October 31, 2017

TOB Tuesday: Marriage is a "Communion of Persons"

The creation of Eve

Editor's note: Occasionally on Tuesday we will feature posts discussing St. 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.

Most Reverend Robert J. Baker, S.T.D.
Bishop of Birmingham, Alabama 

(Excerpted from a pastoral letter delivered as Bishop of Charleston)  

Only a careful reflection on Sacred Scripture, done in unison with the Tradition of the Church, can provide the understanding of the human person which the Church can present for our reflection. This is what Pope John Paul II did as he took the Lord's discussion with a group of Pharisees and especially noted that the Lord made reference to the original intent of the Creator when he said, "from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:8). Then, going to the beginning, to the Book of Genesis, the pope carefully considers how the original mystery of human sexuality and the human person is understood in the Bible.

He sees there a description of an original solitude which propels the human person toward community with the 'other', the spouse to whom he is conjoined in an original unity, which the pope calls a "communion of persons." This unity was a real entity, established through the flesh and existing between the man and the woman, who, before their disobedience, "were both naked, yet they felt no shame" (Gn. 2:25). He likewise describes with precision just what was lost on the occasion of humanity's original sin as he references the alienation of the person from his/her Creator, his/her self, his/her spouse, and the human community....

A central tenet of the Theology of the Body is that faithful, self-donative love, and the communion which results from the giving and receiving of that gift, is the creative dynamic which reflects the inner life of the Holy Trinity. Self-donative love is the gift of self on behalf of another person. It is the life-giving love of the Trinity at creation. It is the love of Jesus Christ, especially at Calvary. It is the love which inspired the martyrs of the Church, and it is the love which is the heart of the marriage covenant. From this generous gift of self for the other flows the whole of the Gospel. The Holy Trinity is understood by Pope John Paul II as three Divine Persons who give of themselves completely, one unto the other in.... perfection. It is here that St. John the Evangelist refers in his famous statement that "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God." (1 Jn. 4:16).

Self-donative love far exceeds simply having the warm emotion of love and good intentions for our neighbors. In this spousal love we die to self so that the other might live, such as we saw in.... Saint Maximilian Kolbe when he offered his life so that another prisoner in a concentration camp of World War II might live.

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