Reflections on Theology of the Body, Part I

As we begin this new year, I’m going to publish some reflections on reclaiming the market square for faith and family. Fostering a family-friendly workplace specifically involves transcending the grand claims made by multi-cultural advocates (MCA). Policies advanced under this MCA worldview result in “soggy solutions” that are no substitute for the real work of forging partnerships among peoples and across cultures. Soggy solutions are rife with residual risk, largely because of arrogance. Unfortunately we have many examples. This series of reflections is not for proselytizing, rather it is to share the abundant truth available to those who have ears to hear.

MCA claim to know better for us than we know for ourselves. They seem intent on forcing our country and our economy to relearn first-hand the lessons of history, without being willing to subject themselves to any of the policies they are forcing on the rest of us.

This series will be much more academic than my light-hearted tweets. Pull up a chair and stay a spell. This meal serves meat, not milk, so bring your appetite! Those who cannot brook strong opinions save their own should skip this series, it might make your head hurt. (As a side note, most references are not page numbers but topic numbers.)

An anthropology

Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, a collection of 129 Wednesday audiences delivered between 1979 and 1984, draws insights of mankind in the context of his origin, history and destiny, to develop an adequate cultural understanding (an “anthropology”) of what it means to be thoroughly human, made in the “image of God,” male and female. Empowered and renewed in mind, heart and body through a process of cultural “retuning” and personal “reintegration,” we journey as a community of persons through the landscape this Pontiff has mapped out.

True to his groundbreaking nature, Karol Wojtyła, the man who became Pope John Paul II, responded to interview questions posed by Italian correspondent Vittorio Messori. Their collaboration became Crossing the Threshold of Hope, from which this passage is taken:

 

The philosophy of arrogance is born of the Hegelian paradigm (master-slave). The only force capable of effectively counteracting this philosophy is found in the Gospel of Christ, in which the paradigm of master-slave is radically transformed into the paradigm of father-son.

The father-son paradigm is ageless. It is older than human history. The “rays of fatherhood”…meet a first resistance in the obscure but real fact of original sin. This is truly the key for interpreting reality. … Original sin attempts to abolish fatherhood, destroying its rays which permeate the created world, placing in doubt the truth about God who is Love and leaving man only with a sense of the master-slave relationship. [CTH p. 228 ff, emphasis added]

 

Refusing to acknowledge the reality of sin is akin to refusing to acknowledge the reality of gravity. The created can never be greater than the Creator, no matter what belief system or worldview.

I. Origin

The dignity of the human person demands no less than a boundless commitment to love as God loves us. We were created for love, never as an object of gratification for another. (GS 24, 74)

The Pope’s profoundly simple (yet markedly not easy) analysis weaves a tapestry of faith from original solitude, original unity and original nakedness. Man is “in-spired” or given the very breath of life from an Uncreated Eternal Ultimate Good as a measure of His desire to share His limitless Love.

“The Adam” (a Hebrew play on words for “person,” ha’adam, and “ground” adama) goes into a “deep sleep” (tardemah) from which emerge both man (’ish) and woman (’ishshah), who are complementary in likeness to God, and share in original innocence, where they were “naked and not ashamed.” (Gen 2:25).

“Nakedness” signifies the original good of God’s vision…through which the “pure” value of humanity as male and female, the “pure” value of the body and sex is manifested. [TB 2nd Jan 1980]

John Paul II speaks of a theology of the body because “it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It [the body] was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.” [TB 20th Feb 1980]

Original Sin and the Rupture

The Pope describes this time in the Garden as a “mysterious pre-history” and posits that historical man began with Adam’s refusal to honor God’s single prohibition. From the Catechism we read:

396 The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”(277) symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and trust. Man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned Him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God,” but without God, before God, and not in accordance with God.

 

Aquinas and Augustine teach us that the fallen angels sinned, both pride and envy, in wanting to be as God, rather than delight in the Divine order. [Summa Theologica (STh), I, 63:2,3]

Francis Cardinal Arinze brings this concept into the modern era in a the no-nonsense style that has endeared him to the faithful, at his address, “The Eucharistic Mystery Calls For Our Response” given at the Hearts and Minds (HM) event, at Westminster Cathedral in April 2006:

 

God is not our equal. He is not our colleague. He is our Creator. Without him we would not exist at all. He is the only necessary being. It is normal that we acknowledge this fact. Those who refuse to adore God must not decorate themselves with the apparently nice title of liberal intellectuals.

If we are to call a spade a spade, we shall inform such people that they are unreasonable, ignorant and blind to most obvious facts. A child who refuses to recognise his parents is not a liberal. He is a brat. Would it be wrong to call him stupid, and unaware of common sense, and even of his own best interest? And God is to us much more than parents are to their children. On the other hand, God is not a rival to us human beings. He is not a threat. He is not a killjoy.

God is our loving Father. He is Providence. He takes care of every detail regarding our life. When we adore him, praise him and thank him, we not only do not demean ourselves. Rather we begin to realise our greatness. Our acknowledg- ment of God’s transcendent reality elevates us. …Christians must not allow themselves to be misled by the errors of a secularistic mentality which lives as if God did not exist. Man is not the centre of reality. God is. By adoring God through the Holy Eucharist, we pay this due tribute to God’s transcendence. [HM, 3]

I’m hoping to have these reflections two to three times a week, so let the conversations begin! Just to recap the groundwork at the beginning, this series of reflections is not for proselytizing, rather it is to share truths as obvious, basic and inescapable as gravity:
those who claim to know better for us than we know for ourselves seem intent on forcing our inter-connected economies to relearn first-hand the lessons of history.

As ever,

Carpe Diem!

Matt

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