Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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PRESIDENCY OF THE OFS INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL

 

ONGOING FORMATION PROJECT

 

MONTHLY DOSSIER

MARCH 2013 – YEAR 4 – No.38

 

 

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY

 

by Blessed Pope John Paul II

 

Dossier prepared by the CIOFS Ongoing Formation Team

Ewald Kreuzer, OFS, Coordinator

Lucy Almiranez, OFS

Mike and Jenny Harrington, OFS

 

Back to the Beginning - Our Creation (TOB 1-23)

 

 

CHRIST APPEALS TO THE BEGINNING

By pointing us back to" the beginning", Christ not only re establishes God's original plan for man and woman as the norm, he also provides the power for us to live it. The good news of the Gospel is that "Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins." (CCC 2336)

John Paul II takes us back before Original Sin existed as Jesus has taken us back to the "Beginning". In this way we see the real meaning of human life and human sexuality, God's original intention for humanity.

Besides Jesus pointing us back to Genesis (God's original intention) He indicates that something has changed. Jesus solemnly declares that marriage is indissoluble. He indicates the significance of marriage as a lifelong union is something inscribed in our very nature as God created it.

'Some Pharisees came to him to test him and asked him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?" And he answered them, have you not read that from the beginning the Creator created them male and female and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife, and the two will be one flesh? So it is that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined let man not separate." They objected, "Why then did Moses order to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus answered, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." Mt 19:3-8

'God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created him.' (Gen 1:27)

Original Solitude

"It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him". (Gen 2:18)
Man is alone without woman, as well as he is "alone" in the visible world as a person. Unlike any other creature, human beings have a special relationship to God. A human being is not something but someone, somebody, a PERSON who can freely determine his own actions, and with the capacity to love God and another. In the beginning man could sense God and His presence. God and man were friends, they were familiar  with each other. Man realised that he is different from the other creatures and has been given a responsibility.

"God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good" (Gen 1:31).

As a person we have reason and free will (self awareness / self consciousness and self determination) and the capacity to love God and one another. John Paul II points out that God created us in His image as MALE and FEMALE, our complimentary  sexuality reveals something significant about us and about God.

Our body is the visible expression of the person, John Paul says, the body is the sacrament of the person, "a visible sign of an invisible reality". The body is the outward sign that reveals the inner person, (body and soul.)

Original Unity

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)

Man and woman are called to live in a relationship that mirrors the inner life of the Trinity, imaging God not only as individuals, but also through the holy communion of man and woman and the blessing of fertility.

A Man finds his perfection, his fulfilment not in a solitary life, but in a unified life with a woman. Adam found that he was not only alone with God but now he is alone with another human being.

God created us to be in relationship with Him and with other human beings.

Man "cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (GS 24)

The human body reveals profound truths. The male body has a marvellous and unique capacity for union with the female body, and the female with the male. It is evident that they were made to go together. There is also built in desire for such a union, a fascination and attraction with the opposite sex. This body with its sexual complementarity reveals that we are created for relationship and interpersonal union.

"Therefore a man leaves  his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen 2:24)

 

Becoming "one flesh" refers not only to the joining of two bodies but is a 'sacramental expression which corresponds to the communion of persons' (TOB 31:2)

This was not meant to be a platonic relationship, as God says: "be fruitful and multiply" .(Gen 1:28)

Going back to the beginning to what is inscribed in every person, that each is made for and capable of a communion of persons. We freely give self to another in love and receive love in return. We are a gift and we give the gift of self to another in this intimate union of love.  This relates to our being in the image of God "let us make man.." (Gen 1:26.)

God himself is a communion of persons, a Trinity in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit pour themselves out in an eternal exchange of self-giving love. The human body is capable of revealing God. God is neither male nor female, he is pure Spirit. The invisible mystery of Trinitarian love is imaged, or made visible in our bodies when we form a communion of persons in truth and love.

We "can deduce that man became the image of God not only through his own humanity but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning." In other words man "becomes an image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. ... On all this right from the beginning, the blessing of fruitfulness descended" (TOB 9:3). God could not have bestowed a greater purpose and dignity on sexual love. The marital union is meant to be an icon of the inner life of the Trinity.

The fact that we are persons made in the image of God gives us an inestimable dignity.

The Spousal / Nuptial meaning of the Body is our call to self giving love, which is written into our very embodiment as male and female. By becoming a gift to one another in a communion of persons we learn to love and be loved as God loves, and so fulfil our highest destiny. We become a reflection of the very life and love of the Trinity and prepare to share in that life forever. This is true for every human person, whether married, single, or a consecrated celibate, though it is lived in different ways.

"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule'" (Gen 1:28).

Their unity in "one flesh" is worlds apart from the copulation of animals. Unlike the animals, man and woman have the capacity to love (freedom)

Original Nakedness

"now both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame before each other". (Gen 2:25)

The first couple,  before the fall saw each other as God sees, they expressed divine love. Their bodies were transparent windows to the inner person, they were not separated from the person and seen as an object. There was a depth of intimacy, communication and natural understanding between the man and woman. There was a wholeness within the human persons. They were totally free.

 

"Nakedness reveals the spousal meaning of the body which is the body's power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and -  through this gift - fulfils the very meaning of his being and existence" (TOB 15:1)

Original nakedness demonstrates that "holiness has entered the visible world." Holiness is what permits man to express himself deeply with his own body... precisely through the 'sincere gift of self.' It is in his body as man or woman (that) man feels he is a subject of holiness." (TOB 19:5)

Original innocence and original sin - When Christ appeals to the "beginning" he asks them to go beyond the boundary between the state of original innocence and the state of sinfulness that began with the original fall. This boundary is linked with the tree of good and evil. These situations have their own dimension in man in his innermost being, knowledge, consciousness, conscience, choice and decision and all of this in a relationship with God, the Creator, who is God of the Covenant of the most ancient Covenant of the Creator with his creature, that is, with man.  The tree of knowledge of good and evil, as an expression and symbol of the Covenant with God broken in man's heart, marks out two diametrically opposed situations and sets them against each other; that of original innocence and that of original sin.

Yet, Christ's words, which appeal to the "beginning," allow us to find an essential continuity in man and a link between these two different states or dimensions of the human being.

First promise of redemption - From the words that Christ speaks, " beginning", we have the right to attribute at the same time the  whole eloquence of the mystery of redemption. Gen 3:15 (Messianic text) . We witness the moment in which   man, male and female, after having broken the original covenant with his Creator, receives the first promise of redemption in the words of the so-called Proto-evangelium in Genesis 3:15. (First announcement of Gospel)

Man participates not only in the history of human sinfulness, he participates in the history of salvation. He is thus not merely shut out from original innocence due to his sinfulness, but also at the same time open to the mystery of the  redemption realized in Christ and through Christ.

Paul in Letter to the Romans expresses this perspective of redemption, when he  writes, "We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for the redemption of  our bodies" (Rom 8:23)

Knowledge and Procreation - The purpose of life is to love as God loves, and this is what our body as a man or a woman are meant for. Through masculinity and femininity, the unmistakable plan of God is revealed, that man and woman are meant to be a potentially fruitful "gift" to one another, not only that, but their mutual gift leads to a third. As John Paul II expresses it "knowledge" leads to generation.

"Adam knew his wife and she conceived." (Gen 4.1)

Fatherhood and motherhood "crown" and completely reveal the mystery of sexuality. "Be fruitful and multiply" is a call to love in God's image and thus "fulfil the very meaning of our being and existence. "

Whatever our particular vocation, we are all called to participate in God's love and to share it with others.

The main principle of Theology of the Body is that the body is a "sign" of God's eternal mystery. It is the mystery of Trinitarian life and Love - of God's eternal Communion as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange" (CCC 221)

"The Church cannot therefore be understood... unless we keep in mind the 'great mystery'... expressed in the 'one flesh' [union] of marriage and the family" (LF 19)

 

Questions for reflection:

1. What is your image of God, and are we able to see ourselves as made in the image of God?

2. What do you think our society believes and teaches us about the meaning of our bodies?

3. What are some ways that your body can be an expression of your gift of self to God and to others?

4. What is meant by sacramentality of the body?

References,  'Man and Woman He Created them' - John Paul II,  'Letter to the Families - John Paul II, Guadium et Spes