“In every man without exception the historical state plunges its roots deeply into his theological prehistory, which is the state of original innocence” (Theology of the Body 4:1).
To enter into and understand this quote more deeply, some context is needed into St. John Paul II’s language. St. John Paul II distinguishes three different states of man in his Theology of the Body. The first state is original man, which is the state in the garden before the fall, where we were in perfect love with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
“Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead” (CCC 357).
This was the original meaning of our existence, and though we can never fully go back to our original state, “we are to live according to the original norm, even though we suffer the effects of original sin” (Hogan Pg. 39).
The second state is that of historical man, which St. John Paul II describes as the state we are in now. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
“Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history” (CCC 386).
We now must realize that sin has entered into the world because of the fall, but sin certainly does not define us. As St. John Paul II said, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus” (Homily, 2002).
The third and final state is eschatological man which is our future state in heaven in perfect union with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about eschatological man:
“Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they ‘see him as he is,’ face to face” (CCC 1023).
This is the state for which we all so desperately long. One could say that, “The whole purpose of our creation, the whole purpose of our redemption is so that we may be fully united with God in every aspect of our being” (The fulfillment of all Desire, Pg. 8).
St. John Paul II begins his whole catechesis by alluding to the beginning before there was concupiscence. He focuses on the verse, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). Using this Bible verse as a springboard, St. John Paul II reflects on the fact that, although we are living as fallen man and must deal with concupiscence and sin, we as Catholics are called to rise above concupiscence as Jesus is calling us to do.
In the same way that St. John Paul II starts with the beginning, you too are also at a beginning. You are beginning a journey that will likely be one of the most difficult you will ever have to traverse, but it is attainable. We must always remember the power of God and how he can work if we allow him. I thought for so long that concupiscence was too strong, that everybody deals with lust, and that there is no way to conquer it. I began to think of it just as part of being human. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Theology of the Body that I realized that “in the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8).
We must never forget the way we were originally made, and God’s original plan for all of us. In the beginning, there was no concupiscence and no lust, only love. Lust is a symptom of the fall, and it only becomes a festering disease if we make the active choice to allow it. Because of the fall, concupiscence entered the world; but the only real difference between our original state in the garden and our state here and now is that we lost the grace of God. “Christ is expecting us to go beyond the boundary caused by original sin” (Hogan pg. 39). We can still rise above concupiscence, we can trample over lust with love, but we need to ask for God’s grace.
© Tommy Shultz, 2017
I do not claim any rights to the photo used.
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Tommy is a full time speaker who has worked for years in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. As an experienced speaker on all things Catholic, he has addressed thousands of teens and young adults on topics such as the sacraments, chastity, and boldly living the Catholic faith. He has given many talks and hosted retreats across the nation. Driven by his passion for Theology of the Body, Tommy studied at the Theology of the Body Institute and has spoken at numerous Theology of the Body conferences. From 2012-2013, he served as a missionary of purity, speaking to over 20 thousand youth about the message of purity across the state of Pennsylvania. He worked as the Director of youth and young adult ministries for the Diocese of Baker, OR. He is also a founder of the Corpus Christi Theology of the Body campus organization at Franciscan University. He is a solutions evangelist for Diocesan Publications, a leading Catholic communications company.