Friday, 29 July 2011

Theology of the body

An old friend of mine (and long ago of Charles Williams), Lois Lang-Sims, recently said that “All these teachings about sex and about the sanctity of human life and the human body have their roots in metaphysics,” which, she added, is the last thing anyone these days wants to talk about. Pope John Paul II understood this and called for a renewal of metaphysics in his encyclical Fides et Ratio. The key to his Theology of the Body seems to me this:
“The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” – John Paul II, 20 February 1980, General Audience 
The same Pope talks about the “spousal” or “nuptial” meaning of the body, which he says is “not something merely conceptual” but concerns a “way of living the body” in its masculinity and femininity, an “inner dimension… that stands at the root of all facts that constitute man’s history”. This nuptial meaning has been limited, violated and deformed over time and by modern culture, until we have almost lost the power of “seeing” it, but it is still there to be discovered with the help of grace, like a spark deep within the human heart. The “language of the body”, therefore, must be recovered, and that is what the Pope seeks to do. But as he says, correctly reading this “language” results not so much in a set of statements as in a “way of living”.

Since I posted this item, a brilliant interview on the subject has appeared with Bishop Jean Lafitte. And if anyone wants to study the subject in depth, the best book-length introduction I know is Called to Love, by Anderson and Granados. I will return to this subject on another occasion.

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