My Dialogue with Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body: An assertion on why purity is important.
Just recently I’ve been thinking a lot about sexuality, purity and wholeness. In recent dialouges with with fellow students, professors friends and colleagues it has come to my attention that while I have a basic idea of what I believe about sexuality and the body, I’ve not spent much time developing or writing on it much, and this was surprising to me considering how sacred my theology of the body has become. So today i wanted to spend some time in thought about my person, your person and why sexuality matters.
So, first of all, what is the body? Here i’m gonna lay out an assertion of the human person according to what I believe the scriptures are telling us and several interrelated theories on being. From there we’ll talk about being and practical theology and finally conclude with the importance of sexuality to human identity, and ultimately why sexuality matters.
For a long time I’ve been disturbed by the question of what happens at marriage that inherently changes something, how is it that before a ring almost everything is off limits and then by a simple token everything is ok? What difference can a ritual make in ontologically shifting something from one place to another? Is marriage really that important in uniting two persons into one flesh, or is it a formality with pretty metaphors?
So, to answer my own question about marriage and the ontology of such a union, it is my belief that what has happened is in our conception of being when we lost the idea of being in communion we took a shift from the idea of communion as a necessary element of being. To be a person is to be a being-in-relationship, and therefore to necessitate a constant dialogue between an internal and external self-hood.
Sartre shows us in his Being and Nothingness that in reality man is never being in itself as for example a rock is. A rock simply is, but we as people lack being-in-itself because being-in-itself lacks consciousness. We are being for itself and thus lack definite being and are forced to create our being out of nothingness. And as foray into dimension theory and the propositions of time purported by H.G. Wells, if anything lacks duration it cannot be said to exist. Humans therefore are not and cannot be static being or inherently and diametrically dualistic beings, for change affects people in time and therefore their being is dynamic in that when viewed in 4 dimensions height, length, depth, and duration being is never in itself, but in relation to time, space, objects and other objects of being to discern and develop our own being.
This dynamic selfhood is the consciousness that we have of ourselves being aware of things outside ourselves and our idea of the perceptions with which we interact with the world. This, not even this is static since our perceptions change, ideas develop, and over time this self matures, corrupts, decays, grows, evolves, becomes more self aware, less self aware, directed, misdirected and always interactive. The self as relates to other objects in both time and space, in memory, and perception outside the internal perception of what we believe to be ourselves. Sartre helps us do away away with Kant’s dualism of noumena and phenomena, showing us that there is no ungraspable appearance behind things but rather only things in themselves as they appear.
The external self constitutes the internal self because that self is projected onto the external world and receives its selfhood back from the dialogue between the projection and reception of meaning. The internal self is not an objective reality but exists as interpreted through our perception of self that emerges through interaction with those things that we have relationality with in the world outside our physical bodies. In Sartre’s idea the for-itself of being makes of the world a blank canvas onto which it projects its being, and in marriage, to get back to the topic at hand, there is a mutual imprint of being which allows both giving and reception of being through mutual imprintedness.
Hopefully I have done some justice to what I believe Sartre is saying.
Marriage is the mystery by which human being becomes truly alive, it is sacramental, holy, and relational. The thing that changes is not the world, but our perception of self, from the myself which we are so involved in in our day to the ourself which is become myself. Therefore as we search for being in the world, the world reaches us through the eyes of another such that as we explore out for ourselves, the meaning of ourselves is presented to us in another. The other becomes the I and vice versa such that the other person is a mirror of ourselves as we explore identity through the perceptions and reflections brought out in the living interlocution of being. So that when we are called to love one another, as we do in marriage, we find our self consciousness should be caught up in neighbor consciousness. The I and Thou becomes the We that is You and the You that is the mirror of myself.
So how does all this preliminary dialogue take us back to the matter of sexuality?
Let’s begin with an assertion by the brilliant and moving theology of the body by Pope John Paul II:
It seems that the second narrative of creation has assigned to man “from the beginning” the function of the one who, above all, receives the gift (cf. especially Gn 2:23). “From the beginning” the woman is entrusted to his eyes, to his consciousness, to his sensitivity, to his heart. On the other hand, he must, in a way, ensure the same process of the exchange of the gift, the mutual interpenetration of giving and receiving as a gift. Precisely through its reciprocity, it creates a real communion of persons.
Giving and receiving is perichoretic, it is interpenetrational and dynamic between the two persons of the union making it sacred. The being of two persons becomes completely mysterious in that they become not absorbed in one another, nor annihilated in the other, but having substance in the other each person is a mirror to which the other looks for that penetrating substantiality. The giving is within both parties and the reception is within both parties. The man in the garden received the woman and looked upon her, being given over to him not in the sense of her reduction to object but in the sense of his embrace of her, his reception of her is in itself a giving. In her being received she is also receiving.
The man is enriched not only through her, who gives him her own person and femininity, but also through the gift of himself. The man’s giving of himself, in response to that of the woman, enriches himself. It manifests the specific essence of his masculinity which, through the reality of the body and of sex, reaches the deep recesses of the “possession of self.”…At the same time he is received as a gift by the woman, in the revelation of the interior spiritual essence of his masculinity, together with the whole truth of his body and sex. Accepted in this way, he is enriched through this acceptance and welcoming of the gift of his own masculinity. Subsequently, this acceptance, in which the man finds himself again through the sincere gift of himself, becomes in him the source of a new and deeper enrichment of the woman. The exchange is mutual. In it the reciprocal effects of the sincere gift and of the finding oneself again are revealed and grow.
It is in giving oneself to the other that the other becomes the mirror through which the self truly develops. The union of marriage sanctifies ontologically what already occurs naturally, and in their giving to each other, they are enriched. Marriage is an invitation to love one’s neighbor, to care for one another and to stand for one another.
So, in short what’s all this talk mean to me? I’ll tell you.
This body is sacred, it is baptized into the already resurrected body of Christ, my person is intimately connected with Christ, through the eucharist, and through the Spirit of life which animated Christ back to life and raised him from the dead. This body has been marked and sealed as a sacrament of the eschaton. Therefore when considering the integrity of the body, it is necessary that I should consider my person an extension of the literal body of Christ which is sacred.
Therefore as a sacramental entity this body and the bodies of my fellow humans are sacred, bearing in them the image of God, the image of Christ. Unity before marriage is not about merely disregarding a tradition, it is a violation of the spirit which animates us all, who is within us and gives us life. It is a violation of being reflecting onto another and being reflected on in such a way that the mirror formed in mutual union is never expunged and the connection is formed, because it has to do not strictly with an unimportant ritual but with the notion and condition of being itself is adultery an inadequate resolution.
To quote liberally someone, I believe it was C.S. Lewis, who said that the person who lusts does not love too much it is that the person loves too little to truly love at all.
In short, those are my thoughts for today. I hope that someone wanted to hear that. I know I’m not done with this topic, but thanks for tuning in.
Also, I realize i didn’t follow my basic outline at the start, sorry for those of you who expected better. whatever.