The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it. (TOB 19.4)
So writes Saint John Paul II about the importance of the body, of our incarnate flesh, not only in our existence in this world, but in the very making-visible of the mystery of God himself, of his interior life of mutual self-giving and interpersonal intimacy. This is true in so many, many ways throughout our existence, as will become clear in following reflections. But let me plunge immediately, here, straight into the heart of the Mystery itself, so that everything else can flow forth from this place of full and undivided Light.
This transparency of the body to the spiritual reality, this visibility of the visible to the invisible Mystery, is most clearly, most perfectly, and most beautifully seen in the incarnate Body of Jesus Christ and in the body of his sinless Mother. Through them the Trinity himself has become incarnate within our world—visible and tangible at the heart of our humanity, as the living heartbeat of the entire cosmos. Indeed, the Trinity has always been the very Origin and Foundation of all things, their true heartbeat, but precisely by becoming visible in a human body the Trinity has revealed himself and communicated the Mystery of his own divine life to us. Now the innermost life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has opened itself radically to us at the heart of our humanity, in our very experience of our bodiliness, and precisely in this place we have found access into the very heart of the Trinity.
Yes, the incarnate flesh of Christ, and the beauty of his Virgin Mother, and the very events of the life of Christ—and indeed the earthly yet heavenly existence of the saints—none of this is a mere “icon,” a kind of “window” into the body-less world of heaven. Rather, it is a true incarnation, a making-flesh of the Mystery, which communicates itself without reserve and as intimately as possible, and yet even in its self-communication remains Mystery. It is a marriage, a nuptial union, between God and humanity, Bridegroom and Bride, in which the Lover remains mysterious even as he holds his beloved in his arms, as he gives himself to her without reserve.
Yes, and the Bride is herself taken to heaven, taken into the embrace of her Bridegroom, and of the entire Trinity, in the full reality of her bodiliness. But first the Bridegroom himself, incarnate in our flesh, goes to prepare a place for her. Jesus’ Resurrection not only manifests the Love that is stronger than death, but also allows his very concrete humanity (his body and his soul) to be so permeated by the life of the Trinity that it is no longer bound by the limitations of time and space, even as it remains deeply united to time and space. And he takes this very concrete, individual humanity (in which the humanity of each one of us is contained) into the very innermost life of the Trinity. Now a human body lives in the heart of God! And at the end of Mary’s life, she too—body and soul—is taken into the welcoming bosom of the Trinity. She is the Bride united eternally to her divine Bridegroom.
Now Man and Woman are cradled in the innermost life of the Trinity, from which they have been created and into which they have been called. And this is a promise for us—a promise of our true destiny, which is realized already now in faith, and will be consummated in the full light of face-to-face vision, in the full intimacy of direct physical and spiritual contact, in the new creation… This will occur when Christ comes again, making all things new by definitively permeating them with the fullness of the Trinity’s life and love.
And the result of all of this? Ah…how breathtaking it is!
Do I feel it? Do I know? My very flesh is the flesh of God… His heart beats unceasingly within my own. His love pulses through my veins. And therefore it is in this very flesh that I share in his own life of love and intimacy, in the communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am pressing up against him at every moment, the Invisible communing with the visible, the spiritual with the bodily. For the fact that he is Spirit does not mean that he is far away, in a distant galaxy, or inaccessible to the unwieldy body that is mine. Rather, it means that he is even more intimately close than flesh could be. For he penetrates and permeates me at every instant. His eternity intersects with every moment of time. The fullness of his Being touches, fills, and permeates even the smallest of created realities, as well as created being in its fullness.
Therefore, to be close to him does not require me “leaving behind” the flesh, somehow extracting myself from my incarnate and bodily existence. Rather, it simply implies me living this existence fully in an openness to him. As John Paul II said: the body makes visible what is spiritual and divine; it is a sign of it, an efficacious sign, a sacrament; it transfers into visible reality what is invisible. And it could not do this if it was not in a real, living contact with the invisible Mystery. Yes, for this Mystery to be invisible does not mean that it is far away; it simply means that it cannot directly be seen by bodily eyes, but only through the “sign,” through the sacrament of the body and of incarnate existence.
Is this not the way it is with all of the truest things of human life, with the very reality of meaning? Meaning is not found in the mere body; but it is found in the body, lived in and through the body, and enfolds the body. It is true of beauty, goodness, truth. One cannot reduce beauty down to the level of matter; it is rather a quality of the body which nonetheless surpasses the body, of which the body is a sign, a sacrament. The same is true of the person, who is a body and yet not merely a body, who is a living body animated by a personal, spiritual “I,” by the identity of being God’s uniquely beloved. It is true of love, which exists between two persons—in their conversation, in their embrace, in their becoming one flesh—and yet this love is the “invisible” that is made visible, made present, in and through the visible.
So it is with you, my God. I do not see you, do not touch you…not directly. And yet here you are, breathing forth the mystery of your presence—of your Beauty, Goodness, Truth, and Love, of your very personal Mystery as Trinity—at the heart of every moment of my concrete existence. You are the air that fills the lungs of creation, the heartbeat that pulsates unceasingly as its inner truth, as its authentic meaning. And what then? … I simply lean against this most loving Heart, letting myself be enfolded and cradled in your sweetest bosom…and I rest in the Love that cradles the entire world even as it permeates it with the torrents of your tenderness and delight.