Thursday, September 15, 2011

2. We are made as gifts to each other and the body expresses that

This post is about the very first section of Theology of the Body (highlighted):    
      Part 1: Who Are We? Establishing an Adequate Anthropology
         Cycle 1: Original Man (Catecheses 1-23)        

         Cycle 2: Historical Man 
         Cycle 3: Eschatological Man
      Part 2: How Are We to Live? Applying an Adequate Anthropology
         Cycle 4: Christ and the Church
         Cycle 5: The Dimension of Sign
         Cycle 6: Love and Fruitfulness

The Pharisees come to Jesus with a burning question, testing him as they seem to do so many times. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” Jesus answers their question, just as he answers our contemporary questions, without falling into their trap, and he does so by pointing to a totally different reality. The question can’t be answered on the level and terms they’re placing it at… he tries to show them the BIGGER picture and does so by pointing them to the BEGINNING. “From the beginning it was not so” he says twice.
John Paul II takes us carefully along the path Jesus indicated, when he pointed to the beginning, and the reflections on the theology of the body begin by retelling that beginning. This part looks at questions like: Who am I? Who created me? Why? What’s the purpose of life? What does it mean to be created in the image of God? What does it mean to be created male and female? What is happiness? What is love?
John Paul II recounts step by step and breaks open, always with reference to Christ’s words, the two creation stories in Genesis. We learn in this very ancient story, which is also our story, that man is created with much intention and thought from God. As God goes along, creating this and that at a fast-paced rhythm, he stops before creating man (TOB 2:3). Almost as if he is aware of the risk that it is to create man... who with free will can do a lot of damage. God stops and takes the blueprint for man out of HIMSELF. So although man is very obviously tied to the physical world, it is also obvious that he is different. He, like God, is able to subdue and control the world and he receives all of creation as a gift. “Creation is a gift, because man appears in it, who, as an ‘image of God,’ is able to understand the very meaning of the gift in the call from nothing to existence” (TOB 13:4).
Three very important words/themes in this first section are SOLITUDE, UNITY and NAKEDNESS. This first realization of man, that he is different from the rest of the world, is the linked to the first part of this solitude. Man is made in the image of God, even more… he’s a “partner of the Absolute” (TOB 6:2) and this is a great gift: “Man is ‘alone’: this is to say that through his own humanity, through what he is, he is at the same time set into a unique, exclusive, and unrepeatable relationship with God himself” (TOB 6:2). Yet another part of this solitude is that it OPENS HIM UP to another… it doesn’t close him up all by himself. Creation is complete when man wakes up as man and woman and Adam rejoices when he sees Eve! He says “AT LAST, this is flesh from my flesh…” as if he’s been searching for a long time. And she is taken from his rib, meaning that she is the same kind of different he is… before being his bride, she is his sister in the same humanity (remind you of Song of Songs? My sister, my bride…). Before, Adam knew he didn’t identify with any of the animals God had created, but now he knows he identifies with Eve… “The man recognizes and finds his own humanity ‘with the help’ of the woman” (TOB 12:3).
And so the second word, UNITY, comes into play. Adam realizes that he was made not only for God, but also for Eve. Not only is he the image of God because of his ability to rule the world, but also through his ability to unite with another, through the communion of persons. First he received the world as a gift and now he receives the other human being as a gift. And he is so happy to receive her! It is the first time man speaks in the text and “one could even venture to say that the depth and power of this first and ‘original’ emotion of the man before the humanity of the woman…seems something unique and unrepeatable” (TOB 9:1). Man discovers himself in the woman and the woman “at the same time ‘discovers herself,’ thanks to the fact that she has been received by the man” (TOB 17:5). And here we begin to see the revolution that these papal reflections are: all along the centuries, theologians (St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas) have interpreted "being made in the image of God" as our rational, capacity. Pope John Paul II says yes to this, but we are image of God ALSO in the communion of persons. The mystery of the trinity, an eternal exchange of love between three persons, is imprinted in our humanity! We were made to give ourselves to others, give and receive love.
This exultation of Adam before Eve, their union, their ability to give themselves totally to each other is made possible by their INNOCENCE before the fall (the next section will take up what happens with the fall). And this is because they were “naked, but did not feel shame”. This “did not feel shame” isn’t a lack of something, as if they were imperfect, but is rather a FULLNESS. Man recognizes his humanity by seeing the woman, and this “act of discovery on the part of both brings about at the same time a perception of the world that occurs directly through the body (‘flesh of my flesh’)” (TOB 12:3). Before sin, Adam still sees as God sees and is able to see the original good of his plan: “’Nakedness’ signifies the original good of the divine vision” (TOB 13:1). He sees in the body of the woman not an object for his pleasure and use (that’s after the fall), but instead he sees the human identity of both, the reciprocity and complementarities of both. The body says something: that we were made for another. He still sees it as a gift for him, just as he is a gift for her. “The body, which expresses femininity ‘for’ masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity ‘for’ femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons. It expresses it through GIFT AS THE FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTIC OF PERSONAL EXISTENCE” (TOB 14:4). The body is able to express love. Original innocence is right intention because it is consciousness of the meaning of the body. They are able to see the FULLNESS of being mutual gifts to one another, not reducing the other to an object for use. “Happiness is being rooted in Love. Original happiness speaks to us about the ‘beginning’ of man, who emerged from love and initiated love” (TOB 16:2).
The roots of love start here, and we see we are created to manifest and embody love, and we also catch a glimmer of what the opposite of love is… use… which will be come up in the next section.
The Bathers by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Bathers by Renoir

Original innocence is seeing from the inside out, seeing the invisible in the visible. Artists also see from the heart and struggle to share it with the world. We see the Renoir's intention here to portray innocence very clearly, as was explained to me by Fr. Thomas Loya.
and a little snippet of music:

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