Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Dear Friends
Thank You for some enthusiasm and support which You have given to me after last thought about the theology of the Body. I’m absolutely sure at all the teenagers need to read this, pray and meditate before they will enter in any close relationship with their beloved. We are all very welcome to spend some time with the second part of this very special subject.
Man has a talent for destruction of God’s ideas. By sin he damaged the delicate realm of sex. He turned the wonderful endowment of God into a system of appropriation, or use for his own desires. Our problems with the body have their source not in the flesh, but in the heart.
The damaged programme
When Jesus was talking about divorce He referred to the “beginning”, that is, to the original idea of God inscribed in masculinity and femininity. So did John Paul II Therefore, the first lesson of the theology of the body turned to the biblical paradise. To the story which God used to explain to us, show us what happened with our nature, our humanity. We looked at Adam and Eve, and more specifically their history before the first sin, so as to read “the initial programme” inscribed in sexuality. Its elements are: the sacramental nature of the body (the human body is a sign of the person, the image of the spiritual), the nuptial meaning of the body (the body of man and woman, their attraction is a sign of our human vocation to love, the essence of which is mutual endowment – gifting). Since everything is so beautifully designed, then why does it not work? Where do our problems with our bodies, with sex, with the sex drive come from? Why pornography, rape, and divorce? Why do we struggle so much, have such misunderstanding, and wounding between spouses? The second part of the Pope’s catechesis focused on the answers to these questions. John Paul II’s axis of his discussion recalls the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard how it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’. But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5, 27-28). The Pope does not focus on one specific standard of ethics, he rather wants to understand the mechanism of desire. He wants to show why eros detached from the ethos becomes a destructive force. According to the words of Christ, it points out that the problem is not just the body, but the heart (inner man). It is the heart of man, damaged by sin which is the source of trouble with physicality. The truth about sin is always accompanied by the truth of salvation, by grace.
Ashamed of themselves and of others
Again we must return to paradise. Adam and Eve, by taking the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they breached their relationship with God, damaging the system of mutual relations, and poisoning their own hearts. John Paul II writes that the essence of the fall of Adam and Eve was a “challenging gift” of the Creator. The man turns away from God – the Giver, and thus he rejects His love. He looks at the Creator as a tyrant who jealously guards his wealth. That is why man himself wants to take happiness, he wants to build it by himself. What effect does this have? The biblical author describes it thus: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.” (Genesis 3.7). When God looked for them, they were hiding. Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden,’ he replied. ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10). Man was ashamed of himself, ashamed not only of his body, but also himself. He no longer perceives in himself the image of God, he does not believe that he can still be a partner of God. So he runs away. Now the relationship between man and a woman also takes on that shame. Recall that at the first meeting they both felt no shame. The original nakedness free from shame was a sign of harmony, security, mutual self-giving, free from fear of themselves. Sin destroyed that peace. Fear, uncertainty and threat entered into the relationship. Shame has a double meaning. First, it is a sign that people have lost their original innocence, lost the spousal meaning of the body. Secondly, shame is a defensive reflex, a “fig leaf”, which is supposed to protect the body against humiliation, use, against lust. The Pope observes that man is ashamed not only in front of the other, but in front of himself. “I was scared because I was naked.” Man, ashamed of his humanity, tried not to be identified with his body. Sin disrupts the sense of values, and introduces tension between the body and the spirit. “Man realizes for the first time that his body no longer draws from the power of the spirit as it did when he was on the level of the image of God. His original shame bears the hallmarks of a kind of humiliation of the body, “– writes John Paul II. Is there anything we can learn from sharing this experience of sin, especially relating to sexuality? The Pope emphasizes that this disgrace will henceforth always accompany us. One of the fixed elements is the “anxiety of conscience connected with lust.” Shame and lust live in the human heart. In our inner selves we take on the decisive spiritual battle.
Desire, which cannot get enough
Desire (lust). John Paul II examines this phenomenon extensively, seeing in it the cause of many of our woes associated with physicality. The Book of Genesis describes one of the consequences of sin on the first people in the following way: God said to Eve: “I shall give you intense pain in childbearing, you will give birth to your children in pain. Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” (Genesis 3:16). The phrase “will dominate you.” indicates the destruction of a loving, personal relationship between a woman and a man. It manifests between the logic of fighting, rivalry, power, treatment of subjects. Primarily harmony disappears. “Endowment (gifting) turns into a system of appropriation (usage)”. “Lust of the flesh dominates the desire to meet the body at the expense of authentic and full communion of persons,” notes the Pope. Insistent domination of the male-female relationship by sexual desire leads to an “unsatisfied unification” and is a reduction of carnality. Instead spiritual communion appears to take second place to the subject’s own desire. Freedom disappears, there is a kind of “coercion of the body”. But we cannot build a communion of persons on the basis of coercion. Concupiscence, although seemingly a force tending to unite, in fact, does not unite, but focuses on self-satisfaction at the expense of the other person, because it appropriates, aims to “use” that other person.
The Book of Genesis indicates the man as the one who is driven more strongly by lust. Yes, the lust of male and of female are slightly different, but in essence both are “lust of man”. Desire pulls a man into a devil’s circle. Evil tells him to focus on satisfying the hunger of the body itself as if blind, disables the heart (freedom!) and suppresses the voice of conscience. Meanwhile, dissatisfaction of the body is in fact only a sign of a deeper desire. Therefore lust, met in a sinful manner, leaves a man still insatiable, what is more, wounded, humiliated, and embarrassed. If a man quells the deeper desires of the heart and conscience, if a blind lust takes his freedom, then this unbridled passion becomes a fire that can completely destroy a human being. It does not mean that the sex drive should be suppressed or rejected. The idea is that Eros is dragged deeper into the orbit of the internal energy of the human spirit. That passion has put on an ethos not adapted to external moral standards, but inwardly, in our hearts. That is what Jesus says. Hearts of men and women are a place of ‘mutual crisis of love and lusts.” It is therefore about the healing of the heart, by earnest resolve, to recover the purity of ‘seeing’ through grace.
Heart accused – summoned – pure
Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount are demanding. Jesus, of course, calls us to judge our hearts for the nascence (the birth or beginning) of lust (“already in his heart he committed adultery with her”). But we cannot stop there. Words of the Lord “must be understood and interpreted first and foremost as a call of “the inner heart ‘”. We are called to chastity of the heart, of our eyes. This purity is a condition of love, the healthy harmony of male-female relationships, both in marriage and outside it. The Word of God is not only something that calls, but also gives us the power, the grace. God does not require the impossible from us. This does not mean it is easy. The teaching of John Paul II rejects the two forged explanations for anxiety associated with Eros. The first is to let go the reins in the realm of physicality, which means that sexual desire simply has to be satisfied. The sexual revolution which says this kind of “liberation” destroys people and society (divorce, abortion, lack of children, pornography, often paradoxically aversion to sex).
Proponents of sexual liberation often accuse the Church of the opposite extreme, that is contempt for the body, sex, the whole realm of the erotic. The theology of the body argues that Manichaeism has always been regarded by the Church as heresy. This view sees a source of evil in matter, in the body, and therefore condemns everything which is natural, even marriage and cohabitation. Such a Manichaean interpretation may jeopardize the words of Jesus about “adultery in the heart”. John Paul II points out that Christ calls for prosecution of the heart, not of the body. He tells us to control the extent that “blind” desire wins in us with a “spousal meaning of the body”. A control over lust is not a fight with the body, depleting its value. It is exactly the contrary: if a man looks at sexuality only through the eyes of lust, it is indeed “undervalued” in this sphere. Purity is a virtue that triggers the fullness of erotic passion. Yes, purity contains a temperance, self-control; self-control of one’s sex drive. It is sometimes experienced as a limitation, failure to comply, causing suffering. It is not easy. But this kind of self-control does not mean “less” but “more”. It means “to know ourselves and control ourselves”, that is true freedom that allows “giving ourselves”. “Passion in conjunction with purity releases in the body what has been created: it is a living expression of spiritual communion, in which each person becomes a gift for the other” (Mary Healy). It all looks different in the vocation of marriage, different in the celibate, but it is an invitation to all. The proclamation of the Gospel of purity of heart today means going against the current culture of the enslaved “liberated” eroticism. John Paul II seemed to realize that. He sought the deepest positive justification for routing a pure heart. He was not afraid of pathos. He writes: “Purity is the glory of the human body before God (…) From it also runs this special beauty that permeates every sphere of mutual intercourse.” The truth of these words alone is not enough to enable us to try assiduously to live like that, and not give up in moments of disaster. We will not manage it alone. But Jesus redeemed of the whole of mankind, including “the redemption of our bodies”. His grace is greater than sin. Thanks to this grace, we can win the battle for purity of heart. At stake is the joy of femininity and masculinity, the beauty of human love, friendship, relationships, and eternal salvation. (To be continued…)
With love, friendship and prayers – Fr Marcin