by Father Bob Papi
used with permission
|We Are Person||Person Is Made To Love||Disconnected From Person||Disconnected From Each Other||Disconnected From God||Finding The Person||Finding Each Other||Finding The Person In Time||Loneliness The Cry Of The Person For God||Naming The Person|
This series, of which the following will be the first essay, is a work of reflections on Pope John Paul II's Theology Of The Body. I offer it as a means of understanding, and joyfully accepting, our reality as persons. We are persons created, redeemed, and sanctified by the Blessed Trinity.
The classic definition of theology, ascribed to St. Anslem is: "Faith Seeking Understanding!"
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines theology as: "Rational analysis of a religious faith."
For the Fathers of the Church Theologia (theology) "refers to the mystery of God's innermost life within the Blessed Trinity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 236).
Pope John Paul II reminds us that: " Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know truth - in a word, to know Himself - so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves." (Opening statement of the encyclical FAITH AND REASON).
A Theology of the Person then is a search for understanding of the 'who I am' and 'why I am' of personal existence. It is an exploration of personhood as a unique individual, and as one who is like, therefore in relation to, others like ourselves.
First we know that as created beings we are objects, as are all created things.
Next, as beings created with immortal souls in the image and likeness of God we know we are also subjects.
It is this spiritual aspect of our beings - that our souls give form to our bodies - this reality of being subject as well as object which distinguishes us from all other created objects. "The unity of the soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the 'form' of the body i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living body, a human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature." (CCC#365)
Because of this truth revealed by God to the Church and taught by the Church in the Catechism, we begin to see that a Theology of the Body is necessarily also a Theology of the Person.
What is critical about these revealed truths, that reveal the Divine Will and Plan of the Blessed Trinity for humanity, for every human being, for all our history, all of creation, is that the human person is radically different from all else in creation.
"The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is CREATED IMMEDIATELY BY GOD - it is not 'produced' by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection."(CCC#366)
Therefore to reduce a human person to mere object: a biological mass which can be aborted, is to hide behind denial of reality and commit murder. To advocate abortion is to be completely anti-the-human-person. Incest, rape, adultery, emotional or physical assault, denial of a just wage, gossip - which murders a person's good name, and a multitude of other sins, are all sins against a person. Each requires first of all the sin of denial of truth, and, therefore, require that I lie about the personhood of another, which can only be accomplished if I deny the truth of my own personhood.
As St. Paul reminds us: " Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Cor.6:19,20)
How are we, as baptized persons, to truly glorify God in our bodies, remembering that St. Irenaeus teaches it is when we are fully alive that we become the glory of God?
Jesus tells us how: "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you." (In.15:12)
How can we love one another, that is, how can I love the 'other' if I do not see the other as one like myself: person, child of the Father, redeemed brother or sister of Christ, temple of the Spirit?
How can we defend life, human life, the life of human persons, our brothers and sisters, at every stage from the womb to the tomb, if we do not know whom we are or who they are?
How can we hope to have faith in the reality of His Eucharistic Presence if we have no understanding of what it means to be a person?
The Eucharist Is The Ultimate Person - Jesus - who loves us first and commands us to love one another as He loves us!
So central is the mystery, sacrament and grace of the Eucharist in comprehending personhood that Pope John Paul II teaches: " The Eucharist constitutes the culminating moment in which Jesus, in His Body given for us and in His Blood poured out for our salvation, reveals the mystery of His identity and indicates the sense of the vocation of every believer. In fact, the meaning of human life is totally contained in that Body and in that Blood, since from them life and salvation have come to us. In some ways, the very existence of the human person must be identified with them. so that this existence is fulfilled in so far as it can, in its turn, make itself a gift for others." (Pope John Paul II - L'Osservatore Romano #48-p.2, 1 December 1999, English Weekly Edition)
Now, perhaps, when we approach at Holy Communion and the Priest proclaims to us: Body of Christ, we will begin to accept the reality it is at one and the same time the Body and the Person of Christ - our risen and glorified God who is Love - whom we are receiving. The implications, (physical, intellectual, spiritual; that is body, mind, heart, soul) of this sacramental permeation of our person, our being form in some aspects mystery. In other aspects they should form what is called PRAXIS. This is the practice of faith based charity, humble loving service of others, which necessarily flows from the original communion of love, with Love Himself, who the night before He died gave us the example and mandate, after He instituted the Holy Eucharist, to love one another as He loves us.
Celebrating,the Jubilee of His Incarnation means to celebrate, in practice, the Jubilee of His love. We are called to a Jubilee of imitation as expression of jubilation!
This series is one way in which I am celebrating the Jubilee Holy Year of the Person, the Incarnate One Jesus Christ: " All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life..." and Jesus is: " the same yesterday, today and forever." (See John 1:3 & Heb.13:8) The great St. Pius X cried out for the restoration of all things to Christ. My heart feels urgently the need to help my brothers and sisters in Christ, achieve through Christ, the restoration of a profound understanding and acceptance of a joy in the reality of being persons, and persons in Christ.For as is written: " To those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name.."(Jn. 1: 12)
Reduction of the human person to a mere complex of bio-matter, enabled through a supposed self-actuating process of evolution over the eons to 'think' enables every horror from eugenics to the holocaust to saturation bombing of civilians to the most pernicious blood-letting in human history, namely, abortion on demand.
What this reductionism draws we human persons into is a lightless death dealing vortex, a spiritual black hole which crushes proper concepts of masculinity, femininity, fatherhood, motherhood, childhood, priesthood, sacrament, morality, and virtue (especially charity,) This renders the human family in our era into a disparate mass of pulverized beings, afraid of God, afraid of self and other. It creates the absolute opposite of the community and communion of love mandated by Christ when He told us and continues to tell us: Love One Another As I Have Loved You.
If, as St. Pius X urges, we are to restore all things to Christ we must begin by the restoration of human personhood and human dignity, "In Him, with Him, through Him."
Christ Is All. . . Christ Is Everything! (See Col.3 :1 1)
(Unless indicated otherwise all the quotations from Pope John Paul's teaching on the theology of the body come from: THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY, collected teachings o.(Pope John Paul II, published under that title by: Pauline Books and Media, Boston, 1997. They will be indicated by page reference to that book as
The Holy Father's teaching - a body of theological and pastoral insight which should be meditated upon, and implemented by all Bishops, Priests, indeed lived by all the Baptized - begins with his reflections on the original unity of man and woman, and continues with commentaries on purity of heart, life in the Spirit. In truth it cannot be isolated from his great teaching encyclicals throughout his pontificate.
Understanding clearly that the most protracted assaults by ideologies of all stripes who propose a humanism of any kind which is not based upon the reality of God as Creator, God as Father, are launched at their most vociferous and vicious, as attacks on the family and those who defend family life (thus necessarily waging war against the sacramental indissolubility of monogamous heterosexual self-gift and its constitutive pro-creative co-operation with God) Pope John Paul begins at the beginning of creation and the creation of the human person, male and female, in the image and likeness of God who, and who Alone, creates.
Reductionist reading of Sacred Scripture is the process where, for example, creationists disallow for any evolving process across the eons of what God has created, and a reductionist reading of the material universe is the process where, for example, proponents and adherents of any of the various theories of evolution deny the Creator Himself, deny God.
Pope John Paul is far too great a man of faith and, far to wise a man of reason, to become mired in modernist debates which are not an attempt to discover truth but rather a determination to prevail over another.
This means when Pope John Paul teaches he carefully lays before us the essence of the problem being considered, and then step by step, frequently with needed repetition using varying phrases, leads us through the problem not merely to its resolution, or at least a better understanding of its components, but to Truth.
In his series of teachings on the sacredness of the human person as one who can self-gift in marriage, the Holy Father begins with the reality that human persons are God-created in two distinct, yet indeed intended for complimentary unity, forms: male and female. Unity in diversity; equal yet different; distinct by gender yet complementary; always person. Marriage is the sacramental union of two distinct persons, one male person and one female person.
The Pope begins by reflecting on the problem of the demand of human persons united in marriage to be allowed, at their insistence, to be declared dis-united and how the Pharisees challenged Jesus on this very issue [Mt.19:3ff., Mk.10:2ff.] and Jesus Himself 'took' the Pharisees to 'the beginning'.
The English word 'radical' originates from the Latin word 'radix' the origin also of the word 'root'. Unfortunately radicals tend to be those who uproot and the truth is that the radical advocating against the indissolubility of marriage tends to the uprooting of the mystery of the origin of every new human life, and thus also to the protracted process of the disintegration of family life, the primary unit of church and society. What necessarily follows then is as the domestic church crumbles the universal Church is ever more wounded, weakened, and society itself drifts ever more definitively towards either outright anarchy or ever more pervasive governmental control of human life from the womb to the tomb, a control exercised through legislative manipulation of human labour, culture and a type of social ethic which is based on an abusive so-called human rights authoritarianism founded not on principles of God-revealed truth but on the shifting sands of egocentric and individualist-self-interest.
Human persons as a result, formed in a culture obsessed with the construction and consumption of material goods, begin to have a physically oriented and materialist notion of the self and of other. Thus the harvesting of human sperm and human eggs is undifferentiated from any other type of material harvesting: minerals, timber, meat, indeed in the age of world wide web and virtual reality technologies, even 'ideas' have been reduced to a type of harvestable commodity.
Any material, once harvested, or even at various stages of production, deemed unsatisfactory, is disposable.
Human persons who are workers in the modern economic scheme of things know only too well they are a disposable commodity.
Human persons, as yet unborn but fully alive persons in the womb nonetheless, are also considered disposable.
Human persons, already born but - depending on shifting application of aggressive or pseudo-passive eugenic theories - found to be deficient due to health or age are also considered disposable via the twin anti-person evils of assisted suicide (self murder by proxy which renders the 'assistant' a full murderer) and euthanasia, a clinical variation of the Nazi mantra 'just following orders.'
As a further wound, millions of devastated husband-persons and wife-persons have tragically discovered they too are deemed disposable by means of divorce.
If a mere writ can sunder what God Himself has united as regards holy marriage then that human arrogance will not stop even at the murderous sundering of a child from the womb of his/her mother.
The implications of Jesus' words as quoted by Pope John Paul, "from the beginning it was not so", encompass every possible human endeavor.
Indeed the implications of the teaching of Pope John Paul, which have come to be known as the Pope's "Theology of the Body," reach far beyond the 'everyday' non-sacramental endeavors of human persons and touch the very understanding we have of sacrament, liturgy and our lives of faith.
By taking us and following Christ to the beginning - and the beginning as the Pope notes "means that which Genesis speaks about" [p.26] - the Pope is placing before the eyes of our hearts and before the questioning of our intellects, the basis of all questions about the human person. He leads us to the singular answer to all the questions: Christ Himself.
Noting that Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 in His teaching on the indissolubility of marriage the Holy Father reminds us Jesus added: "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." Noting further that the 'let no man put asunder' is decisive the Holy Father teaches in the light of these words of Christ, that the Genesis teaching "sets forth the principle of the unity and indissolubility of marriage as the very content of the Word of God. . ."[p.26]
Remember - God has also joined together soul and flesh to form the human person. Dare we sunder a person by murder in all its variants from abortion to euthanasia? Dare we sunder a person with abuse in all its variants from sexual to emotional. Dare we sunder a person by hatred, injustice, unfair wage, prejudice, lie, or theft?
All sin, self-inflicted or inflicted upon another, is a sundering of the human person.
Divorce is a dual sundering. When the man and the woman no longer two but one flesh in the sacred marriage union are reduced, sundered and ripped apart, they become not 'two' again but tragically broken pieces of what had once been whole.
Within an individual person and self the devastating impact of divorce initiates a type of interior sundering with various emotional and spiritual consequences. If children are involved the sundering ripples across many lives, even unto subsequent generations.
And society, in all its variants, is not immune to the devasting effects of this sundering either as the dramatic increase in the various social costs of divorce testify.
All this because human beings have dared tear at the fabric of the Divine Order.
The origin of all this sundering is, of course, sin.
Sin itself appears near, but not at, the beginning.
Near, not at, because only that which was and is good, namely that which originates from and with God, was and is present at the beginning of the beginning.
Later, after the creation of man, male and female human persons in the image and likeness of God and the giving by God to man of our original vocation of dominion, came sin and the Fall. The glory of God and authentic human living, of the earth and the original vocation of marriage, that is, of shared intimacy between persons and God in communion of love and shared fecundity with God through the mandate to "be fruitful and multiply." as our intended state. Sin came and is ever coming into the world by the man choosing to sunder the original blessing of trustful dependance on Divine Providence and dialogue of love with God. One horrific consequence of the original sin is and ever will be the sundering of the original unity between the man and the woman.
An original unity which had as a constituent element a particular innocence of communion of love with God.
Sundering of relationship(s) is never a mere physical, material or emotional event.
The impact of sundering devastates spiritually as well, indeed impacts upon all of society, beginning always with the individual person(s), the sinner(s) because invariably sundering is sin.
Unity is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Dis-unity (sundering) is the work of satan.
The failure of human persons to overcome the affects of an experience of being sundered, or having sundered, in spite of recourse to all forms of therapies, and methods and means of compensating or coping, is because only Christ can forgive sin. Failure to avail oneself of sacramental confession by confessing one's sins to a priest, who is sacramentally in persona Christi, is akin to determinedly bailing a boat with a sieve.
There may well be a sense of satisfaction due to the extent of the effort to bail but the boat will still flood and sink.
There are medications and other therapies which are indeed vital in the healing process of persons devastated by experiences of being sundered. But none of them is redemptive, none are sacramental, not a one is dispenser of absolution. They will not heal that which has been sundered by sin.
Only in sacramental confession can absolution be received at the hands of the one in persona Christi, the priest.
So the Holy Father takes us in his teaching to the beginning of man's existence as human person, male and female, created by God in His own image and likeness. He does this so we might begin to understand and appreciate the marvel, the beauty, the dignity, the mystery, the vocation of who we are, and, most important of all, our need of redemption and sanctification, thus our need of Christ who is the same 'yesterday, today, and forever.'
"...the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." (Gn.2:7)
From the beginning of revealed truth in Sacred Scripture the origin of the human person is presented with exquisite intimacy. Most of us have seen, some of have trained in CPR, the action of one human being breathing restorative breath into another human being.
It is an act which is at one and the same time charity, as fraternal love, and gift, as in giving something of myself to another.
We are able to make gift because we have been gifted. The first gift given to us is the gift of our very existence, given to us when God creates our immortal soul. This is as intimate, as loving, as tremendous a gift as given to Adam at his creation.
No self-help book, no type of affirmation therapy, no thing and no one can assure us of our belovedness more than this sheer fact of our existence!
We exist because God chooses and wills that we exist.
We are because God is. Love.
As Pope John Paul comments in his reflections on Genesis 1: "In the seven day cycle of creation a precise graduated procedure is evident. However, man is not created according to a natural succession. The Creator seems to halt before calling him into existence, as if He were pondering within Him to make a decision: ' Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...'(Gn.1:26).[p.28]
This 'Divine pondering' suggested by the Pope should move our hearts, when we reflect upon our own existence, to a profound act of adoration and thanksgiving that we are so beloved of God He ponders our very coming to be!
The fundamental error in the championing of 'animal rights' is not the mere irrational elevation of animals to equivalence with human beings, an outright impossibility, but the simultaneous and necessary reduction of the human person to a mere creature. "Already in light of the first phrases of the Bible, man cannot be either understood or explained completely in terms of categories taken from the 'world,' that is the visible complex of bodies."[p.28]
It is true that the human person, man, male and female, must have an authentic reverence for all God has created. But that reverence must be proportional and in right order with every one of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, always respected and loved, second only to the respect and love we owe God.
We know too that we show our love for God primarily through our love for one another.
To value any creature more than we value another human being is to devalue all persons, our own self included.
It is important to recall Gen.2:18-20 where we are shown our loving God expressing concern that the man should not live as an isolated being: "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a suitable partner." In this account of Creation the Sacred text places the creation of other living creatures in the context of finding one suitable to communion with the man. Each creature is brought before the man for him to name. Should the man give to any of those creatures 'his' name, that is indicate he recognizes one like himself, other, then he would indeed be able to form a partnership, a communion: "but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man."
It is only when the Lord God creates woman, using one of the ribs of Adam and thereby making woman like the one into whom He had breathed the breath of life, and brings Eve (first woman) to Adam (first man) that the man sees 'other.' He sees one like himself, a human being, a person, a female person therefore other, who is individual, unique, equal but with a complimentary difference necessary for intimate communion of persons: " This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." (v.23)
Indeed that declaration of the truth of being of the other person sung by Adam should sing in our hearts every time we meet another human being, a person like ourselves 'the image and likeness of God'
Immediately Genesis celebrates this event of woman with the foundational text of marriage and the declaration of original innocence: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame." (v.24,25)
When "in the fullness of time" the New Adam was to be born, He who is Christ our Savior, it would be through the fiat of the New Eve and the action of the Holy Spirit. No male human person participated.
The original recognition by Adam of Eve as other like himself (and tragically too the one with whom he would sunder original innocence through sin) would pale before the marvel of the human being, the woman Mary, casting her eyes upon the newborn Child. She was the first person to see the Redeemer of Man, the answer to the question of the human person!
The dividing chasm between the original innocence of Adam and Eve and innocence lost and in need of redemption - lost because man sundered it by sin - is the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Gn.2:17)
As Pope John Paul teaches, in the first situation man (male and female) being outside of the "sphere of the knowledge of good and evil" [p.3 1], enjoys the fullness of life, of living, in a state of original innocence. Everything in creation was in right order, in right relationship, proper communion: between creature and Creator, between the human persons and the Lord God, between the male and the female persons.
"The second situation, however, was that in which man, after having disobeyed the Creator's command at the prompting of the evil spirit, lost their innocence, sundered themselves from God and...unleashed the "state of human sinfulness." [p.31]
All was lost, all was thrust into disorder. All this upheaval came and comes about seemingly in an instant, unfolding with a rapidity through loss of innocence to loss of life in the Garden and the tragic trek across the years to the present moment. This trek which would have been pointless cruelty where it not for the promise (and two millennium ago with His Incarnation, Passion, Death, Resurrection the fulfillment) of redemption.
However, even though we lost our original innocence through original sin, that event of sin did not abrogate the prime command of God wherein 'a' man shall cling to 'a' woman. That is still part of the original unity. Pope John Paul underscores this through the truth that Christ Himself, by referring to "the beginning" in His teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, makes clear that " =this regulation has not lost its force, even though man has lost his primitive innocence" [p.3 1 ]
Those noted "for their hardness of heart,"rebel against this truth. We should rejoice at the sacramental potential of marriage. Marriage is a means by which we can restore all things to Christ, namely, by imitating the indissoluble self gift fidelity between the Divine Bridegroom Himself and His Bride, the Church.
Marriage, this communion and unity of love blessed by God where the two become one, is only for human persons, and only possible when one human person is male and one is female. As Holy Mother the Church proclaims in the Nuptial Blessing proclaimed by Her as she witnesses the sacramental gift: "Married life has been established as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin."
Other creatures within the wide variety of animals, plants, , etc. have the ability, indeed a type of needed ability, to inter-act for the continuation of their species and within that may instinctually adhere to a form of mating and caring for of their offspring until those are able to fend for themselves.
This is a matter of physical necessity, a type of cause and effect.
But only the sexual union of a male human person and a female human person is, by God's blessing and mandate, a communion intended to be both a deepening of the unity of the persons and a co-operative openness, a pro-creative gifting of self.
No matter the attempts of legislative bodies around the world to render them legal; regardless the tortured attempts to mount a philosophical rational; in spite of the pandering by certain clergy and laity to the relativistic notions regarding objective truth; and in defiance of a seemingly unquenchable culture of death, no attempted male to male or female to female human person sexual activity can ever approach even the outer fringe of the reality of a sacramental marital union of persons.
Indeed, all such attempts are by their very nature egocentric, self-serving attempts at communion with the ' I .' They are doomed to failure on two counts. First, they are an attempted union with the false, therefore the non-existent, self. Second, the very intent of the act towards union is itself sterile, hence self-gift - gift of self to another - fails. There is no possibility of openness to new life. In other words, a choice that is not open to life is a death choice.
There is then within each person this struggle between life and death, sin and redemption. This is sometimes referred to as spiritual warfare.
It is a battle already won by Christ, by a victory which cannot be passively ours.
We must actively participate in redemption through our struggle, made effective by grace, in particular sacramental grace, to lead lives that are peaceful, holy, and without sin.
To understand this aspect of being a person, a human being created in the image and likeness of God, yet wounded by original sin and pulverized by the sins we actually choose to commit, therefore always needing to cry out for mercy and avail ourselves of His mercy through the sacraments, it is important to truly take into our minds and hearts these words of Pope John Paul:
" The analysis of sin in its original dimension indicates that, through the influence of the 'father of lies', throughout the history of humanity there will be a constant pressure on man to reject God, even to the point of hating Him: 'Love of self to the point of contempt for God,' as Saint Augustine puts it. Man will be inclined to see in God primarily a limitation of himself, and not the source of his own freedom." (Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, #38.2)
Over the years, we human persons have, rightly, made use of our God given imaginations and intellects to first, develop culture - language, music, song, dance, story telling, commerce, social skills, traditions and laws - and then within the implications of culture, develop the various fields of scientific exploration. This in turn leads to the development of everything from philosophy to the world wide web.
Along the way, however, we have become ever further disconnected from the original innocence and our relation to the rest of the created order. Prior to sin, for example, there were no, objectively speaking, environmental disasters. Nor were there social upheavals, such as murder, necessitating armies, police forces, complex legal systems. These things came about because along the way we also became more and more disconnected from one another.
Into the chaos resulting from sin, into this disconnection, noted by the Holy Father as all resulting from the experience of sin generating 'a constant pressure on man to reject God, even to the point of hating Him ' God our Father places the promise of redemption.
Pope John Paul situates the origins of our need for redemption not outside of us but in the very core of our being: " the covenant with God broken in man's heart."
We live at a time in history where the very exchange of information has become a major motivator, an engine, of economic activity. The sheer volume of information demands, even in the area of communication between persons, ever more complex systems of digital, wireless, satellite, modes of transmission be brought into the very space where we live, our homes. Persons have come to see themselves as less than a complete person unless they are wired to the web, the multi-channel universe, and the cell phone.
All this activity occurs first 'in the intellect.' It is demanding, making our intellectual, emotional, physical, and sometimes spiritual, self ever more restless, and frankly in a greater proportion than we are willing to admit. Saturated by the often useless or at the very least frivolous, it is sometimes even part of that darkness the father of lies originally spoke to Adam and Eve. Our lives are experienced as ever more disconnected from actual reality, from the Real Presence, Christ our God, the answer to the entire question of the who and why of life.
Thus the implications of the Pope's reflections on sin in its origins need to be taken into our hearts in the context of this very moment. It is not just a commentary on some far distant past event whose impact may seem remote, but whose impact in truth is immediate: " The state of sin is part of 'historical man', both the one whom we read about in Matthew 19, that is, Christ's questioner at that time, and also of any other potential or actual questioner of all times of history, and therefore, naturally also of modern man. It is impossible to understand the state of historical sinfulness without referring to or appealing ( and Christ appealed to it ) to the state of original...and fundamental innocence..."[p.32]
Put another way, we have not been created for sin and death but for holiness and resurrection. If we forget the original innocence before sin and death entered the world it becomes difficult to open our hearts to the truth of redemption, of new creation. We then indeed, seeing no hope in our lives, will come to see God as enemy: "For in spite of all the witness of creation and of the salvific economy inherent in it, the spirit of darkness is capable of showing God as an enemy of His own creature, and in the first place as an enemy of man, as a source of danger and threat to man. In this way satan manages to sow in man's soul the seed of opposition to the One who ' from the beginning ' would be considered as man's enemy, and not as Father. Man is challenged to become the adversary of God." (DV#38. 1 )
Now, perhaps, we can begin to appreciate the grave and serious consequences of daring to address God with a title not revealed by Christ, namely calling God 'mother.' God is revealed to us as Father, Abba, and Christ teaches us to call God ' Our Father ', as Jesus Himself does. This is a declaration of the original and right relationship we are to have with Him, that of child - child created by Him - to father. No human child can ever be as much 'child' of their biological father as we are all called to be, in and through Christ by sacramental baptism, child of The Father.
No human father can ever be as much 'father' of anyone of us as God IS Father.
We pray as we believe and if in our prayer we introduce, for whatever reason, a defining appellation for any Person of the Blessed Trinity not revealed by the Trinity we 'pray' against faith.
Humanity as a whole, both in our historical past from 'the beginning' and in our present, is constantly pressured by the 'father of lies' who is also the 'prince of darkness' to doubt the love of God for us. When satan cannot seduce us with obvious evil he will seduce us in a seemingly benign manner with an apparent good which in truth is evil. So it may indeed appear as a good to change the Our Father to 'our mother,' for priests to modify liturgical language so it is not insensitive but in reality such changes cause us to quickly lose sight of the prophetic, and hence Christ revealing, use of language in Scripture. Little by little we lose faith, which is precisely what satan seeks to bring about.
How important then when reflecting upon Genesis, as Pope John Paul does, to keep before our hearts that Genesis is NOT revealing something which is somehow one step, or more, removed from our own lives. If we seek to distance ourselves from the reality of sin and death entering creation we will remove ourselves from the experience of redemption first entering as well: " We are witnesses of when man, male and female, after breaking the original covenant with the Creator, received the first promise of redemption in Genesis 3:15 and began to live in the theological perspective of the redemption."[p.33]
The Pope goes on to make the connection between 'historical man' and 'modern man,' ourselves, and our participation in the history of salvation. So these words of the Pope apply to us in this very moment and echo the Pope's constant cry and invitation to us from the beginning of his Pontificate that we open wide the doors of our being to Christ. Man, the human person male and female, " Therefore, . .. is not only closed, because of his sinfulness, with regard to original innocence, but is at the same time open to the mystery of redemption, which was accomplished in Christ and through Christ."[p.33]
Accomplished yes, but not yet brought to completion in our own personal lives as persons in the image and likeness of God. We are alive in this moment and hence in this moment have the freedom to live as redeemed persons, with lives that are holy and without sin, or, to live lives opposed to redemptive life, lives that are unholy and filled with sin. Hence the Pope adds, directly speaking to married persons and through them to all human beings: " Paul, the author of the Letter to the Romans, expresses this perspective of redemption in which historical man lives, when he writes: 'We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for...the redemption of our bodies'(Rm.8:23). We cannot lose sight of this perspective as we follow the words of Christ who, in His talk on the indissolubility of marriage, appealed to the 'beginning"'.[p.33]
Lest we become discouraged at this point that restoring all things to Christ, - especially being restored as persons in Christ, and working to restore marriage in Christ, to re-evangelize Christianity and thus evangelize the world, even to be within our own hearts as persons in communion of love with the Persons of the Blessed Trinity - is all too much for us, we have these words of encouragement, of truth, from St. Paul in the same chapter from Romans: " For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the One who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because It intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will. We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." (v.24-28)
Since the Pope next moves on to the reality and meaning of 'man's original solitude' [p.35], and we all know the great universal poverty in our era is loneliness, the result of too much unholy solitude, it is important to take to heart those words from St. Paul and trust, believe, the Holy Spirit is at work within us just as Paul describes Him being at work.
Prior to original sin, loneliness, the deep rooted sense in every human heart of that aloneness which is constitutive of the uniqueness of our very being as person, was experienced as a particular solitude filled with meaning.
Pope John Paul addresses this issue by pointing out that: "...the first man ('adam), created from 'dust from the ground,' is defined as 'male' ('is) only after the creation of the first woman. So when God speaks the words about solitude, it is in reference to the solitude of 'man' as such, and not just to that of the male."[p.35]
Here our Holy Father is referring to Genesis 2:18. What is fundamental here is his reminding us once again that the original understanding of the human person as 'man'necessarily encompasses male and female. The term is still applicable in our day in spite of the irrational attempts of the so-called 'political correctness' movement.
Among the things which has crushed our understanding of self as person, as male-person or female-person, and thus must be seen as a prime assault on the very vocation and institution of marriage, are the linguistic (and other) adaptations that under the confused guise of promoting equality, seek to deny the equal but different definition of persons as male-person or female-person. The resulting chaos extends even into the area of faith practice and liturgy. and produces a society where more and more male-persons are forced into a type of pseudo-feminine person and more and more female-persons are forced into a type of pseudo-masculine person.
The extreme results of this process, such as increased incidence of male and female homosexuality, a general increase in promiscuity, the contraceptive and abortion mentality and fact, the vast numbers of sundered families by divorce, the increased poverty of women living as single parents are well-known.
Further, when we deny the reality of our personhood as male person, or as female person, we deny the reality of Divine Gift in its fullness and imply, at least indirectly, that God loves us less than the other. We suspect being male is less than female, or, being female is less than male. This stems from and adds to the damage done by 'man', male and female, Adam and Eve, when they listened to the original lie from satan, which basically is that God is not to be trusted.
The denial of the solitude of the heart, and to quote from St. Augustine: "Our hearts O Lord are restless until they rest in You" is to deny that the fulfillment we seek as persons, affirmation of our being, cannot be satiated by any other human person but only by God Himself, who is Father.
Jesus, true God and true Man, is our way to the Father. Jesus Himself is part of this mystery of communion of love for which we have been created. He Himself is the fulfillment.
The Holy Spirit is the voice who cries out constantly within us: ABBA! FATHER ! He is Himself, Spirit of Love, Lord and Giver of Life, Sanctifier, fulfillment of this communion of love for which we have been created.
This solitude of the heart, however, by God's design, has within it an imperative which urges us to be in right relationship with other persons, universally with all our brothers and sisters in Christ and particularly with our spouse in the sacred indissolubility of marriage.
Thus Pope John Paul teaches: "Right from the first moment of his existence, created man finds himself before God as if in search of his own entity. It could be said he is in search of the definition of himself. Man finds himself alone before God mainly to express, through a first self-definition, his own self knowledge, as the original and fundamental manifestation of mankind. Self knowledge develops at the same rate as knowledge of the world, of all the visible creatures, of all the living beings to which man has given a name to affirm his own dissimilarity with regard to them. In this way, consciousness reveals man as the one who possesses a cognitive faculty as regards the visible world. With this knowledge which, in a certain way, brings him out of his own being, man at the same time reveals himself to himself in all the peculiarity of his being." [p.36,37]
Part of that 'peculiarity' of being is the reality of being either male-person or female-person.
Part of that 'peculiarity' of being, which if tampered with begins the evaporation of a true comprehension of self as person, is the vital process of correctly naming things, addressing those already named by their proper names, and giving those not yet named a name in accord with their reality.
Hence a child should never be given a Baptismal name which contradicts the reality of Baptism.
To deny the reality of the Blessed Trinity as Father, Son, Holy Spirit by replacing the Trinitarian formula with politically correct terms is to mis-name, thus to utter an untruth. Every untruth is a lie. Beginning a prayer or sacramental act with a lie ought to be too much unreality for anyone!
Sin itself needs to be called by its proper name. Terms which deny the serious implications of sin cause a disconnect from reality. These implications devastate the human person, both individually and communally, and should be clearly named as such.
Failure to use properly name sins leads to a failure to properly name, and thus comprehend and assume the implications of, virtue(s) We human persons, created in the image and likeness of God, for example, disdain modesty because we fail to name true personal integrity for what it is: purity. In the same way we disdain virginity and thousands of innocent children are murdered in the womb through abortion as the inevitable consequence of our failure to name what is by its true name.
We have taken the original gift of solitude which becomes opportunity for self awareness, communion with other, relationship with God and turned it into a narcissistic and terrifying experience of living in fear: of God, of self and of other.
As Pope John Paul teaches in his book CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF HOPE: " ' Be not afraid! '...Christ addressed this invitation many times to those He met The words Christ uttered are repeated by the Church 'Be not afraid!' These are not words said into a void. They are profoundly rooted in the Gospel. They are simply the words of Christ Himself. Of what should we not be afraid? We should not fear the truth about ourselves."(cf.pp.4,5)
A denial or ignorance of the reality of person results in flight.
Flight from the necessary solitude of the heart, the solitude of the interior garden enclosed of the soul where we commune with the Trinity alone.
Flight from the conversion of the self-constructed sinful-false self to the true person created, redeemed, sanctified by God.
Flight from the Cross, true discipleship, openness to the Holy Spirit.
Flight from the truth about virtue and sin, from all the truth which the Church teaches.
Flight from the truth of maleness and femaleness, the sacredness of life from the womb to the tomb.
Flight from relationship in the indissolubility of marriage or sacramental ordination.
Each degree of flight is facilitated by either a denial of, or ignorance of, the reality of being person.
The Pope next writes about the process of our awareness of being person and that will form the starting point of the next in this series of essays.
Fr. Bob Papi March 5, 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time, The Great Jubilee 2000 (c)
Original text by Father Bob Papi, edited by Catherine Fournier. This is a work in progress, further parts will be added as Father Bob finishes them.