Theology of the Body

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Theology of the Body refers to a series of 129 lectures given by Pope John Paul II during his Wednesday audiences in the Pope Paul VI Hall between September 1979 and November 1984. It was the first major teaching of his pontificate and the complete addresses were later compiled and published as a single work entitled The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan.

Previous popes gave Wednesday audiences as Pope John Paul II did. However, no other Pope gave a series of audiences all part of a coherent theme. The delivery of the Theology of the Body series did have interruptions. For example, the Wednesday audiences were devoted to other topics during the Holy Year of Redemption in 1983.<ref name="hogan">Template:Cite web</ref>

Contents

[edit] Topics

The work covers such topics as the unified corporeal and spiritual qualities of the human person; the origins, history and destiny of humanity; the deepest desires of the human heart and the way to experience true happiness and freedom; the truth about man's need and desire for loving communion derived from the revealed understanding of humanity in the image of a Triune Creator; the truth about God's original design for human sexuality, how it was distorted through sin, and how it has been restored and renewed through the redemption of Jesus Christ; and Catholic teachings about the sacramentality of marriage.

The central thesis of John Paul's Theology of the Body, according to author Christopher West, is that "the body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it."<ref>West, Christopher (2004). Theology of the Body for Beginners. Ascension Press, 5. ISBN 1-932645-34-9.</ref>

[edit] Christian ideal of marriage

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In this first cycle, Pope John Paul II discusses Christ's answer to the Pharisees when they ask him about whether a man can divorce his wife.<ref name="hogan" />

  • Matthew 19
    • 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." NIV

[edit] Adultery

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This second cycle focuses on Christ's remarks on adultery in the Sermon on the Mount.<ref name="hogan" />

  • Matthew 5:27-28
    • 27 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." NIV

[edit] Resurrection of the body

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The third cycle analyzes Christ’s answer to the Sadducees when they come to him and ask him about a woman who had married seven brothers.<ref name="hogan" />

[edit] Celibacy and virginity

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The fourth cycle is a meditation on celibacy and virginity.<ref name="hogan" />

[edit] Sacrament of marriage

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The fifth cycle discusses the sacrament of marriage.<ref name="hogan" />

[edit] Contraception

Pope John Paul II began his discussion of contraception on 11 July 1984 with the one hundred fourteenth lecture in this series. This section of the lecture series, the sixth and final part, is largely a reflection on Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI. In it, John Paul continues his emphasis on the design of the human body revealing God's truths. It is explained and reaffirmed that the fundamental structure of males and females, which causes sexual intercourse between them to result in both greater intimacy and the capability of generating new life, demonstrates a morally inseparable connection between these two functions.

The authority of the Magisterium (teaching authority of the Church) to interpret the divine intention (in this context, through the structure of the body), is emphasized. Although the Church's teachings on sexuality do not stem directly from biblical text, they are part of longstanding Church tradition that was created in the context of scriptural teachings.(18 July 1984)

The ability of the human body to express truth through the sexual union of married couples is acclaimed. The moral wrongness of using artificial means to manipulate such a significant aspect of the created body is explained. Dominion over outside forces, and also self-mastery through discipline, are integral human drives. However, the language expressed by bodies, in this context the language expressed during sexual intercourse, is so damaged by the use of artificial contraception that the conjugal act "ceases to be an act of love... [or] communion of persons" but rather is a mere bodily union.(22 August 1984)

On the other hand, the licitness of natural family planning (NFP) methods is presumed to be evident from the structure of the human body, which has natural periods of fertility and infertility. The morality of these methods was literally designed into the body, and use of them, unlike use of artificial contraception, can actually improve the dialog between couples which is expressed through the language of the body.(5 Septemper 1984) Throughout these speeches the main emphasis is on the intrinsic goodness of the marital act. The power of love between spouses is said to both lead to and be nourished by the moral use of the conjugal act. Thus, moral exercise of sexual intercourse uses the form of the body to reveal the love of God toward Creation.(10 October 1984)

While following the rules of NFP does not guarantee a truly spiritual sexual relationship between husband and wife, understanding the theology that makes NFP acceptable can foster the maturity needed by the couple to attain that level of spirituality,(7 November 1984) living life by the Holy Spirit.(14 November 1984) Also, Pope John Paul II warns couples against "lowering the number of births in their family below the morally correct level." Responsible parenthood is greatly encouraged, however it is emphasized that while this sometimes means limiting family size, responsible parenthood can also mandate couples to increase their family size. This is because of the good children bring not only their immediate family, but also to their society and Church.(5 September 1984)

The seriousness of a couple's decision to maintain or increase their family size is discussed. John Paul refers to Gaudium et Spes, a document issued by the Second Vatican Council, which emphasizes the importance of couples' having their conscience guided by the law of God.(1 August 1984) The difficulty inherent in and endurance required to consciously regulate births with these methods is discussed, although largely in the context of the integral part played by the burdens of life as Christians follow the "hard way" through the "narrow gate".(3 October 1984) In fact, the kind of discipline necessary to practice periodic continence is claimed to impart licit conjugal acts with deeper meaning, as well as bringing out the ability of a married couple to express love through non-sexual acts.(24 & 31 October & 21 November 1984)

John Paul states many other benefits claimed for moral use of NFP, some from Humanae Vitae. These include an increase of marital peace, less spousal selfishness, increased and more positive influence over their children,(5 September 1884), and increased dignity of person through following the law of God.(25 July 1984) Use of NFP is also said to increase appreciation of children, by fostering respect for what is created by God.(14 November 1984)

[edit] Commentary

Complicated by the use of different translations, a mix of gender specific language within some versions of the teaching may be a problem for some contemporary English readers. Within its discussion of human sexuality to use the word "man" to refer to both all humankind and males (as distinct from females). This could be confusing to some and indicate implicit sexism to others.

George Weigel has described Theology of the Body as "one of the boldest reconfigurations of Catholic theology in centuries." He goes on to say it is a "kind of theological time bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences... perhaps in the 21st century." Weigel believes that it has barely begun to "shape the Church's theology, preaching, and religious education" but when it does "it will compel a dramatic development of thinking about virtually every major theme in the Creed."<ref>Weigel, George (October 1999). Witness to Hope, First edition, Harper Perennial, 336, 343, 853. ISBN 0-06-018793-X.</ref>

[edit] Further reading

  • Pope John Paul II (September 2006). Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Pauline Books and Media. ISBN 0-8198-7421-3.
  • Kellmeyer, Steve (2004). Sex and the Sacred City. Bridegroom Press. ISBN 0-9718128-1-0.
  • Shivanandan, Mary (1999). Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage in the Light of John Paul II's Anthropology. Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 0-8132-0941-2.
  • West, Christopher (2003). Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul's "Gospel of the Body". Pauline Books and Media. ISBN 0-8198-7410-8.
  • Percy, Anthony (2006). Theology of the Body Made Simple. Pauline Books and Media. ISBN 0-8198-7419-1.
  • Hajduk, David (2006). God's Plan for You: Life, Love Marriage, Sex-- A Theology of the Body for Young People. Pauline Books and Media. ISBN 0-8198-4517-5.

[edit] See Also

Pope John Paul II
Christopher West

[edit] References

<references />

[edit] External links

Theology of the Body

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