The Nuptial Meaning of the Body (2)

Father Richard M. Hogan

Chapter 2

As we mentioned in the last chapter,[1] phenomenology studies the human person by examining individual human experiences.  It therefore re-connects reality (the external world) with the human person because individual experiences are of reality.  This re-linking of the individual with the real world overcomes the dualism implicit in Descartes.  Descartes and much of subsequent philosophical reflection had separated the human person from the exterior, real world.

"This re-linking of reality with the individual human person provides an opening to the study of the human person as he or she is in himself or herself.  Phenomenology leads to an examination of the human person, i.e., it leads to questions pertaining to truths about human existence.  For Wojtyla, these truths are those revealed by God. Phenomenology therefore is a route, a path, which links human experience with Revelation.

Further, through Max Scheler, phenomenology became a means of overcoming Kant’s ”categorical imperative.”  Kant had divorced ethical values from the external world and taught that they were unknowable, but were necessary for society.  On the contrary, Scheler argued that ethical values are part of the content of human experience. Each experience of the real, external world by an individual human person had an ethical content because every one is either attracted or repulsed by the objects of experience.  Phenomenology provided tools which could be used to isolate these ethical values. Therefore these ethical values could not only be known, but they were tied to the real, external world. 

While critical of Scheler’s ethics, Wojtyla saw that the contribution Scheler made was to re-connect ethics with experience.  Through the phenomenological study of human experiences, one came to understand the values which an individual had gleaned from human experience. By linking these values with the true nature of the person, revealed by God, one could evaluate them and affirm or correct them according to each circumstance.

As phenomenology taught, every experience is “contained” in one’s consciousness, one’s self-awareness of every act. (As persons, we not only act, but we “watch” ourselves acting through our self-awareness, our consciousness. Further, this consciousness “contains” all our experiences.  Therefore, our experiences shape us because they become part of us, part of our consciousness.  We can also “look” at what experiences our consciousness contains and discover what we have become.) Human persons can look at themselves, at their experiences, against the revealed truths of who they are and how they should act, and then decide for themselves if they acted appropriately. They could also decide for themselves to act differently or continue to act in the same way.  But the key was that this evaluation occurred within the mystery of each individual.  Morality (ethics) could now be seen as something given from within and in light of human experience, rather than as something from the outside.  Through its study of human experience, phenomenology linked the ethical values gleaned from experience with the mystery of the human person.  

While the study of subjective human experience could lead to a completely arbitrary set of ethics different for each individual, Wojtyla overcame this weakness in Scheler’s work through the revealed truth that each and every human person is created in the image and likeness of God.  Since phenomenology leads to the mystery of the human person and to a study of values (which are seen by each to be good or bad for him or for her), it necessarily “begs the question” which is asked in metaphysics: “Who is a human person?” or “Who am I?” and the corollary question: “How should a person act?” or “How should I act?” These questions transcend phenomenological investigations and are only revealed by God. They are fundamentally answered, argues Pope John Paul II, by God when He reveals that we are created in His image and likeness.[2] 

This truth, at the center of human personhood, answers the questions which every human being is led to ask through his or her own experiences. And once the revealed truth is known, it explains and illuminates all of human life and human experience.  It answers the subjective questions.  This revealed truth is embraced by the individual because it finally answers the question of human existence raised through human experience. In turn, this truth becomes the internal subjective norm for further acting, for further experiences.  And the subsequent experiences further validate the revealed truth.

As we mentioned in the previous chapter, human personhood is an objective fact, i.e., that God created us in His image and likeness. At the same time, this truth is the reason why every human person is a personal subject, i.e., why every person is capable of acting and shaping himself or herself through his or her acts. It is also the reason why every human person has an interior life. Through the truth that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, Wojtyla was able to link the subjectivity of the phenomenologists without losing the objectivity of the Gospel.

The phenomenological method as applied in theological reflection is at the heart of Pope John Paul II’sTheology of the Body. If the implications of this method are not clearly understood, then the principle points of the Theology of the Body series will be missed or, at the very least, misinterpreted. To use a favorite phrase of Pope John Paul II, let us re-read his Theology of the Body in light of his phenomenological method.

The Theology of the Body series is in a large part a study of the beginning chapters of Genesis. The Scriptures contain the Revelation of God. How is it possible to apply the phenomenological method, which studies human experiences, to revealed truths?  This fundamental question, of course, is obvious when one examines the writings of John Paul.  God does not reveal Himself to us “from on high.”  He does not, usually, “shout” from the mountain tops at us. Rather, Revelation occurs through the everyday experiences of life. God became man in order to relate to us in a completely human way. People met Him and heard Him. They had experiences of Him and experiences with Him.  These experiences, containing the truths of Revelation, can be the subject of a phenomenological investigation.  The meetings of people with Christ are simultaneously experiential (and therefore can be studied phenomenologically), but they also contain the content of Revelation. When phenomenology is applied to these experiences there is, so to speak, a double flow of data. There is the data which would come from any study of human experience which leads to the mystery of human personhood and, in addition, there is the data of Revelation which answers the very questions raised by the phenomenolgocial study of human personhood, namely, “Who am I?” Who is a human person?” etc. etc.

The fullness of Revelation came through Christ, the very Word of God.  However, God had revealed Himself in the Old Testament as well. The Revelation in the Old Testament had also come in and through human experiences. They have the same characteristics which the Revelation of Christ has.  There is the double flow of data: the phenomenological data from human experience leading to the mystery of human personhood as well as the answers to these questions (given through Revelation).

The first cycle of the Theology of the Body series is a study of the first three chapters of Genesis, primarily of the second and third chapters. John Paul begins with Christ’s answers to the Pharisees when they ask him whether it is lawful to divorce one’s wife. Christ answers that “from the beginning” God made them (human beings) male and female and “ ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate."[3]  Noticing the word “beginning” in Christ’s answer, John Paul teaches that all those who heard Christ would have known that He was referring to the very first words of the Bible, of the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning.”[4]  Christ’s reference to the Creation of human beings as male and female is clearly to the first chapter of Genesis when God “created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”[5] But John Paul also remarks that the second part of Christ’s answer, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. And so they are no longer two, but one flesh” is actually a reference to the second chapter of Genesis: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”[6]

In his answer, the Lord linked the first and the second chapters of Genesis. Of course, they complement one another and teach the same truths. However, these two chapters were written by two different authors separated by centuries.  More importantly, they were written from different perspectives.  The Pope remarks that the first chapter of Genesis is “free from any trace whatsoever of subjectivism. It contains only theobjective facts and defines the objective reality.”[7] However, he argues that the second chapter is primarilysubjective.  “It could be said that Gen. 2 presents the creation of man especially in its subjective aspect. Comparing both accounts, we arrive at the conclusion that this subjectivity corresponds to the objective reality of man created ‘in the image of God’.”[8]  

John Paul sees in the second chapter of Genesis the record of some of the very first human experiences.  The examination of these experiences through the phenomenological method is not only possible, but ought to be undertaken, for a richer understanding of humanity. At the same time, the record of these experiences are part and parcel of God’s Revelation.  Therefore, they contain God’s Revelation as well as the record of the self-awareness (consciousness) of the first human persons on earth. The second chapter of Genesis has the double flow of data mentioned above.

In addition, as the Pope remarks, the Revelation given in a subjective way (through the record of the first human experiences) in the second chapter of Genesis confirms and repeats the Revelation given objectively in the first chapter. Everything revealed in the first chapter in an objective way is revealed subjectively in the second chapter.  A further point is also essential. Not only is the Word of God revealed through human experience in the second chapter of Genesis, but that very Revelation must be interpreted in light of one’s own experiences. As the Pope teaches, “In the interpretation of the revelation about man, and especially about the body, we must, for understandable reasons, refer to experience, since corporeal man is perceived by us mainly by experience.”[9]

From the first four addresses of the Theology of the Body series, the papal project is clear.  The phenomenological method will be applied to the experiences recorded in the second chapter of Genesis.  This examination leads us to the mystery of the human person (as all phenomenological studies do) and at the same time will lead us to what God is revealing through these experiences.  The revealed truths, especially those concerned with the body, will then need to be seen in light of further experience.  The Pope will also keep in mind during his examination the truths revealed in an objective way in the first chapter of Genesis.  These will be a kind of “control” on the analysis of experience undertaken phenomenologically.

This study is not simply an historical investigation into the first human beings on earth because we can all place ourselves in the position of the Pharisees approaching Christ and asking the question about marriage. Further, every human being who has lived, is living, or will live “is rooted in his revealed theological prehistory,” i.e., in the experiences recorded in Genesis 2 before sin.[10]  Although, we are all born with sin, this truth is, so to speak, the negative pole of our existence.  This negative pole cannot be adequately comprehended without knowing the positive pole, i.e., what it was like to be a human being without sin.

It is easy to understand why the Pope chose to analyze the beginnings chapters of Genesis. The first chapter of Genesis gives the objective truths of Creation.   The second chapter is the record of the initial experiences of the first human beings.  With the truths of Revelation given in successive chapters in two different modes, the objective and subjective, there could hardly be in all of Scripture or Tradition more appropriate chapters to apply the phenomenological method.  Further, since the publication of his work,Love and Responsibility, John Paul had been studying the mystery of the Creation of human beings as male and female. With this interest as well as the juxtaposition of the objective and subjective modes of expression in successive chapters, John Paul could hardly resist making a study of the first chapters of the Bible.

There is, of course, a further question.  If we already know the truths of Creation in an objective mode from the first chapter of Genesis, why even bother at all about the subjective Revelation of the same truths in the second chapter?  Why is it necessary to have an understanding of both modes if they teach the same truths? The simple answer is that both chapters are part of the Revelation of God and God gave us both modes because both are in some way necessary.  But that just begs the question: why are both necessary? Part of the answer is that when we experience something, it seems more real to us—especially to us living in the twenty-first century.  As was mentioned in the previous chapter, if I theoretically know (from a lecture or class on the subject) that my car will break down without oil, then I have objective knowledge of one aspect of motor vehicle mechanics.  However, if my car quits because it lacks oil when I am on the highway, the experience significantly impacts my life. For most of us, the experiential knowledge (the car stopping on the highway) will be remembered and acted on much more quickly (preventing it from happening again by always making sure the motor has enough oil)  than the objective fact.  Most people today remember and process experiential knowledge much quicker than theoretical, objective facts.  Experiential knowledge is “more real” to many of us. God gave us both modes because while some learn only in an objective way and others only in an experiential way, many of us benefit greatly from both modes.

Beginning with the fifth address of the Theology of the Body series, the Pope begins the analysis of the experiences recorded in the second chapter of Genesis.  One of John Paul’s key points is that in the second chapter, as opposed to the first one, Adam is created before Eve.  Before the Creation of Eve, Adam is not defined as a male.  Masculinity and femininity are only mentioned after the Creation of Eve.  Adam (humanity) is alone. Adam comes to realize his solitude, that he is alone, when God asks him to name the animals present in the Garden.  Through this process, Adam realizes that there is no other created being like him, that he is in fact alone in the world. The naming of the animals is actually Adam’s search of his own identity. The Pope writes:

“Man finds himself alone before God mainly to express, through a first self-definition, his own self-knowledge as the original and fundamental manifestation of mankind.  Self-knowledge develops at the same rate as knowledge of the world, of all the visible creatures, of all the living beings to which man has given a name to affirm his own dissimilarity with regard to them.  In this way, therefore, consciousness reveals man as the one who possesses the cognitive faculty as regards the visible world. With this knowledge which, in a certain way, brings him out of his own being, man at the same time reveals himself to himself in all the peculiarity of his being. He is not only essentially and subjectively alone. Solitude, in fact, also signifies man’s subjectivity, which is constituted through self-knowledge. Man is alone because he is ‘different’ from the visible world, from the world of living beings.  . . . He reveals himself to himself and at the same time asserts himself as a ‘person’ in the visible world.”[11]  

In naming the animals, Adam is looking for someone like himself.  He does not find anyone like himself because he realizes in seeing and naming the animals that no other being has what he has: the capability not only of doing things (of acting), but also of watching himself act.  He names the animals and watches himself naming the animals.  He has an awareness of what is happening, of what he is doing.  Through this awareness which he has (and the animals clearly do not have), he distinguishes himself from all of the other beings in the visible world.  He therefore develops a self-knowledge—a realization that he is different.  As the Pope writes in the above quotation, “consciousness [Adam’s self-awareness of his acts—his ability to “watch himself” doing things] reveals man as the one who possesses the cognitive faculty.”  Adam, in differentiating himself from the visible world as one who has a mind, realizes he is a person. Since there is no other person in the visible world, Adam realizes that he is alone.  This realization (that he is a person capable of deriving self-knowledge from the consciousness of his experiences) is the meaning of original solitude.

When the Pope uses the word, “meaning,” he is using this word in a semi-technical sense.  “Meaning” indicates the conclusions derived by a human person from an examination of the experiences contained within his or her consciousness. Adam named the animals and had an awareness (consciousness) of this act.  In examining this experience, (by examining his consciousness which “contained” this experience), he came to know himself as different from the animals (because they obviously did not have this consciousness of their own acts). He came to know himself as a person. This knowledge is the “meaning” of solitude.  The meaning of an experience is the knowledge gleaned from an examination of the experiences contained in one’s consciousness. (This definition will be very important as we continue to analyze the Pope’s thought.)

In addition to the experience of naming the animals, Adam heard the Lord God say, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the Garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die."[12] With this command, Adam must make a choice. He then has the awareness (consciousness) of choosing and he comes to realize that he not only has a mind to know himself, but also a faculty which allows him to choose.  He knows himself as a person with the powers of thinking and choosing. As the Pope writes, “The anthropological definition contained in the Yahwist text [i.e., the second and third chapters of Genesis] approaches, on its part, what is expressed in the theological definition of man, which we find in the first narrative of Creation, (‘Let us make man in our image after our likeness:’ Gen. 1:26).”[13]

It is also obvious that in the process of naming the animals, Adam gazed at each of them, at their bodies.  He distinguished himself from them as different because their bodies were different from his own body.  He, therefore, had a consciousness of his own body as revealing his own interior life, his own personhood.  As the Pope writes, Adam “discovers the meaning of his own corporality.”[14]  He comes to realize, in the now famous phrase of John Paul, that his body expresses his person.[15] As the Pope remarks:  “The body, in fact, 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.”[16] The human body, then, is more than the sum of its biological parts.  Through these apparently understandable biological functions, human personhood is revealed.  The human body is the only Creation of God which expresses and manifests in a visible way a spiritual reality: personhood.  The angels are persons and so are the three Persons in God, but none of these can express or make visible their persons. That is left, by the design of God, to human beings who are the only persons with bodies.  (Of course, Jesus in His humanity made His Person visible, but He was able to do this because He assumed to Himself a human nature with a body. It was as a man, a human being, that He was able to reveal Himself in and through His body. Therefore it is true that only human beings are capable of manifesting personhood in the visible world.)

Our bodies manifest our persons, but since we are images of God, our bodies not only manifest our own persons, but actually reveal something of who God is.  How could it be otherwise?  God created human beings in His image and likeness.  Human beings have bodies which reveal who they are: an image of God. When you see a living human body, you see a visible expression of an image of God. When you see an image of God, you see something of God, Himself.  In expressing our own persons and in manifesting God Himself, the human body is a unique Creation of God and full of incredible value and dignity.  Human beings are truly a “little less than a god.”[17] This is the truth Adam came to realize in discovering the meaning of his body.

Adam, humanity—not yet distinguished as male and female--, knows himself as a person with the powers of thinking and choosing.  He knows that his body is the outward, visible manifestation of his interior personhood, of what he thinks and what he chooses.  Since he knows himself as a body-person or a person-body and he has heard God’s warning that he will surely be “doomed to die” if he eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge, he also knows that his body can die, can cease to have life.  “The alternative between death and immortality enters, right from the outset, the definition of man and belongs ‘from the beginning’ to the meaning of his solitude before God Himself.”[18]

Having experienced solitude Adam knows himself (has an awareness of himself) as a being who thinks, chooses, and manifests himself in the visible world through his flesh and blood. But he is alone. Then God puts Adam to sleep and forms the first woman, Eve. Adam’s cry of joy is well known: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”[19]  Humanity “awakens from his sleep as ‘male and female’.”[20]The Pope writes about this line, “If it is possible to read impression and emotions through words so remote, one might also venture to say that the depth and force of this first and ‘original’ emotion of the male-man in the presence of the humanity of the woman, and at the same time in the presence of the femininity of the other human being, seems something unique and unrepeatable.”[21]  Adam recognizes in Eve another whose body expresses a person.[22]  He recognizes in her (and she in him) personhood.  (Eve, as another human person,  shared with Adam the common experience of solitude because solitude belongs to Adam as human person, not as male-person. The experience of solitude belongs, as it were, to humanity. Eve, together with Adam, had the benefit of the experience of solitude so she, too, had come to the realization of who she was as a person with self-awareness of mind, will and body.)

Adam (and Eve as well) implicitly understands that something is lacking in solitude. In naming the animals, he does not find one like him. With the Creation of Eve, this implicit lack is made explicit. This is the reason for the cry of inexpressible joy: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Only through the Creation of a helper “fit for him” can Adam surpass “the limit of man’s solitude.”[23] In both Adam and Eve, there is a recognition of a mutual belonging as opposed to the rest of the visible Creation—the rest of the living bodies in the world.  There is a sense of a mutual reciprocity.  “Indispensable for this reciprocity was all that constituted the foundation of the solitude of each of them and therefore also self-knowledge and self-determination [the power of choosing], that is, subjectivity, and consciousness of the meaning of one’s own body.”[24]  

When Adam and Eve see each other, they realize that there are “two complementary dimensions, as it were, of self-consciousness [here used to indicate self-knowledge known through the mind] and self-determination [here used to indicate the power to choose, the will], two complementary ways of being conscious of the meaning of the body.”[25] In a word, they discover masculinity and femininity. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”[26]  Adam and Eve entered into a marriage, a union of their persons expressed in and through their bodies.  It was the first marriage. This marriage, as all marriages, was entered into by a choice in each of their wills.  John Paul sees in the verb, “cling,” an indication that Adam and Eve both choose to give themselves to each other.  “The very formulation of Genesis 2:24 indicates not only that human beings, created as man and woman, were created for unity, but also that precisely this unity, through which they become ‘one flesh,’has right from the beginning a character of union derived from choice.”[27]

The free choice to commit themselves to each other was done on the basis of their mutual complementarity, i.e., on the basis of masculinity and femininity.  They realized that their bodies were made for a union between them.  But this union was not just of the body. It involved a realization, a consciousness of masculinity and femininity, as well as a free choice.  Their self-gift to each other was given in a personal way, with both understanding  in their minds who they were and both choosing in full freedom to give themselves to each other.

Of particular importance in Adam and Eve’s experience of unity is their understanding of the meaning of their bodies, what the Pope calls the nuptial meaning of the body. If, as we have said, “meaning” indicates the conclusions derived by a human person from an examination of the experiences contained within his or her consciousness, then the nuptial meaning of the body signifies the conclusions Adam and Eve derived from the experience of their union, or even from their recognition of the possibility of their union. In seeing Adam, Eve realized “here at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” In seeing Eve, Adam realized “here at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Their bodies were made for one another and they did not hesitate to unite with one another. In this experience of union, Adam and Eve “watch themselves with their consciousness.”  They see themselves making a choice to give themselves to each other.  They see themselves knowing that they are made for one another.  In this awareness of their own experience of union, they come to discover love.  They discover that they are created to love each other in and through their bodies.  This discovery is the discovery of the nuptial meaning of the body. 

The discovery of the nuptial meaning of the body is a subjective confirmation of what was objectively revealed in the first chapter of Genesis.  In the first chapter, God created “man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”[28]  Created like God, human persons are called, from their very being, to act like God. An image is a reflection.  When looking in a mirror and combing one’s hair, one sees the image in the mirror combing its hair. We are images of God. We are called to act like God. God loves and so we are called to love in the very same way God does.  This objective fact is revealed in the first chapter of Genesis. In the second chapter, man discovers this truth, this meaning. “This meaning (inasmuch as it is revealed and also conscious, ‘lived’ by man) confirms completely that the creative giving, which springs from love, has reached the original consciousness of man, becoming an experience of mutual giving, as can already be seen in the archaic text.”[29]  God reveals the truth that created in his image, human persons are called to love as He loves, but Adam and Eve discover the same truth through their experiences, through their realization of the nuptial meaning of their bodies.

“Awareness of the meaning of the body that is derived from them [i.e., from the first pages of the Book of Genesis] –in particular of its ‘nuptial’ meaning—is the fundamental element of human existence in the world.”[30]  Of course, the awareness of the nuptial meaning of the body is the fundamental truth about human beings: it is the truth that we are created in and for love and that our bodies are the means of expressing and receiving that love.  The conscious awareness of this truth proclaimed by God when He created us in His image and likeness is absolutely central to all human life worth living. We are created to love and to be loved. As John Paul taught in his first encyclical, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless if love is not revealed to him, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it”[31] because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and called to do what God does, i.e., love. The discovery of this truth subjectively is what John Paul means when he speaks of the nuptial meaning of the body.

Clearly, this discovery by Adam and Eve was partially made when they first saw one another even prior to their full union. This is revealed by the cry of joy, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”[32] The discovery was complete through their marital union.  Of course, both events occurred while they were naked. The author of Genesis even remarks that “the man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.”[33]  But the most important point John Paul is trying to make in the passages treating the nuptial meaning of the body is not that Adam and Eve were naked, but that they discovered that they were created to love and for love, i.e., that they discovered the nuptial meaning of the body.

It is almost impossible for those of us born with the inheritance of sin to experience nakedness in the same way as Adam and Eve and to discover the nuptial meaning of our bodies in the way Adam and Eve did. Sin has clouded our vision and our comprehension of the true value of other persons.  Genesis speaks of this lack after sin when it mentions that after their sin Adam and Eve “realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”[34]  “Only the nakedness that makes woman an ‘object’ for man, or vice versa, is a source of shame. The fact that ‘they were not ashamed’ [before sin] means that the woman was not an ‘object’ for the man nor he for her.”[35] In the experience of original unity, both Adam and Eve freely choose to give themselves to each other. They wished to surrender themselves to each other for the benefit of the other.  This is what love is.  After sin, the lust of the flesh, caused by sin, led one or the other of them to want the other. Instead of giving themselves freely—realizing that the other was complete and total gift—lust led them to appropriate the other for himself or herself.  Instead of a giving, there was a desire to take as one does with things.  This desire was manifested in their bodies and both saw this manifestation of the desire to take. They were each ashamed in the presence of the other because they knew that they should not reduce the other to an object and yet after sin, their desire to take each other was apparent in their naked state.  Therefore, for those of us who are the heirs of sin—the entire human race after Adam and Eve except for Mary and Christ—it is difficult, not to say impossible, for us to discover the nuptial meaning of the body in the way Adam and Eve did.  Of course, this is one of the reasons it is revealed to us, not only objectively in the first chapter of Genesis, but through the record of Adam and Eve’s experiences in the second chapter of Genesis.

In discovering the nuptial being of the body, Adam and Eve realized that they were a gift for one another, presented to each other by God.  Just as their gift to one another was one of love, so also was God’s gift of the other to each of them one of love.  They thus came to realize that in loving one another, in giving themselves to each other, they mirrored the gift of God to them. Their union of love was simultaneously a mirror, a reflection, an image, of God’s love for them.  Their union made visible the interior life of God.  Not only were each of their bodies taken individually the expression of who they were and a revelation of who God is, but in acting, loving each other, Adam and Eve, made visible the love of God, i.e., the love in the Trinity, itself.  Of course, not knowing of the existence of the Trinity, Adam and Eve could not consciously reflect the love of the Triune God, but they were conscious of mirroring the love God showered on them when He created them for each other and, of course, the love shown by God when He created the whole world for them. The Pope remarks that the love of Adam and Eve is “a primordial sacrament, understood as a sign that transmits effectively in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial. And this is the mystery of truth and love, the mystery of divine life, in which man really participates.”[36]

According to John Paul’s analysis of the second and third chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve’s awareness (consciousness) or their first experiences led them to discover the truths about themselves as individuals. Adam and Eve both come to know that they are each created in God’s image as persons with minds and wills.  They come to understand that their bodies express themselves and reveal God.  They know that they are a gift for one another and that God lavished gifts on them in creating them for one another.  In these self-discoveries realized through their own subjective experiences, they confirm the truths revealed in the objective order in the first chapter of Genesis.

These original experiences, while always part of all of us because we are rooted in our theological prehistory, can never be repeated. Sin has wounded us to the point that we can never re-live solitude in the way Adam did or original unity in the way Adam and Eve did. The change in us because of sin is implied in Genesis.  Before sin, they were naked and were not ashamed. After sin, they were naked and sewed fig leaves on themselves. This betrays a radical change in Adam and Eve. It is to this change and its effects that the Pope turns in the second cycle of the Theology of the Body.

[1] See Chapter 1, “John Paul II’s Theology of the Body,” pp. 9-13. 

[2] See Genesis 1:26. 

[3] See Matthew 19:4-5. 

[4] See Genesis 1:1. 

[5] See Genesis 1:27. 

[6] See Genesis 2:24. 

[7] See no. 2, Theology of the Body, September 12, 1979: “Analysis of the Biblical Account of Creation,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 38. Emphasis added. 

[8] See no. 3, Theology of the Body, September 19, 1979: “The Second Account of Creation: The Subjective Definition of Man,” L’Osservatore Romano(English Edition), vol. 12, no. 39.  Emphasis added. 

[9] See no. 4, Theology of the Body,  September 26, 1979: “The Meaning of Man’s Original Solitude,”  L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 40. 

[10] See no. 4, Theology of the Body, September 26, 1979: “The Boundary Between Original Innocence and Redemption,” L’Osservatore Romano(English Edition), vol. 12, no. 40.   

[11] See no. 5, Theology of the Body, October 10, 1979: “The Meaning of Man’s Original Solitude,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 42. 

[12] See Genesis 2:16-17. 

[13] See no. 6, Theology of the Body, October 24, 1979: “Man’s Awareness Of Being A Person,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 44.   

[14] See no. 6, Theology of the Body, October 24, 1979: “Man’s Awareness Of Being A Person,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 44.   

[15] See no. 7, Theology of the Body, October 31, 1979: “The Alternative Between Death and Immortality Enters the Definition of Man,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 45.  

[16] See no. 19, Theology of the Body, February 20, 1980: “Man Enters the World as a Subject of Truth and Love,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 13, no. 8. 

[17] See Psalms 8:6. 

[18] See no. 7, Theology of the Body, October 31, 1979: “Alternative Between Death and Immortality Enters the Definition of Man,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 45.  

[19] See Genesis 1:23. 

[20] See no. 8, Theology of the Body, November 7, 1979: “The Original Unity of Man and Woman,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 46. 

[21] See no. 9, Theology of the Body, November 14, 1979: “By The Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God,” L’Osservatore Romano(English Edition), vol. 12, no. 47.  This line is an example of one might say the poetic and dramatic tone to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. There is a phrase used about some of the meditations on the physics of the universe written by people such as Stephen Hawking. It is called physics for poets.  John Paul’s theology is certainly a theology for poets. 

[22] See no. 14, Theology of the Body, January 9, 1980: “The Nuptial Meaning of the Body,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 13, no. 2.   

[23] See no. 10, Theology of the Body, November 21, 1979: “In the First Chapter of Genesis, Marriage is One and Indissoluble,” L’Osservatore Romano(English Edition), vol. 12, no. 48.  

[24] See no. 9, Theology of the Body, November 14, 1979: “By The Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God,” L’Osservatore Romano(English Edition), vol. 12, no. 47.  

[25] See no. 10, Theology of the Body, November 21, 1979: “In the First Chapter of Genesis Marriage is One and Indissoluble,” L’Osservatore Romano(English Edition), vol. 12, no. 48. 

[26]See Genesis 2:24. 

[27] See no. 10, Theology of the Body, November 21, 1979: “In the First Chapter of Genesis Marriage is One and Indissoluble,” L’Osservatore Romano(English Edition), vol. 12, no. 48. 

[28] See Genesis 1:27. 

[29] See no. 14, Theology of the Body, January 9, 1980: “The Nuptial Meaning of the Body,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 13, no. 2.   

[30] See no. 15, Theology of the Body, January 16, 1980: “The Human Person Becomes a Gift In the Freedom of Love,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 13, no. 3.   

[31] See John Paul II, The Redeemer of Man, Redemptor Hominis, L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 12, no. 12, (March 19, 1979), no. 10.  

[32]See Genesis 2:23.  

[33] See Genesis 2:25. 

[34] See Genesis 3:7. 

[35] See no. 19, Theology of the Body, February 20, 1980: “Man Enters the World as a Subject of Truth and Love,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 13, no. 8.  

[36] See no. 19, Theology of the Body, February 20, 1980: “Man Enters the World as a Subject of Truth and Love,” L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), vol. 13, no. 8.  

March 1, 2003 --- Fr. Richard Hogan