1. The human body in its
original masculinity and femininity, according to the mystery of
creation—as we know from the analysis of Genesis 2:23-25—is not
only a source of fertility, that is, of procreation, but right
"from the beginning" it has a nuptial character: that is to say,
it is capable of expressing the love with which the man-person
becomes a gift, thus fulfilling the deep meaning of his being
and his existence. In this peculiarity, the body is the
expression of the spirit and is called, in the mystery of
creation, to exist in the communion of persons in the image of
God. The concupiscence "that comes from theworld"—here it is
directly a question of the concupiscence of the body—limits and
distorts the body's objective way of existing, of which man has
become a participant.
The human heart experiences
the degree of this limitation or distortion, especially in the
sphere of man-woman mutual relations. Precisely in the
experience of the heart, femininity and masculinity, in their
mutual relations, no longer seem to express the spirit which
aims at personal communion. They remain only an object of
attraction, in a certain sense as happens in the world of living
beings, which, like man, have received the blessing of fertility
(cf. Gn 1).
2. This similarity is
certainly contained in the work of creation. Genesis 2 and
especially verse 24 confirm this. However, already in the
mystery of creation, that which constituted the natural, somatic
and sexual substratum of that attraction, fully expressed the
call of man and woman to personal communion. After sin, on the
contrary, in the new situation of which Genesis 3 speaks, this
expression was weakened and dimmed. It is as if it were lacking
in the shaping of mutual relations, or as if it were driven back
to another plane.
The natural and somatic
substratum of human sexuality was manifested as an almost
autogenous force. It is marked by a certain "coercion of the
body," operating according to its own dynamics, which limits the
expression of the spirit and the experience of the exchange of
the gift of the person. The words of Genesis 3:15 addressed to
the first woman seem to indicate this quite clearly: "Your
desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
3. The human body in its
masculinity and femininity has almost lost the capacity of
expressing this love. In it, the man-person becomes a gift, in
conformity with the deepest structure and finality of his
personal existence, as we have already observed in preceding
analyses. Here we do not formulate this judgment absolutely and
we add the adverb "almost." We do so because the dimension of
the gift—namely, the capacity of expressing love with which man,
by means of femininity or masculinity, becomes a gift for the
other—has continued to some extent to permeate and mold the love
that is born in the human heart. The nuptial meaning of the body
has not been completely suffocated by concupiscence, but only
The heart has become a
battlefield between love and lust. The more lust dominates the
heart, the less the heart experiences the nuptial meaning of the
body. It becomes less sensitive to the gift of the person, which
expresses that meaning in the mutual relations of man and woman.
Certainly, that lust which Christ speaks of in Matthew 5:27-28
appears in many forms in the human heart. It is not always plain
and obvious. Sometimes it is concealed, so that it passes itself
off as love, although it changes its true profile and dims the
limpidity of the gift in the mutual relationship of persons.
Does this mean that it is our duty to distrust the human heart?
No! It only means that we must keep it under control.
4. The image of the
concupiscence of the body, which emerges from the present
analysis, has a clear reference to the image of the person, with
which we connected our preceding reflections on the nuptial
meaning of the body. Man as a person is "the only creature on
earth that God has willed for its own sake" and, at the same
time, he is the one who "can fully discover his true self only
in a sincere giving of himself."(1) Lust in general—and the lust
of the body in particular—attacks this "sincere giving." It
deprives man of the dignity of giving, which is expressed by his
body through femininity and masculinity. In a way it
depersonalizes man, making him an object "for the other."
Instead of being "together with the other"—a subject in unity,
in the sacramental unity of the body—man becomes an object for
man, the female for the male and vice versa. Genesis 3:16 and
Genesis 3:7 bear witness to this, with all the clearness of the
contrast, as compared with Genesis 2:23-25.
5. Violating the dimension of
the mutual giving of the man and the woman, concupiscence also
calls in question the fact that each of them was willed by the
Creator "for his own sake." In a certain sense, the subjectivity
of the person gives way to the objectivity of the body. Owing to
the body, man becomes an object for man—the female for the male
and vice versa. Concupiscence means that the personal relations
of man and of woman are unilaterally and reductively linked with
the body and sex, in the sense that these relations become
almost incapable of accepting the mutual gift of the person.
They do not contain or deal with femininity/masculinity
according to the full dimension of personal subjectivity. They
do not express communion, but they remain unilaterally
determined by sex.
6. Concupiscence entails the
loss of the interior freedom of the gift. The nuptial meaning of
the human body is connected precisely with this freedom. Man can
become a gift—that is, the man and the woman can exist in the
relationship of mutual self-giving—if each of them controls
himself. Manifested as a "coercion sui generis of the body,"
concupiscence limits interiorly and reduces self-control. For
that reason, in a certain sense it makes impossible the interior
freedom of giving. Together with that, the beauty that the human
body possesses in its male and female aspect, as an expression
of the spirit, is obscured. The body remains as an object of
lust and, therefore, as a "field of appropriation" of the other
human being. In itself, concupiscence is not capable of
promoting union as the communion of persons. By itself, it does
not unite, but appropriates. The relationship of the gift is
changed into the relationship of appropriation.
At this point, let us
interrupt our reflections today. The last problem dealt with has
such great importance, and is so subtle, from the point of view
of the difference between authentic love (that is, between the
"communion of persons") and lust, that we shall have to take it
up again at our next meeting.
1) Gaudium et spes, no. 24: "Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when he
prayed to the Father 'that all may be one...even as we are one'
(Jn 17:21-22), opened up vistas closed to human reason, for he
implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine
Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This
likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth
which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except
through a sincere gift of himself."
Taken from: L'Osservatore
Romano Weekly Edition in English 28 July 1980, page 1
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