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 that 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.
How did it work before the fall? St. John Paul II wondered about the same thing, and he was convinced that the discovery of the original plan of God would find specific guidance for our lives. So what was this original divine ‘program’ of sexuality? The Pope enumerates three basic elements: original solitude, original unity and original nakedness. Let us start from the original solitude. In the second account of creation, we read: “Yahweh, God, said ‘It is not right that man should be alone. I shall make him a helper.’ (Gen 2:18). The Pope points out that this is not so much about the loneliness of a man without a woman, but the loneliness of man in general (‘adam‘ in Hebrew means ‘a man’). Such asexual man never existed. God wants to tell us that a man living in a beautiful, good world, feels something special among other creatures and in this sense of his uniqueness he is lonely. But man is not made for solitude, but the relationship with the community, to love. That’s why he needs “appropriate assistance” which does not exist in the world of creatures. He needs someone who matches him as a person, and yet it is somehow different. The creation of woman is also in essence the creation of man. This gender diversity is closely linked to the original solitude of the human vocation to live in a relationship with someone else and for someone else.
This ‘appropriate help’ that God gives to people is: a man for a woman and a woman for a man. They are giving themselves to each other as a mutual aid. They are gifted to each other in a general sense but in the sense of a common relationship. The word ‘gift‘ is the key here. In the primitive interpretation of the sentence quoted from the Scriptures it can be understood that a man needs a woman. The Pope shows that this is not so. ‘Help’ here means something very deep. In Psalm 33 God is called, named ‘a help’, ‘an assistant’. It’s about mutual complementarity, for help in becoming a man, it is about love. She – the woman is the only ‘cure’ to the original solitude. And where in all this is the body? A few verses before it is written:Yahweh, God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being.’ (Gen 2.7). Note: the body is formed in the ‘hands’ of God and bears within itself His Breath (His Spirit). So the body comes from God himself. It is a visible sign of an invisible spirit. It is almost of sacramental importance, because every sacrament is a visible sign of the invisible presence of God himself. Thus, the body has to be a sign of human vocation to love and is part of ‘God’s image’ in man.
This is another part of God’s programme. Adam, or lonely ‘sexless person’ falls asleep. He dreams of another person, of the other being equal to his ‘I’. God fulfills this desire and He creates Eve from Adam’s rib. Only then in Hebrew we have the phrase ‘is’, and ‘issa’ (male and female). Adam cries at the sight of Eve: ‘And the man said: This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! She is to be called Woman, because she was taken from Man.’ (Gen 2:23). These words express the admiration, fascination, but also the experience of self-worth: a man discovers his value in meeting with the woman, and the woman discovers her value in meeting with the man. The woman’s body and the body of the man are different from the bodies of animals. The body of Adam and Eve are a sign of A PERSON! In the same carnality of man and woman is inscribed mutual attraction, desire for unification, the desire for a reciprocal gift. The meeting of Adam and Eve enables them to overcome the original solitude. The vocation of man is in fact creating a communion of persons. ‘This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh.’ (Genesis 2:24). The expression ‘become one flesh’ cannot be narrowed to a sexual act. ‘Becoming one flesh’ represents the unity of people, which also expresses itself in the body.
It is worth noting that in the original creation account, we read of the likeness, the image of man to God as male and female. Pope John Paul II writes: ‘The image and likeness of God became man not only by his humanity, but also by the communion of the persons that were formed since the beginning of man and woman. The man becomes a mirror of God not so much in the act of solitude as in the act of communion.’
If God is a communion of Persons in the Trinity, the person created in his image is brought into the relationship. This is what sexuality is, an expression of this relationship, it is its trademark. The unity of marriage is to be in a certain sense, an icon of the inner life of the Trinity.’ Christopher West (a Catholic author and speaker, best known for his work on Pope John Paul II’s series of audience addresses entitled Theology of the Body) wrote that “if we could accept it as the truth and reflect on it, we would never look at sex in the same way as before’. John Paul II has often said that the human body has a nuptial meaning, that is, human sexuality inscribed as a vocation to love giving yourself a gift. ‘Nuptial meaning of the body’ is one of the key phrases of his theology of the body.
ORIGINAL NUDITY: ‘
‘Now, both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame before each other.’ (Gen 2:25). So the biblical author concludes the description of the human condition before the fall. The Pope dedicates to this verse a lot of attention. Moreover, he believes that this sentence is the key to understanding the entire original plan of God. The original human nakedness is free from shame. Shame appeared after the first sin of Adam and Eve: ‘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.’ (Gen 3, 7).
John Paul II points out that we must try to understand the word transition from ‘lack of shame’ to shame of nudity, which is the result of sin. What happened? Why did the man not need ‘a fig leaf’ to cover himself before he sinned? What has sin changed in realizing the body? That initial lack of shame means the total harmony of internal order at looking on each other. Adam and Eve feel completely safe with each other. Their physicality, masculinity and femininity are free from selfish desire.
They accept each other as a gift. They see themselves as God sees them (“God saw that it was good”). It is a look of admiration, and disinterested joy in the gift. “Nudity is a primary gift of God’s vision. Nudity is all the simplicity and fullness of the vision through which is revealed the ‘clean’ value of the human being as man and woman, ‘pure’ value of the body and sex ‘– Pope John Paul II. The sentence of the original nakedness without shame shows that God’s plan is that sexuality is a good thing, it is something pure. There is no rupture, which will appear after sin. There is no opposition of the spirit to the flesh. There are no selfish tensions arising from the desire of any compulsion like ‘I gotta have you.’ Yes, the sex drive exists, but it is for love and for life. It is included harmoniously in the mutual relationship of communion. It is integrated, subordinate to love. Adam and Eve were free with ‘a gift of freedom’. Only sin dramatically damaged the delicate mechanism. Shame appeared as a necessary defence mechanism to treatment as a sexual object, as a necessary means of protecting the nude in the face of a selfish desire.
Is it not too idealistic a consideration? ABSOLUTELY NOT! St Pope John Paul II in reflecting on nakedness freed from shame emphasizes the fundamental, primary goodness of sexuality, its beauty, and its dignity. In this area there is nothing wrong, dirty, or dark. Yes, carnality is very prone to selfishness precisely because the definition of carnality is love. The distorted sexuality, not only caused by the fall of Adam and Eve, but also by man’s personal depravity, but God’s programme is still present. Our bodies, even tainted with impurity, cry out for a love which is free from the possessiveness that follows the logic of the gift. Love, which is beautiful, which is simply divine. THIS LOVE IS POSSIBLE – BUT ONLY WITH GOD’S PRESENCE!
(To be continued…)
With love, friendship and prayers – Fr Marcin