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.
JPII intended to present TOB in 3 parts. The first part—The three words of Christ on the redemption of the body (TOB 1-86)—is itself divided into 3 chapters. These 3 “words” are like panels that form a kind of triptych of Jesus’ teaching. In our last few installments, we have made a ‘flyover’ of these chapters of Jesus’ first “word”—1) Christ Appeals to the Beginning, 2) Christ Appeals to the Human Heart, and 3) Christ Appeals to the Resurrection.
This week we begin an overview of the second part of TOB. It covers #’s 87 – 117 and is itself in two chapters. JPII turns his attention to the Sacrament of Marriage itself and how it works within the mystery of spousal love. The Scripture texts that he uses are from Ephesians and Genesis.
In Ephesians, St. Paul connects spousal love, and its expression, with Christ and how He has given Himself to us and for us. Chapter 5, particularly 5:31 – 32, is highlighted: “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife, and the two will form one flesh. This mystery is great; I say this with reference to Christ and the Church”. Here, St. Paul is linking the life-giving and self-sacrificial nature of spousal love as flowing from Christ’s example, but also His open side. Moreover, it is really a reflection/commentary on Genesis as St. Paul reads it.
JPII draws on this connection even more profoundly and how he reads Ephesians is mutually informative with how he reads Genesis 1 and 2 that was discussed previously.
There is a division in this Part 2 that falls along the lines of “the distinction between the grace of the sacrament and the sacramental sign that signifies and realizes this grace. (Waldstein p. 118)
The idea here is that there is an outpouring of divine life (Grace) that is available through Marriage that allows us to enter into the heights and depths of love—especially self-sacrifice for the good of the other. Dying to oneself in the great and the small. This is expressed in a way that can be seen and understood from the outside (sign).