Paul II - Theology of the Body
and Discovery of the Nuptial Meaning of the Body
General Audience, January 9, 1980
1. Rereading and
analyzing the second narrative of creation, the Yahwist text, we
must ask ourselves if the first "man" ('adam), in his
original solitude, really "lived" the world as a gift, with an
attitude in conformity with the actual condition of one who has
received a gift, as is seen from the narrative in the first chapter.
The second narrative shows us man in the garden of Eden (cf. Gn
2:8). Though man was in this situation of original happiness, the
Creator himself (God-Yahweh) and then also "man," pointed out that
man was alone—instead of stressing the aspect of the world as a
subjectively beatifying gift created for man (cf. the first
narrative and in particular Gn 26:29).
We have already analyzed the meaning of original solitude. Now we
must note that a certain lack of good clearly appears for the first
time: "It is not good that man should be alone"—God-Yahweh said—"I
will make him a helper..." (Gn 2:18). The first man said the same
thing. After having become thoroughly aware of his own solitude
among all living beings on earth, waited for "a helper fit for him"
(cf. Gn 2:20). None of these beings (animalia) offered man
the basic conditions which make it possible to exist in a
relationship of mutual giving.
With and for someone
2. In this way,
therefore, these two expressions, namely, the adjective "alone" and
the noun "helper," seem to be really the key to understand the very
essence of the gift at the level of man, as existential content
contained in the truth of the "image of God." In fact, the gift
reveals, so to speak, a particular characteristic of personal
existence, or rather, of the essence of the person. When God-Yahweh
said, "It is not good that man should be alone," (Gn 2:18) he
affirmed that "alone," man does not completely realize this essence.
He realizes it only by existing "with someone"—and even more
deeply and completely—by existing "for someone."
This norm of existence as a person is shown in Genesis as
characteristic of creation, precisely by means of the meaning of
these two words: "alone" and "helper." These words indicate as
fundamental and constitutive for man both the relationship and the
communion of persons. The communion of persons means existing in a
mutual "for," in a relationship of mutual gift. This relationship is
precisely the fulfillment of "man's" original solitude.
Effected by love
fulfillment is, in its origin, beatifying. It is certainly implicit
in man's original happiness, and constitutes that happiness which
belongs to the mystery of creation effected by love, which belongs
to the essence of creative giving. When man, the male, awakening
from the sleep of Genesis, saw the female, drawn from him, he said:
"This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gen 2:23).
These words express, in a way, the subjectively beatifying beginning
of human existence in the world. Since it took place at the
"beginning," this confirms the process of individuation of man in
the world. It springs from the depths of his human solitude, which
he lives as a person in the presence of all other creatures and all
living beings (animalia).
This "beginning" belongs to an adequate anthropology and can always
be verified on the basis of the latter. This purely anthropological
verification brings us, at the same time, to the subject of the
"person" and to the subject of the "body-sex." This simultaneousness
is essential. If we dealt with sex without the person, the whole
adequacy of the anthropology which we find in Genesis would be
destroyed. For our theological study the essential light of the
revelation of the body, which appears so fully in these first
affirmations, would then be veiled.
Body expresses person
4. There is a
deep connection between the mystery of creation, as a gift springing
from love, and that beatifying "beginning" of the existence of man
as male and female, in the whole truth of their body and their sex,
which is the pure and simple truth of communion between persons.
When the first man exclaimed, at the sight of the woman: "This is
bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gn 2:23), he merely
affirmed the human identity of both. Exclaiming in this way, he
seems to say: here is a body that expresses the person!
Following a preceding passage of the Yahwist text, it can also be
said that this "body" reveals the "living soul," such as man became
when God-Yahweh breathed life into him (cf. Gn 2:7). This resulted
in his solitude before all other living beings. By traversing the
depth of that original solitude, man now emerged in the dimension of
the mutual gift. The expression of that gift—and for that reason the
expression of his existence as a person—is the human body in all the
original truth of its masculinity and femininity.
The body which expresses femininity manifests the reciprocity and
communion of persons. It expresses it by means of the gift as the
fundamental characteristic of personal existence. This is the body,
a witness to creation as a fundamental gift, and so a witness to
Love as the source from which this same giving springs. Masculinity
and femininity—namely, sex—is the original sign of a creative
donation and an awareness on the part of man, male-female, of a gift
lived in an original way. Such is the meaning with which sex enters
the theology of the body.
beatifying "beginning" of man's being and existing, as male and
female, is connected with the revelation and discovery of the
meaning of the body, which can be called "nuptial." If we speak of
revelation and at the same time of discovery, we do so in relation
to the specificity of the Yahwist text. In it, the theological
thread is also anthropological, appearing as a certain reality
consciously lived by man.
We have already observed that the words which express the first joy
of man's coming to existence as "male and female" (Gn 2:23) are
followed by the verse which establishes their conjugal unity (cf. Gn
2:24). Then follows the verse which testifies to the nakedness of
both, without mutual shame (Gn 2:25). This significant confrontation
enables us to speak of the revelation and at the same time the
discovery of the "nuptial" meaning of the body in the mystery of
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. It becomes
an experience of mutual giving, as can already be seen in the
ancient text. That nakedness of both progenitors, free from shame,
seems also to bear witness to that—perhaps even specifically.
Blessing of fertility
6. Genesis 2:24
speaks of the finality of man's masculinity and femininity, in the
life of the spouses-parents. Uniting with each other so closely as
to become "one flesh," they will subject their humanity to the
blessing of fertility, namely, "procreation," which the first
narrative speaks of (cf. Gn 1:28). Man comes "into being" with
consciousness of this finality of his own masculinity-femininity,
that is, of his own sexuality. At the same time, the words of
Genesis 2:25: "They were both naked, and were not ashamed," seem to
add to this fundamental truth of the meaning of the human body, of
its masculinity and femininity, another no less essential and
fundamental truth. Aware of the procreative capacity of his body and
of his sexuality, man is at the same time "free from the constraint"
of his own body and sex.
That original nakedness, mutual and at the same time not weighed
down by shame, expresses this interior freedom of man. Is this what
freedom from the "sexual instinct" is? The concept of "instinct"
already implies an interior constraint, similar to the instinct that
stimulates fertility and procreation in the whole world of living
beings (animalia). It seems, however, that both texts of
Genesis, the first and the second narrative of the creation of man,
connected sufficiently the perspective of procreation with the
fundamental characteristic of human existence in the personal sense.
Consequently the analogy of the human body and of sex in relation to
the world of animals—which we can call an analogy of nature—is also
raised, in a way, in both narratives (though in a different way in
each), to the level of "image of God," and to the level of the
person and communion between persons.
It will be necessary to dedicate other further analyses to this
essential problem. For the conscience of man—also for modern man—it
is important to know that the revelation of the "nuptial meaning of
the body" is found in those biblical texts which speak of the
"beginning" of man. But it is even more important to establish what
this meaning expresses precisely.
L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English 14 January 1980, page
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