October 4, 2016

TOB Tuesday: The Spousal Meaning of the Body

The Holy Family
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. 

Men were made to love women just as women were made to love men. We were all made to love as God loves. To love the way God loves is to love completely, holding nothing back. Adam and Eve knew this immediately upon seeing each other for the first time. It is inscribed in our bodies; their very physicality speaks this truth. Sex is sacred. It must be protected and revered as a holy and mysterious union.

Women express the unrepeatable feminine incarnations of the human person that they are when they love their husbands. In so doing they honor and love God. Men express the unrepeatable masculine incarnations of the human person that they are when they love their wives. In so doing they also love God.

The celibate is called to love by offering up their masculinity or femininity to God and by serving others. Nuns live a beautiful vocation by being spouses to Christ. This is not a sexual union but a profound spiritual union. Likewise, priests and religious brothers offer up their masculinity to God by loving and serving the church. Their role model is Christ who offered his life for God’s people.

Spiritual love like that shared by the Trinity, brings a joy greater than sexual fulfillment. It is difficult to imagine a joy greater than sexual bliss since most of us have never experienced it. The holy family did. The Virgin Mary and Joseph, her husband, refrained from sexual relations. Jesus, of course, was their son. Having God in their midst was an unrivaled joy. Nothing in the world could possibly compare with it. The happiness this brought was something we can only imagine.

In Heaven, we will see God face-to-face. This intimacy with God is something the celibate witnesses to in the here-and-now. Many religious testify to a love of God that is beyond words. It animates their lives, enabling them to love selflessly in imitation of Christ.

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