“This is the body: a witness to creation as a fundamental gift, and therefore a witness to love as the source from which this same giving springs.”
The spousal meaning of the body is essential to understanding all of the concepts we have talked about thus far. In fact, it is at the core of all the concepts. Adam and Eve would not have been able to experience original solitude, original unity, or original nakedness if they did not first realize that they were meant to be a gift to others.
When talking of the spousal meaning of the body, “Spousal has to do with the love expressed between spouses, a love that makes the two one. Body, as we’ve seen before, refers to the human body. Therefore, if we put the two together, ‘spousal meaning of the body’ means ‘the body is made for union.’ But not just any type of union – union and communion through a sincere gift of self” (Zeno pg. 23).
So man is meant to be a gift to others. So much so, man is the highest expression of the gift of God to humanity. St. John Paul II says, “Man appears in the visible world as the highest expression of the divine gift, because he bears within himself the inner dimension of the gift” (TOB 19:3).
Adam saw he was alone because he knew there was nobody in the Garden with whom he could physically share himself. He longed to be a gift. Eve also experienced this longing when she was made. Because of this longing, they came together in perfect unity as husband and wife, giving themselves to each other. They looked at each other in a pure way because they saw the gift in the other person and that they were meant to be a gift as well.
Now, this gift comes first and foremost from God since he created us as male and female. He is the creator of the gift. God had no reason to create us besides to love us. Being perfect, he does not need us. But because he has created us and has given us the gift of life, we are all called to take that gift and give it to others.
This gift is what St. John Paul II refers to as the spousal meaning of the body which I briefly mentioned yesterday as having two major tenants. The first being that every person has inalienable dignity, and the second being that the person is made for self gift.
This could also be seen as the nuptial meaning of the body. “The nuptial meaning of the body is thus an invitation, written into our very corporeality, to recognize that everything we have is a gift, beginning with ourselves and our very existence” (Called to love pg.70).
We can think of our very sexuality as a gift under a tree at Christmas. A child receives a gift and is told not to open it until Christmas. But before Christmas, the child can see certain things about the gift such as its shape or weight. In the same way, we have been given the gift of sexuality by God. He has told us not to open it until marriage, but the spousal meaning of the body does not refer just to marriage. In fact, we can be a gift to others, even through our sexuality, before marriage. For example, a boyfriend can give his girlfriend a loving kiss to show her that he cherishes her. As long as there is no lust or use, then they are using their sexuality in the proper way at the proper time. This is essentially what chastity is. It is using our sexuality as a gift to others, but in the proper way and at the proper time. Having sex before marriage would be to open that gift before Christmas and that can lead to disappointment.
Pornography is taking the gift God has given us and dragging it through the mud. It is saying that we have a better plan for it. Before we even realize it, oftentimes we have destroyed the gift. This is why it is so important to look back to the beginning so that we can see God’s original plan for his gift to us.
© Tommy Shultz, 2017
I do not claim any rights to the photo used.
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