By Sr. Miriam Loveliand, SHM
Man is a unique being in the universe. In the Creed, we profess that God is Creator of everything “visible and invisible.” In a way, man appears as a synthesis of these two dimensions: he is composed of a spiritual soul and a material body.
Only man understood as body and soul is a full expression of the person. It is not that we have a soul and we have a body; rather, we are soul and we are body. Remembering this helps us to contextualize the call to communion that is spoken of in the book of Genesis. God has made us capable of love, of entering into communion. However, we are not angels. In the last article, we saw how man is called to govern himself not by instinct, but by reason enlightened by faith. We also saw how the image of God is imprinted in the soul of man in his capacity to know and to choose; that is, in his capacity to love.
This love and this communion do not remain a spiritual reality alone, but must become flesh.
For this love to be authentic, it must imply my entire person, and my person includes the bodily aspect. I can tell my spouse every day that I love him or her, but if that love is never manifested exteriorly with a smile, a kiss, a sign of affection or respect, the words are emptied of their meaning. It is a simple example, but it helps us to realize that the body is an expression of the person.
Moreover, certain bodily expressions are universal. If I see someone smile, it is obvious that he or she is happy, and no one has to explain it to me. The body allows me to express on the outside a reality that I carry within my soul. John Paul II, in his catechesis of the Theology of the Body, says that “the body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine.” In the story of Genesis, when Adam and Eve see their nakedness, they discover in the human body an invitation to donation. The love that they have for each other and for which their souls were created finds its adequate expression and fulfillment in the bodily union made possible by sexual difference. They discover that even in their corporality they are a gift for one another. The body makes it possible to express the interior and invisible reality of love. The call to communion in love is fulfilled even physically, and therefore encompasses the entire person.
With that said, every bodily sign is a call to honesty. A smile in itself speaks of sincerity and simplicity, of friendship and understanding. To use it as a way of deceiving a person, hiding behind it evil intentions, would be to undermine the smile. It converts it into a lie.
The bodily union of the conjugal act is an expression not only of a total and loving gift of self, but also of the spiritual communion of the spouses. This spiritual communion is the bond of matrimony referred to by God in Genesis: “the two of them become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Precisely because the two are now “one flesh,” the bodily union reaches its fullest meaning as an expression of this communion. As a natural sign, it does not admit another meaning: it is already inscribed by God in creation itself.
When this union takes place without there first being a spiritual communion, the bond of matrimony, the sign is undermined. With my body I am expressing something that does not exist; I become a liar.
What appears in the beginning to be a wonderful gift from God to express and deepen the union of spouses and a mutual aid in their sanctification, can become a cause of perdition when we strip it of its true and full meaning.
©HM Magazine; nº202 May-June 2018