Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 25, 2007
Sexual union gives image of the divine
National conference focuses on JP2's theology of the body
By GLEN ARGAN
Sexual union in marriage is an appetizer for the eternal marriage with God for which men and women have been created.
That's the basis for Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, Bill Donaghy told a national symposium June 15 sponsored by the Catholic Organization for Life and the Family.
"Marriage here below is like an icon leading us into the heavenly marriage," Donaghy told 200 people from across Canada attending the symposium. "It's a teaser; it's an appetizer; it's like a movie trailer."
Pope John Paul unveiled his theology of the body in more than 100 general audience talks in the early years of his pontificate. Now, some theologians are condensing those talks to help revitalize Catholic thinking on marriage and sexuality.
Donaghy, who has a master's degree in systematic theology, teaches at a high school in Pennsylvania.
Call to communion
He told how Pope John Paul viewed Adam and Eve as both being alone in the created universe. Adam felt a call to communion, but could not find a helpmate among the animals. Adam and Eve looked at their bodies and saw that each made no sense by itself.
"The unity (between man and woman) is built into God's plan as male and female," Donaghy said.
Through the coming-together of man and woman, we gain a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom.
Pope John Paul said, "Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion."
A gift of themselves
The lack of shame in Adam and Eve is, for the late pope, the key to understanding God's original plan for man and woman, Donaghy said.
Holiness entered the world because man and woman each unashamedly made a sincere gift of themselves to the other without viewing the other as a sexual object.
The body, he said, makes the spiritual and the divine visible in our world. "The body is good; the body is holy.
"It is heresy to somehow think of the body as somehow bad or dirty."
After the fall, "we no longer see the other as a person to be loved but as a thing to be used - this is our culture."
Nevertheless, the body remains good. "Holiness is still stamped on the body."
The Christian neither indulges his or her sexual desire nor represses them, he said. But the entrance of shame has made the heart a battlefield between love and lust.
"Pray for the redemption of our desires, not to push them down. If you repress them, they will explode somewhere else."
But if marriage is an image of heaven, so is celibacy, he said. "A celibate person is one who skips the appetizer and waits for the main meal."
Our culture, because it is so obsessed with sex, sees celibacy as a form of sexual repression, Donaghy said. But celibates are witnesses to the full communion with God and others in heaven. "We need them desperately."
Donaghy turned to Pope John Paul's reflection on Jesus' words in Matthew 22:30 - "In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."
This would seem to contradict the view that marriage is an icon of heaven. Actually, it reveals that the ultimate meaning of being human is revealed in heaven, he said.
Marriage and procreation are not the definitive revelation of what it means to be male or female. Rather, life in heaven is a full participation in the life of the Trinity, which is itself a communion of love.
But neither is heaven just a union of me and God, he said. In heaven, we find the communion of saints - "the definitive expression of the human call to community."
In heaven, "We can just swim in and out of each other, all in this great dance around the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
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