This series began in the column of January 21st. It is an attempt to unpack the most important theological contribution of St. John Paul II. It is called by him a “Theology of the Body” (TOB). This teaching gives a foundation for his vision of the mystery of love as it extends from the Trinity through Christ’s spousal union with the Church to the very bodies of women and men. Therefore, moving in the other direction, Marriage is understood as an icon of the Trinity. This idea is truly revolutionary in the way we view sexuality, sexual relation, love, and human relations in general. It can be transformative when understood correctly.
Last week, we began to look at the structure of TOB. Following JPII’s section titles found in his notes, Michael Waldstein (the author/translator of the revised presentation of TOB, Man and Woman He Created Them) proposes this division:
Part 1: The three words of Christ on the redemption of the body (TOB 1-86)
Part 2: The sacramentality of marriage according to Eph. 5 (TOB 87-117)
Final Part: Humanae Vitae (TOB 118-32)
JPII wanted to proclaim the spousal and integrated meaning of the body as opposed to the modern vision of nature that perceives a radical disconnect between the person and the body. The issuing of Humanae Vitae by Paul VI challenged “all the fundamental questions of our age—questions about the meaning of the body, about the meaning of love, about nature, technology, and progress.” (Waldstein p.107) What is required to address these questions correctly is “an integral vision of man.” This means that man (body and soul) is an integrated whole as formed by his Creator and cannot simply decide to break from that context because it is inconvenient or challenging or for any other reason.
So, if presenting this integral vision of man is the goal, how does JPII convey it in TOB? In the very last catechesis, he explains.
“The first part is devoted to the analysis of the words of Christ, which prove to be suitable for opening the present topic…. The second part of the catechesis is devoted to the analysis of the sacrament based on Ephesians” (TOB 133:1).
“The catecheses devoted to Humanae Vitae constitute only one part, the final part, of those that dealt with the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage” (TOB 133:4).
Waldstein further points out: “Although these texts mention three parts, the first two parts seem to belong together. They constitute John Paul II’s theoretical account of human love in the divine plan, which he calls “an adequate anthropology”. The “final part” on Humanae Vitae turns to the concrete moral application of this anthropology in married life, above all in the question of contraception.” (p. 107)