|The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, Domenichino, 1626.|
Editor's note: Each Tuesday we will feature posts discussing Saint John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body; his reflection on our nature and life as persons made in the image and likeness of God, conjugal love, the meaning of celibacy, and the eternal beatitude to which every human being is called.
"Satan’s lie in the garden condemned humanity to lives of sin, drudgery and inexorable physical death. Prior to the Fall, the created world and everything in it functioned precisely as God intended. It was in short, Paradise.
We don't often think of it this way, but before the first sin, the entire world was a temple in which human beings worshiped the one true God. Man fully possessed original goodness and original justice. With Adam’s sin, the world at large stopped being a temple. It became necessary to build a temple where God could be worshiped. Man had to purify himself before entering this sacred space. Everything in the created world was profaned including human nature, our relationship to beauty, truth and goodness, our relationship with the natural world, our relationships with each other, and our relationship with God. Paradise was lost."
God’s law is not a capricious set of rules. It is, rather, the means through which we may flourish as the adopted sons and daughters of a loving Father. Returning to the Fall, as previously mentioned, the effects of the first sin were catastrophic.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in relationships between men and women. To love is the essential activity of the human person. We were created to love others and to receive love from others. Because our bodies make visible what is invisible in the world, it is through our bodies that we are called to be selfless and self-donative. This is evident most obviously in the conjugal union. Moreover, we are called to love and to serve others in numerous ways using our bodies. We cannot serve others unless we have a physical self to serve with. Man can only discover himself through a sincere gift of himself.
Before sin, Adam and Eve clearly perceived this truth. After sin, it became cluttered and obscure. For the children of Adam and Eve it remains so. We struggle daily to reject sin and selfishness in order to love and serve others more fully. In the beginning love was undiluted and spontaneous; an instantaneous impulse, an automatic, unthinking act. It was in their spiritual DNA to do this.
Now with historical man, (that is man after the first sin) we do not automatically love as God loves. It takes work and conscious effort. In many ways, it is a battle among our heart, our will, and our body. In the beginning, there was no struggle. At the end of human history, we will see God face to face in Heaven. On that day, we will love perfectly like God loves us, and sin will be no more. Fortunately for us, God became man. In the culmination of his earthly ministry, Christ restores the nuptial meaning of the body by making a "sincere gift" of himself to his Bride [the Church] on the cross. More on our Lord's supreme sacrifice in a future post.