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A Fundamental Disquiet in All Human Existence

28 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 28 May 1980 - in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We are reading again the first chapters of Genesis, to understand how—with original sin—the "man of lust" took the place of the "man of original innocence." The words of Genesis 3:10, "I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself," provide evidence of the first experience of man's shame with regard to his Creator—a shame that could also be called "cosmic".

However, this "cosmic shame"—if it is possible to perceive its features in man's total situation after original sin—makes way in the biblical text for another form of shame. It is the shame produced in humanity itself. It is caused by the deep disorder in that reality on account of which man, in the mystery of creation, was God's image. He was God's image both in his personal "ego" and in the interpersonal relationship, through the original communion of persons, constituted by the man and the woman together. That shame, the cause of which is in humanity itself, is at once immanent and relative. It is manifested in the dimension of human interiority and at the same time refers to the "other." This is the woman's shame with regard to the man, and also the man's with regard to the woman. This mutual shame obliges them to cover their own nakedness, to hide their own bodies, to remove from the man's sight what is the visible sign of femininity, and from the woman's sight what is the visible sign of masculinity. The shame of both was turned in this direction after original sin, when they realized that they were naked, as Genesis 3:7 bears witness. The Yahwist text seems to indicate explicitly the sexual character of this shame. "They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." However, we may wonder if the sexual aspect has only a relative character, in other words, if it is a question of shame of one's own sexuality only in reference to a person of the other sex.

2. Although in the light of that one decisive sentence of Genesis 3:7, the answer to the question seems to support especially the relative character of original shame, nevertheless reflection on the whole immediate context makes it possible to discover its more immanent background. That shame, which is certainly manifested in the "sexual" order, reveals a specific difficulty in perceiving the human essentiality of one's own body. Man had not experienced this difficulty in the state of original innocence. The words, "I was afraid, because I was naked," can be understood in this way. They show clearly the consequences in the human heart of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Through these words a certain constitutive break within the human person is revealed, which is almost a rupture of man's original spiritual and somatic unity. He realizes for the first time that his body has ceased drawing upon the power of the spirit, which raised him to the level of the image of God. His original shame bears within it the signs of a specific humiliation mediated by the body. It conceals the germ of that contradiction, which will accompany historical man in his whole earthly path, as St. Paul writes: "For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind" (Rom 7:22-23).

3. In this way, that shame is immanent. It contains such a cognitive acuteness as to create a fundamental disquiet in all human existence. This is not only in face of the prospect of death, but also before that on which the value and dignity of the person in his ethical significance depends. In this sense the original shame of the body ("I am naked") is already fear ("I was afraid"), and announces the uneasiness of conscience connected with lust. The body is not subordinated to the spirit as in the state of original innocence. It bears within it a constant center of resistance to the spirit. It threatens, in a way, the unity of the person, that is, of the moral nature, which is firmly rooted in the constitution of the person. Lust, especially the lust of the body, is a specific threat to the structure of self-control and self-mastery, through which the human person is formed. It also constitutes a specific challenge for it. In any case, the man of lust does not control his own body in the same way, with equal simplicity and naturalness, as the man of original innocence did. The structure of self-mastery, essential for the person, is shaken to the very foundations in him. He again identifies himself with it in that he is continually ready to win it.

4. Immanent shame is connected with this interior imbalance. It has a "sexual" character, because the very sphere of human sexuality seems to highlight especially that imbalance, which springs from lust and especially from the lust of the body. From this point of view, that first impulse which Genesis 3:7 speaks of is very eloquent: "They knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." It is as if the "man of lust" (man and woman "in the act of knowledge of good and evil") felt that he had just stopped, also through his own body and sex, being above the world of living beings or animalia. It is as if he felt a specific break of the personal integrity of his own body, especially in what determines its sexuality and is directly connected with the call to that unity in which man and woman "become one flesh" (Gn 2:24). Therefore, that immanent and at the same time sexual shame is always, at least indirectly, relative. It is the shame of his own sexuality with regard to the other human being. Shame is manifested in this way in the narrative of Genesis 3. As a result of it we are, in a certain sense, witnesses of the birth of human lust. Also the motivation to go back from Christ's words about the man who "looks at a woman lustfully" (Mt 5:27-28), to that first moment in which shame is explained by means of lust, and lust by means of shame, is therefore sufficiently clear. In this way we understand better why and in what sense Christ speaks of desire as adultery committed in the heart, because he addresses the human "heart".

5. The human heart keeps within it simultaneously desire and shame. The birth of shame directs us toward that moment in which the inner man, "the heart," closing himself to what "comes from the Father," opens to what "comes from the world." The birth of shame in the human heart keeps pace with the beginning of lust—of the threefold concupiscence according to Johannine theology (cf. 1 Jn 2:16), and in particular the concupiscence of the body. Man is ashamed of his body because of lust. In fact, he is ashamed not so much of his body as precisely of lust. He is ashamed of his body owing to lust. He is ashamed of his body owing to that state of his spirit to which theology and psychology give the same name: desire or lust, although with a meaning that is not quite the same. The biblical and theological meaning of desire and lust is different from that used in psychology. For the latter, desire comes from lack or necessity, which the value desired must satisfy. As we can deduce from 1 Jn 2:16, biblical lust indicates the state of the human spirit removed from the original simplicity and the fullness of values that man and the world possess in the dimensions of God. This simplicity and fullness of the value of the human body in the first experience of its masculinity-femininity, which Genesis 2:23-25 speaks of, has subsequently undergone, in the dimensions of the world, a radical transformation. Then, together with the lust of the body, shame was born.

6. Shame has a double meaning. It indicates the threat to the value and at the same time preserves this value interiorly.(1) The human heart, from the moment when the lust of the body was born in it, also keeps shame within itself. This fact indicates that it is possible and necessary to appeal to the heart when it is a question of guaranteeing those values from which lust takes away their original and full dimension. If we keep that in mind, we can understand better why Christ, speaking of lust, appeals to the human "heart"."


Al pellegrinaggio dei "Christian Brothers" e dei Fratelli di San Gabriele

It is a pleasure to have among the pilgrims two groups of religious brothers: Christian Brothers who are finishing their tertianship in Rome, and Brothers of Saint Gabriel from Asia. I pray that your time in Rome will enhance your appreciation of your special vocation. The Church sets great store not only by the active assistance you give her, especially in the field of education, but also by your calling in itself: for, without the dimension given by religious brothers, the Church’s witness would lack some of its brilliance. May God bless you and give you strength in your work and your vocation.

Ai gruppi provenienti da Bayern, Bamberg e Paderborn

Einen besonderen Willkommensgruß richte ich sodann an die Pfingst-Romwallfahrt aus Bayern anläßlich des Jubiläumsjahres des hl. Benedikt und die Rom-Wallfahrt der Erzdiözese Bamberg. Letztere gedenkt, durch einen Besuch in der Kathedrale von Sutri das Andenken ihres ehemaligen Heimatbischofs Suidgerus zu ehren, der dort im Jahre 1046 als Clemens II. zum Papst gewählt worden ist. Es ist würdig und recht, das Leben und Glaubenszeugnis unserer Vorfahren, insbesondere der Heiligen unter ihnen, in uns lebendig zu erhalten und uns an ihrem Beispiel zu orientieren. Wie sie damals, so ruft Christus heute uns in seine Nachfolge. Mögen auch wir auf seinen Anruf mit derselben hoch-herzigen Bereitschaft und Treue antworten, wie es ungezählte Glaubensbrüder und -schwestern vor uns getan haben. Diese Gnade erbitte ich euch von Herzen mit meinem Apostolischen Segen.

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Ebenso herzlich grüße ich die zahlreichen Pilgerinnen und Pilger der Romwallfahrt der Leser der Kirchenzeitung für das Erzbistum Paderborn, der Dom. Das sichtbare Gotteshaus, die Bischofskirche, an die euch der Name eurer Kirchenzeitung stets erinnert, ist sinnfälliges Zeichen für die unsichtbare Gegenwart Gottes inmitten seines Volkes. Er soll euch aber auch immer zugleich daran erinnern, daß ihr als Christen selbst dazu berufen seid, lebendige Tempel des Heiligen Geistes zu sein. Seid euch stets dieser Berufung und Würde eingedenk und sucht ihr durch ein überzeugtes Leben aus dem Glauben immer mehr zu entsprechen. Dazu erteile ich euch in der Liebe Christi den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli della parrocchia romana di Santa Maria in Trastevere

Saluto adesso il gruppo di pellegrini della parrocchia di S. Maria in Trastevere, i quali sono venuti a ricambiare la visita da me fatta poco tempo fa alla loro Comunità. Nel ringraziarvi, figli carissimi, di questo gesto gentile, vi esorto a perseverare nell’impegno di fedele adesione a Cristo e di devozione filiale a Maria Santissima, emulando le generose tradizioni cristiane, lasciate a voi dai vostri avi. A tutti voi ed alle vostre famiglie la mia paterna Benedizione Apostolica.

Al gruppo di marittimi e portuali di Marghera

É presente a questa Udienza un gruppo di Marittimi e di Portuali di Marghera, i quali, accompagnati dal loro Patriarca, il Cardinale Marco Cè, hanno voluto ricordare con un pellegrinaggio a Roma il 25° anniversario dell’istituzione della benemerita Opera di Santa Maria del Porto. Accogliete, carissimi figli, il mio riconoscente e gioioso saluto, mentre prego il Signore di benedire il vostro lavoro e la vostra generosa dedizione, e ricolmi voi e le vostre famiglie di quelle consolazioni, di cui è pegno la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai pellegrini di diverse diocesi italiane

Ed ora un pensiero, altrettanto affettuoso, ai numerosi pellegrini delle Diocesi di Macerata, Tolentino, Cingoli, Treia e Recanati, che rappresentano, nella grande maggioranza, il mondo del lavoro e dell’impresa. Grazie a voi, per aver desiderato incontrarvi col Padre comune. Amo partecipare alla vostra fatica con l’augurio fervido che sia per voi non solo fonte di sostentamento materiale, ma anche motivo di elevazione personale, avvalorando e stimolando le vostre capacità d’intelletto e di cuore per il bene comune, come per la serenità delle vostre persone e delle vostre famiglie; a tutti imparto, propiziatrice dei doni del divino Spirito, la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani

Ai giovani presenti a questa Udienza giunga, come di consueto, il mio saluto cordiale ed affettuoso.

La Pentecoste ci suggerisce di rivolgere la nostra preghiera allo Spirito Santo. É Lui che illumina la nostra mente per comprendere che Gesù Cristo è la speranza certa dell’uomo, senza della quale egli vive nella solitudine e nella tristezza.

Lo Spirito di Dio, cari giovani, riempia anche i vostri cuori della sua gioia e rinnovi le vostre volontà, rendendole docili alle sue ispirazioni.

Agli ammalati

Il mio abbraccio particolare a voi, cari fratelli ammalati! Voi rappresentate, per la vostra stessa condizione, la debolezza umana ed insieme la potenza e la misericordia di Dio.

Io vi sono vicino con l’affetto ed ancor più con la preghiera; ma a mia volta raccomando le necessità di tutta la Chiesa alle vostre preghiere, tanto potenti presso Dio, il Quale "ha scelto le cose deboli per confondere le forti" (1Cor 1,8).

Vi aiuti per questo la mia confortatrice Benedizione Apostolica.

Alle coppie di sposi

Alle numerose coppie di sposi novelli, intervenuti a questa Udienza, rivolgo il mio saluto ed augurio cordiale.

L’affetto che vi lega - e che è stato santificato e corroborato nel Sacramento del Matrimonio - possa mantenere intatta la freschezza gioiosa di questi giorni, nella consapevolezza che ogni cristiano è portatore d’una Speranza certa di vita, della quale egli deve sempre rendere ragione (cf. 1Pt 3).

Iddio vi benedica, cari novelli sposi, e la Vergine Santissima vi assista.

Appello per la liberazione di quanti sono ancora tenuti sotto sequestro. Giovanni Paolo II implora prima di tutto la liberazione del bambino di 9 anni Giovanni Furci in mano ai rapitori dallo scorso mese di gennaio, e poi quella di altre cinque persone:

Sento il dovere di farmi, ancora una volta, interprete dei sentimenti di accorata trepidazione di alcune famiglie, che stanno vivendo giorni di logorante angoscia per il rapimento di un loro caro. Il mio pensiero va al bambino Giovanni Furci, ai giovani Francesco Coppola, Enrico Zappino, Leonardo Rossi; ai signori Antonio Rullo e Giuseppe Gullì, e a tutti quanti sono tenuti sotto sequestro.

Nel rivolgere pubblicamente un appello al senso di umanità che non può essere spento nell’animo dei rapitori, invito tutti voi ad unirvi con me nella preghiera, per ottenere dal Signore che tocchi il loro cuore e li induca a porre termine ad una situazione insostenibile, concedendo alle loro vittime di tornare quanto prima ad abbracciare i familiari così duramente provati dall’ormai lungo periodo di forzata lontananza.