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The concupiscence of the body deforms the man-woman relationships

32 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 23 July 1980 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"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 the world"—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 habitually threatened. 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."

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

All’Arciconfraternita di Santo Stefano

A special word of greeting now to the group of altar servers from England belonging to the Archconfraternity of Saint Stephen, led by Monsignor Anthony Howe. I am glad to know that this year you are celebrating your seventy-fifty anniversary. You have an important work to do in ensuring dignified and prayerful celebration of the Church’s liturgy. May God bless you as you perform it.

Al pellegrinaggio della diocesi di Nicosia in Sicilia

Un cordiale ed affettuoso saluto desidero rivolgere ai fedeli della diocesi di Nicosia, i quali, guidati dal loro zelante Pastore, Monsignor Salvatore Di Salvo, sono venuti in pellegrinaggio a Roma per venerare le tombe degli Apostoli e per esprimere il loro devoto ossequio al Successore di Pietro.

Nel manifestarvi il mio vivo compiacimento per tale gesto, carico di spirituale significato, faccio voti che la vostra fede cristiana sia sempre solida e forte sul fondamento della Parola di Dio e dell’insegnamento della Chiesa; sia sempre limpida e serena in mezzo al fluttuare delle vicende umane; sia generosa e coraggiosa senza alcun rispetto umano. Siate "saldi nella fede... e nella grazia di Dio!", vi esorto con le parole stesse di Pietro; e conservate gelosamente quelle sane, sante e preziose tradizioni a voi trasmesse, per tanti secoli, dai vostri padri.

San Filippo d’Agira e il Beato Felice da Nicosia continuino ad ispirare con i loro insegnamenti e i loro esempi la vostra testimonianza cristiana, e la Vergine Santissima, che venerate con filiale ardore, vi protegga sempre con la sua materna protezione.

Accompagno questi voti con la mia Benedizione Apostolica, che imparto al vostro Vescovo, a voi qui presenti ed a tutti i fratelli e le sorelle della diletta diocesi di Nicosia.

Alle religiose

Saluto di cuore le molte centinaia di Religiose qui convenute, tra le quali si distingue il folto gruppo di quelle aderenti al Movimento dei Focolari.

Tutte vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza, e a tutte auguro che questo incontro di fede possa rinsaldarvi ognor più nella vostra generosa dedizione al Signore ed alla sua Chiesa. La vostra testimonianza evangelica nel mondo faccia sempre di voi delle lampade accese, tali da illuminare e riscaldare quanti incontrate sul vostro cammino.

E sempre vi accompagni la mia benedizione.

Ai giovani

Rivolgo ora un saluto particolarmente affettuoso ai giovani, che con il loro esplodente entusiasmo, affollano e rallegrano questa piazza di S. Pietro.

Vi ringrazio, carissimi, per questa vostra presenza. Se vi accolgo con speciale affetto. ciò è perché ho veramente fiducia in voi, perché, nella mia esperienza tra i giovani già come docente nell’Università e nei miei precedenti incontri con loro nei circoli culturali e nelle escursioni in montagna, ho tratto la convinzione che proprio voi giovani siete una delle vie significative della Chiesa, perché con sincero impegno e con nobiltà di ideali, date aperta testimonianza di fede, glorificando così il Redentore dell’Uomo, Gesù nostro fratello e nostro vero amico.

Con questi sentimenti vi auguro un sereno riposo estivo e vi benedico di cuore.

Agli ammalati

Tutta la mia attenzione è ora per voi, ammalati dell’Arcidiocesi di Malta, che dopo aver sostato in pio pellegrinaggio al santuario mariano di Lourdes, vi siete voluti fermare a Roma, per dare il vostro saluto al Papa.

A voi e a quanti altri, pure ammalati, che sono qui oggi, anche con disagio e sacrificio, io dico: sappiate che il Papa è vicino a voi con l’affetto e con la preghiera quotidiana. Abbiate fiducia: il Signore non vi abbandonerà, nei momenti più duri della prova rivolgetevi a Lui e dite, con le stesse parole che ho suggerito recentemente in Brasile:

"Signore, concedeteci pazienza, serenità e coraggio; dateci il vivere in carità gioiosa, per vostro amore, verso quanti soffrono più di noi e verso quelli che, non soffrendo, non hanno chiarito il senso della vita".

Con questa esortazione, vi imparto la confortatrice Benedizione Apostolica.

Agli sposi novelli

Un saluto particolare desidero infine rivolgere agli sposi novelli presenti a questa Udienza per rafforzare con la Benedizione del Papa quella unione che è stata santificata e sancita dal Sacramento del Matrimonio.

Vi auguro che il vostro amore, che oggi vi unisce così saldamente, non solo non abbia mai ad affievolirsi, ma si accresca di giorno in giorno in una armoniosa unità di intenti e di voleri, sia sul piano umano sia su quello soprannaturale, in cui l’amore coniugale è figura di quello stesso amore che esiste tra Cristo e la Chiesa, sua mistica sposa.

Invoco sulle vostre nascenti famiglie e sul vostro cammino a due, che avete da poco iniziato, elette grazie e benedizioni celesti.

(1) Gaudium et Spes, 24: "Anzi il Signore Gesù quando prega il Padre, perché "tutti siano una cosa sola, come io e te siamo una cosa sola" [Gv 17,21-22] mettendoci davanti orizzonti impervi alla ragione umana, ci ha suggerito una certa similitudine tra l’unione delle persone divine e l’unione dei figli di Dio nella verità e nella carità. Questa similitudine manifesta che l’uomo, il quale in terra è la sola creatura che Iddio abbia voluto per se stessa, non possa ritrovarsi pienamente se non attraverso un dono sincero di sé".

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