“Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door” (TOB 23:4).
St. John Paul II in his Theology of the Body continually remarks that our bodies are “capable of making visible what is invisible” (TOB 19:4). So let’s dig a little deeper and focus specifically on what St. John Paul II calls sacramentality of the body and how that allows for him to use the term theology of the body.
The reality of the Christian faith is that an invisible God, who is pure spirit, has made himself visible to us out of complete love for us. He has done this through becoming man in the incarnation. Because God made the choice to become man, we can now only experience the complete fullness of God through the body. This is why St. John Paul II could say, “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 be a sign of it” (TOB 19:4).
What is the mystery hidden from all eternity? The catechism tells us very clearly. “God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC 221).
Because God has destined us to share in that exchange, he knew that it was not enough to have a spiritual love from God. We need a physical love from God as well, as physical beings. This physical love that we need is shown to us through the Incarnation (the Word became flesh), and the fulfillment of that reality for us on this earth is the Holy Eucharist.
So why can we call the body a sacrament? Well, let us look at that word a little bit. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes sacraments as, “Outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification” (Catholic Encyclopedia). This is why every sacrament in the Catholic faith needs matter (something physical) and form (spoken words or rituals). A sacrament would not be valid without a physical manifestation of the form.
This is why our bodies can enter into the definition of a sacrament because they are a visible sign of an invisible reality. Because God became man and took on flesh, because he redeemed the flesh by his blood on the cross, and because we are made in the image and likeness of this person who became flesh, our bodies are a visible sign of an invisible God. This is why St. John Paul II could say,
“In some way, therefore – even if in the most general way – the body enters into the definition of sacrament, which is a visible sign of an invisible reality, namely, of the spiritual, transcendent, and divine reality” (TOB 87:5).
So when we realize our dignity as sons and daughters of God and the dignity of those around us, it can become easier to fight pornography because we do not want to profane something that shows us God and his love.
© Tommy Shultz, 2017
I do not claim any rights to the photo used.
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