminding us of, the Trinitarian womb from which we came. Christ gives rhythm.

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One thought on “Chora

  1. Great post Lexi. Thanks for this. I confess that I’ve done very little thinking regarding the significance of rhythm and theology. I’ve been stuck, I suppose, with a framework of melody and harmony.

    Reading your last paragraph, I thought of the opening genealogy in Matthew, and how (when read correctly) the female names interrupt the genealogy’s natural flow, creating space for something new.


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