Workshop (3) – The Main Thesis of Theology of the Body

Waldstein discusses the main thesis of the on pages 204-206 of Logos and Glory. The beauty and the sacredness of the human body are deeply appreciated and given their true meaning and foundation in the theology of the body
“The communion between man and woman completed by sexual union effectively signifies the union between Christ and the Church and, more deeply, the communion of persons in the Trinity. In accord with the double aspect of a sacrament as an efficacious sign of grace, the body not only signifies supernatural communion in the Holy Spirit, but effectively makes it present.

Man appears in the visible world as the highest expression of the divine act of giving, because he bears within himself the inner dimension of the gift. In this dimension, he brings into the world his particular likeness to God with which he transcends and also rules his “visibility” in the world, his bodylines, his masculinity or femininity, his nakedness. A reflection of this likeness is also the primordial awareness of the spousal meaning of the body pervaded by the mystery of original innocence. In this way, in this dimension [that is, the dimension of the gift], this most original sacrament [namely, marriage, as instituted in the creation of man and woman] is constituted. We understand a sacrament as a sign that efficaciously transmits in the visibility of the world the invisible mystery hidden in God from eternity. It is the mystery of Truth and Love [that is, the mystery of the Trinity, cf. Gaudium et spes 24:3], the mystery of divine life, in which man receives a real participation. In the history of man, original innocence realizes the very beginning of this participation and it is also the source of original happiness. The sacrament [marriage as the most original sacrament], as a visible sign, is constituted through man as a “body,” through the body’s “visible” masculinity and femininity. 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 (, TOB 19:3-4).

Here is the main thesis statement of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Why did God create the human body? He created it to transfer into the visible world the mystery of the communion of persons in the Trinity in which human beings come to share through sacramental signs. The most original sacrament, which introduces the whole sacramental order, is the marriage instituted in Genesis 2 with the divine words: “they will be one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The total gift implied in spousal love reflects and communicates the eternal total gift in the Trinity.”

Comments (JPH):
The main thesis of the theology of the body makes explicit what is contained in the notion of marriage as a sacrament (“For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32) The human body, constituted as male or female, remains an original and profound sign of divine love. The culture, such as American culture, that encourages a distortion of sexuality — by obscuring or degrading the beauty of the body, reducing persons to things, abusing the body in its wholesomeness and purity — defaces and loses the sign character of love. Love disappears from the culture, replaced by a sham or pseudo togetherness that has no endurance (love endures all things). Sexuality is not about self-expression or self-gratification, but sexuality is about, that is, it signifies and enacts, personal self-giving.  The authentic and lasting communion of persons is rooted in marriage. As Blessed John Paul II wrote in his Letter to Families:

Love then is not a utopia: it is given to mankind as a task to be carried out with the help of divine grace. It is entrusted to man and woman, in the Sacrament of Matrimony, as the basic principle of their “duty”, and it becomes the foundation of their mutual responsibility: first as spouses, then as father and mother. In the celebration of the Sacrament, the spouses give and receive each other, declaring their willingness to welcome children and to educate them. On this hinges human civilization, which cannot be defined as anything other than a “civilization of love”. The family is an expression and source of this love. Through the family passes the primary current of the civilization of love, which finds therein its “social foundations”.

Modern eroticized culture is a short circuit. The theology of the body provides the key and the clue to the restoration of human dignity and human flourishing in the modern world.

[The three pages from Logos and Glory may be found here.].

Join us!

* indicates required