Ineffable mystery…radiant beauty,
present in the very sinews of the human heart,
woven into the fabric of the human body
—palpable, concrete, real—
yet manifesting a reality deeper yet,
still more vibrant, radiant, alive.
The body speaks a language,
not only in that certain gestures,
voluntary and involuntary expressions,
reveal interior dispositions of the heart,
but in that a “word” has been given to the body
from the Creator of both spirit and flesh.
This language, therefore, that the human body speaks
is a language of God and about God,
a theology of the body, and the body’s theology:
that is, the Theo-logos—
the very Word and Reason of God himself
impressed in the clay of human flesh.
But this word, entrusted to us by God,
can become a lie, too, a word of deceit,
when the body is estranged from the heart’s inner truth,
and when the word, act, and gesture it gives
betray the Creator’s intentions of pure love.
Adam and Eve, our first parents in the beginning,
were naked before one another without shame,
for the body of each still revealed God purely,
and, clothed in God’s glory, manifested the truth,
also, of who each was, uniquely, in the sight of God.
The body was thus the palpable expression,
in the intricacy and depth of visible creation,
of their innate, naked solitude as son and daughter
before their tender and most loving Father.
It was also the space in which hearts could communicate,
man and woman seeing, receiving, and knowing one another,
in the flesh and through the flesh,
yet sharing a mystery that the flesh itself cannot grasp,
for it is deeper: the radiant, transcendent spirit,
rooted in the horizon of eternity and infinity,
and open to a boundless dilation in God’s boundless love.
To speak of the theology of the body, therefore,
is not merely what so many persons often reduce it to:
the simple complementarity of the sexes
and their ability to join together physically,
manifesting thus their mutual self-giving
and cooperating with God in begetting new life.
It is, certainly, all of this…but it is also so much more.
For the theology of the body is fully revealed,
not in the interlocking of flesh in marital union,
but in the weaving together of hearts in virginal love.
The two persons who have lived the body’s true meaning
more than any others in all of history
—and who, in themselves, have restored it to health—
are the virginal Christ and his virgin Mother.
In them the “image” and “sacrament” of marriage,
which reveals something of the Trinity
as a sign of love written in the very bond of nature,
is surpassed, and thus also consummated in the Truth,
leaving behind those things which will pass away,
and meeting wholly in the sacred realm
of the Trinity’s enveloping embrace alone.
Here the body is made a gift for the beloved,
and receives the beloved in return,
not through the enjoyment of a carnal embrace,
but through the very outpouring of self in sacrifice,
and the making of one’s whole existence
a chaste and virginal “home” for the other
to be sheltered, held, protected, and carried into life.
As the Bridegroom-God, incarnate as a Man,
hangs naked and vulnerable upon the Cross,
his arms stretched wide and his very Heart open,
he reveals and restores the body’s authentic truth.
And a woman stands there before him,
bearing, all gathered up within herself,
the mystery of all humanity, of the Church,
which is a Bride of the divine Lover,
welcomed into intimate spousal union with him.
Here, she receives the outpouring gift of his sacrifice,
she lets herself be loved with this ineffable Love,
and she surrenders herself wholly in return to him,
letting herself be received, held, and cradled
by those arms which tenderly embrace the world.
And as his Body rises, victorious, from the grave,
it has overcome all the limitations of sin,
and indeed burst beyond the limitations of flesh itself,
becoming wholly virginal to its core,
able to welcome and to give without reserve
before each beloved, as if the only one.
And he enfolds all within the reconciling space
of his inner Heart, of his Risen Body,
where all come together, united
—who were once scattered far and wide—
into the perfect and unbreakable intimacy
of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.