Bookmark and Share

The threefold concupiscence limits the nuptial meaning of the body

31 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 25 June 1980 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The analysis we made during the preceding reflection was centered on the words which God-Yahweh addressed to the first woman after original sin: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gn 3:16). We concluded that these words contain an adequate clarification and a deep interpretation of original shame (cf. Gn 3:7), which became part of man and of woman together with lust. The explanation of this shame is not to be sought in the body itself, in the somatic sexuality of both. It goes back to the deeper changes undergone by the human spirit. This spirit is especially aware of how insatiable it is with regard to the mutual unity between man and woman. This awareness blames the body, so to speak, and deprives it of the simplicity and purity of the meaning connected with the original innocence of the human being. In relation to this awareness, shame is a secondary experience. If it reveals the moment of lust, at the same time it can protect from the consequences of the three forms of lust. It can even be said that man and woman, through shame, almost remain in the state of original innocence. They continually become aware of the nuptial meaning of the body and aim at preserving it from lust. Similarly, they try to maintain the value of communion, that is, of the union of persons in the unity of the body.

2. Genesis 2:24 speaks with discretion but also with clarity of the union of bodies in the sense of the authentic union of persons: "A man...cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." From the context it is seen that this union comes from a choice, since the man leaves his father and mother to unite with his wife. Such a union of persons entails that they should become one flesh. Starting from this "sacramental" expression, which corresponds to the communion of persons—of the man and the woman—in their original call to conjugal union, we can understand better the specific message of Genesis 3:16: that is, we can establish and, as it were, reconstruct what the imbalance, in fact the peculiar distortion of the original interpersonal relationship of communion, to which the "sacramental" words of Genesis 2:24 refer, consists of.

3. It can therefore be said—studying Genesis 3:16—that while on the one hand the "body," constituted in the unity of the personal subject, does not cease to stimulate the desires of personal union, precisely because of masculinity and femininity ("your desire shall be for your husband"), on the other hand and at the same time, lust directs these desires in its own way. That is confirmed by the expression, "he shall rule over you". The lust of the flesh directs these desires, however, to satisfaction of the body, often at the cost of a real and full communion of persons. In this sense, attention should be paid to the way in which semantic accentuations are distributed in the verses of Genesis 3. Although there are few of them, they reveal interior consistency. The man seems to feel ashamed of his own body with particular intensity: "I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself" (Gn 3:10). These words emphasize the metaphysical character of shame. At the same time, for the man, shame united with lust will become an impulse to "dominate" the woman. ("he shall rule over you.") Subsequently, the experience of this domination is manifested more directly in the woman as the insatiable desire for a different union. From the moment when the man "dominates" her, the communion of persons—made of the full spiritual union of the two subjects giving themselves to each other—is followed by a different mutual relationship. This is the relationship of possession of the other as the object of one's own desire. If this impulse prevails on the part of the man, the instincts that the woman directs to him, according to the expression of Genesis 3:16, can—and do—assume a similar character. Sometimes, perhaps, they precede the man's "desire," or even aim at arousing it and giving it impetus.

4. The text of Genesis 3:16 seems to indicate the man especially as the one who "desires." This is similar to the text of Matthew 5:27-28, the starting point of these meditations. Nevertheless, both the man and the woman have become a human being subject to lust. Therefore the lot of both is shame. With its deep resonance, it touches the innermost recesses both of the male and of the female personality, even though in a different way. What we learn from Genesis 3 enables us barely to outline this duality, but even the mere references are very significant. Since it is a question of such an archaic text, it is surprisingly eloquent and acute.

5. An adequate analysis of Genesis 3 leads to the conclusion that the three forms of lust, including that of the body, bring with them a limitation of the nuptial meaning of the body itself, in which man and woman participated in the state of original innocence. When we speak of the meaning of the body, we refer first to the full awareness of the human being. But we also include all actual experience of the body in its masculinity and femininity, and, in any case, the constant predisposition to this experience. The meaning of the body is not just something conceptual. We have already drawn attention to this sufficiently in the preceding analyses. The meaning of the body is at the same time what determines the attitude—it is the way of living the body. It is a measure which the interior man, that is, that heart which Christ referred to in the Sermon on the Mount, applies to the human body with regard to his masculinity/femininity (therefore with regard to his sexuality).

That meaning does not change the reality in itself, what the human body is and does not cease to be in the sexuality that is characteristic of it, independently of the states of our conscience and our experiences. However, this purely objective significance of the body and of sex, outside the system of real and concrete interpersonal relations between man and woman, is, in a certain sense, "ahistorical." In the present analysis, on the contrary—in conformity with the biblical sources—we always take man's historicity into account (also because we start from his theological prehistory). Obviously it is a question here of an interior dimension, which eludes the external criteria of historicity, but which, however, can be considered historical. It is precisely at the basis of all the facts which constitute the history of man—also the history of sin and of salvation—and thus reveal the depth and very root of his historicity.

6. When, in this vast context, we speak of lust as a limitation, infraction or even distortion of the nuptial meaning of the body, we are referring above all to the preceding analyses regarding the state of original innocence, that is, the theological prehistory of man. At the same time, we have in mind the measure that historical man, with his "heart," applies to his own body in relation to male/female sexuality. This measure is not something exclusively conceptual. It determines the attitudes and decides in general the way of living the body.

Certainly, Christ refers to that in his Sermon on the Mount. We are trying here to link the words taken from Matthew 5:27-28 to the threshold of man's theological history, considering them in the context of Genesis 3. Lust as a limitation, infraction or even distortion of the nuptial meaning of the body can be ascertained in an especially clear way in our first progenitors, Adam and Eve (despite the concise nature of the biblical narrative). Thanks to them we have been able to find the nuptial meaning of the body and rediscover what it consists of as a measure of the human heart, such as to mold the original form of the communion of persons. In their personal experience (which the biblical text enables us to follow) that original form has undergone imbalance and distortion—as we have sought to prove through the analysis of shame—also the nuptial meaning of the body, which in the situation of original innocence constituted the measure of the heart of both the man and the woman, must have undergone a distortion. If we succeed in reconstructing what this distortion consists of, we shall also have the answer to our question. That is, what does lust of the flesh consist of, and what constitutes its theological and at the same time anthropological specific character? It seems that an answer theologically and anthropologically adequate—important as regards the meaning of Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5:27-28)—can already be obtained from the context of Genesis 3 and from the whole Yahwist narrative, which previously enabled us to clarify the nuptial meaning of the human body."

After the catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

SCHLIEßLICH RICHTE ich noch einen herzlichen Willkommensgruß an die Mitglieder des Städtischen Singgemeinde Kleve und des Nijmeegs Kamerorkest. Durch eure Romwallfahrt und die musikalischen Darbietungen in der Ewigen Stadt ehrt ihr das Andenken Kaiser Ottos III. anläßlich der tausendjährigen Wiederkehr seiner Geburt in Kleve. Seine besondere Beziehung mit der Gründungsgeschichte der Kirche in Polen macht ihn zum Anwalt der Völkerverständigung über alle nationalen Grenzen hinaus im Geist christlicher Solidarität und Bruderliebe. Möget auch ihr euch stets für dieses hohe Ziel einsetzen! Dazu erteile ich euch und allen anwesenden Pilgern von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

All’equipaggio della nave statunitense Saratoga

I wish to extend a special greeting to the Captain and crew of the USS Saratoga. I am glad that you have come to Rome in such a group for this audience, and I hope your visit here will enrich your lives and deepen your faith. May God bless you all.

Ai componenti il "Boy Choir" di Atlanta

I would also like to welcome the members of the Atlanta Boy Choir and the Atlanta Chamber Opera Society. I pray that through your musical talent you will bring gladness to others and joy to your own hearts.

Ai professori e agli alunni dell’Istituto "Pons d’Icart" di Tarragona

Un saludo cordial de bienvenida para los Profesores y Alumnos del Instituto de Enseñanza Media "Pons d’Icart" de Tarragona, en España.

Amadísimos todos: Habéis querido prolongar este año vuestra comunidad escolar con unas jornadas de ampliación cultural y de convivencia religiosa, viniendo hasta Roma. Que esta peregrinación, sin duda de tan gratos recuerdos, sea un nuevo y fuerte estímulo a mantener viva la presencia bienhechora de Dios, y operante en vuestros corazones el amor a Cristo y a los hermanos.

A vosotros, a vuestras familias, a vuestros compañeros y amigos mi más cordial Bendición Apostólica.

Ai partecipanti al convegno annuale dei responsabili regionali e diocesani della pastorale e del lavoro in Italia

Saluto ora con sincero affetto i partecipanti al Convegno annuale dei responsabili regionali e diocesani della pastorale del lavoro in Italia. Figli carissimi, voi vi interrogherete in questi giorni, alla luce delle esperienze raccolte nelle varie sedi, circa le vie da seguire per attuare un’efficace presenza pastorale nel mondo del lavoro. E’ una riflessione che l’attuale momento critico rende particolarmente delicata e difficile. Sia vostra preoccupazione costante quella di restare fedeli, al di là dei modelli di pensiero correnti, ai valori imperituri del messaggio cristiano ed alle esigenze poste da un coerente rispetto per la dignità dell’uomo. Troverete in ciò il criterio sicuro per giungere ad una proposta pastorale originale ed incisiva. Vi sono vicino con la preghiera e con la mia benedizione Apostolica.

Agli altri pellegrinaggi Italiani

Desidero ora rivolgere una parola di plauso e di incoraggiamento ai partecipanti al corso annuale di Pastorale Migratoria, riservato a Sacerdoti, Religiosi e Laici. Carissimi, di cuore auspico che la vostra opera porti abbondanti frutti di bene fra le persone che sono state costrette ad abbandonare la propria terra natia. Vi sostenga e vi accompagni la mia particolare Benedizione.

* * *

Il mio cordiale saluto va, altresì, ai Superiori e Alunni dell’istituto Catechetico Missionario "Mater Ecclesiae" della Sacra Congregazione "dePropaganda Fide", con l’auspicio che il loro corso contribuisca ad una sempre più intensa evangelizzazione missionaria.

* * *

Saluto poi i partecipanti al congresso promosso dall’Associazione della Stampa Medica Italiana ed i vincitori del premio di giornalismo medico.

* * *

Intendo poi dare un benvenuto particolarmente sentito al numeroso pellegrinaggio delle Infermiere Volontarie della Croce Rossa Italiana, alle quali auguro di cuore di proseguire sempre con entusiasmo il loro prezioso servizio di assistenza ai sofferenti.

* * *

Rivolgo ora un particolare pensiero al gruppo del Centro Sportivo di Caseina Elisa, della Diocesi di Milano, di cui benedico volentieri la fiaccola da portare alla loro Parrocchia, dedicata ai Santi Pietro e Paolo.

* * *

Infine, riservo un saluto per il gruppo di coniugi "focolarini" qui presenti e provenienti da varie nazioni, ai quali formo l’augurio di una serena vita matrimoniale, impostata sulla fede ed irradiante un’efficace testimonianza cristiana.

Ai giovani

Un saluto speciale rivolgo ora a voi, fanciulli, ragazzi, ragazze e giovani, che con tanto entusiasmo ed esuberanza avete voluto venire a questa Udienza per vedere il Papa e manifestare così la vostra fede in Gesù Cristo, qui rappresentato dal suo Vicario. Saluto in modo particolare quei fanciulli e fanciulle, tra voi, che si sono accostati da poco tempo al Sacramento dell’Eucaristia, nella Prima Comunione, e recano ancora con loro il profumo del pane eucaristico e la fragranza dell’amore di Gesù per noi. Auguro a tutti che possiate conservare sempre la grazia, la luce e il sorriso che a voi derivano dall’innocenza e dall’amicizia con Gesù.

Agli ammalati

Un pensiero poi del tutto particolare va agli ammalati e ai sofferenti che, come in ogni Udienza, occupano un posto privilegiato accanto al Papa. Carissimi ammalati, vi ringrazio per la vostra preziosa presenza e per i disagi che avete dovuto affrontare per venire a questo incontro. Vi sono grato soprattutto per le preghiere e per i sacrifici nascosti che offrite al Signore per la Chiesa e per il Papa. Il Signore ve ne renda merito. Da parte mia, vi esorto a non perdervi mai d’animo, neppure nei momenti più duri, a cui la malattia vi sottopone; e ad essere sempre consapevoli che le vostre sofferenze sono altrettanti tesori che fruttificano per il bene della società in cui viviamo e per il conseguimento della vita eterna. Vi sia di conforto la mia speciale Benedizione.

Alle coppie di sposi novelli

Ed ora una parola beneaugurante agli sposi novelli. Cari sposi, vi esprimo anzitutto le mie felicitazioni per il passo così bello e impegnativo, che avete da poco compiuto con la celebrazione del Sacramento del matrimonio, che ha consacrato il vostro amore, rendendolo stabile ed irrevocabile. Vi esprimo poi l’augurio che possiate vivere sempre in questo autentico amore coniugale con entusiastica reciproca donazione, con attaccamento sincero e con crescente fedeltà. Il Signore benedica il vostro amore e ve lo conservi per sempre nella gioia cristiana.

Ai Direttori regionali e diocesani delle Pontificie Opere Missionarie

Un saluto desidero rivolgere ai Direttori regionali e diocesani delle Pontificie Opere Missionarie. Sappiate, carissimi figli, che il Papa apprezza molto il vostro lavoro che è di qualificata collaborazione alla diffusione del Vangelo. Ve ne ringrazio e vi benedico di cuore.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana