Topics

Jenna McDonald — Grace Is Waiting 

Theology of the Body time bomb is still ticking

Voices Jan. 22, 2019

The Theology of the Body teaches us that if we abide in God and listen to his spirit, we can give and receive his very love with our bodies as the medium of transfer, writes Colleen Roy.  (Andre Furtado/Pexels)


Plato was the first to say it; St. Thomas Aquinas among many other Christian writers articulated and emphasized it: Love is diffusive.

The universe, in keeping with its creator, continually expands along with our understanding of it. Likewise for theology; it expands as our knowledge deepens and at the rate at which God reveals his mysteries to the Church by means of the Holy Spirit.

One such revelation is called the Theology of the Body.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now,” Jesus says in John’s Gospel. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

In his biography of Pope John Paul II, George Weigel writes that the Theology of the Body is a ticking time bomb set to go off sometime in this century with “dramatic consequences.” He says that it has not yet been fully absorbed and integrated into the daily life of most Catholics but when it does, it will dramatically shift the way we think about and practise “every major theme in the creed.”

The Theology of the Body was a series of general audience addresses given by Pope John Paul II between 1979 and 1984. In these addresses, John Paul II presented a working theology for the role of the body in communicating God’s life to the world.

Christopher West, a foremost commentator on the Theology of the Body, writes 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.”

Wherever there is something holy, there is always a battleground. And truly, our bodies are certainly subject to our wrath, abuse, and so much misunderstanding. So many of the divisive issues of our day are focused on what we are legally allowed to do to our bodies and to our children’s bodies.

But the battle is much more personal than politics. When the body is considered out of context, when it is divorced from its relationship to love, then destruction and selfishness abound.

But, if we abide in God and listen to his spirit at work in our souls, we are able to give and receive the very love of God with our bodies as the medium of transfer.  

All of this is because of the great power of the body to speak loudly and clearly about God’s love.

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” St. Paul writes to the Hebrews. “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me;  in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.’”

Our ancestors relied on elaborate animal sacrifices to win favour with God. But Jesus tells us something new; our bodies are our connection to God the Father. They are from God and we can make “gifts of ourselves” by the way we live in our God-given bodies. We are each a unique and unrepeatable gift to the world.

We can make a gift of ourselves to the world in our everyday dealings by the way we express warmth and concern by our sheer physicality. In marriage, we express what words cannot in the total gift of ourselves to the other.

In Psalm 139 we read: “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” and “my frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret.”

Because our bodies were so intentionally “prepared” for us, how could they not proclaim something about the creator?