Theology of the body: Part eight of a nine part series.
“For Christians, all the creatures of the material universe find their true meaning in the incarnate Word, for the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material world, planting in it a seed of definitive transformation.” (Pope Francis, “Laudato Si’,” pa. 235) As Christ is the absolute mediator, it is only through and in him that man enters into the life of the Trinity. In cooperation with Christ’s manifold grace, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, man’s good use of freedom of choice is the means by which he maintains spiritual liberty and realizes the Christian task of building the Kingdom. The good usage of freedom of choice in the daily struggle of spiritual liberty also requires acts of self-denial. In this purification of the spirit, which is to say, of the person, the soul is united to Christ in his passion; however, just as Christ triumphs over the cross in his resurrection, so does the full “kenosis” [self-emptying] of the person result in the exaltation of his love into an efficacious instrument of the redemption. Man is called to bring his new freedom to perfection, that is to say, spiritual liberty must grow. In Christ, man receives the key ingredients for perfecting spiritual freedom, namely, a certain moral knowledge, lucid judgment and self-mastery. Moreover, the ideal of the call to perfection becomes a reality precisely because man now participates in Christ’s freedom and love.
Through the principle of Christian existence, that is, faith working through charity, the
Christian, regardless of his state in life, dedicates himself to integrating or, better, perfecting his personal and redemptive vocation in the Body of Christ, in the Church’s task of building the Kingdom of God, of bringing Christ to full stature, a commitment sealed in confirmation and nurtured in the Eucharist. At last, the believer, empowered by Christ’s grace, can efficaciously ratify his relations with the species and God in freedom and love.
By faith working through charity, the believer personalizes his new freedom and love by bringing them to fruition with all that he uniquely is and has, and thereby witnesses to the Church’s mission of announcing the Good News of God’s love manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, so that others may come to believe in him and thereby attain salvation.
In his writing, Jean Mouroux chooses to keep the naturalsupernatural distinctions because one needs both in Catholic theology, which is grounded in a sacramental vision of reality which recognizes the matter-form unity of incarnate spirit. Mouroux employs natural-supernatural distinctions because we have to live in both worlds, with the metaphysical, psychological and spiritual tensions therein. Before and after our personal redemption, we have to live in both the natural and supernatural worlds — one hand, the temporal anthropocentric world — on the other hand, the eternal and greater theocentric world of grace.
As in the theology of St. John Paul II, as in
Laudato Si’ of Pope Francis, Mouroux integrates philosophy and theology, the natural and the supernatural, the secular and the sacred, the temporal and the eternal. Just as in the mystery of the body-soul unity, so, too in the paradox of unity in diversity, the unity of both poles of each polarity does not deny or supersede the respective distinctions; rather the synthesis reveals the truth.
In sum, Christ’s grace actualizes man’s potency for spiritual freedom and personalization. As such, his grace is said to be “personalizing.” Since the end of spiritual liberty is identical to the end of personalization, in making man more free, Christ’s grace makes him into more of a person. By imitating the example of Christ, he comprehends the ultimate significance of time, generosity, altruism, human suffering, sacrifice, purification and self-denial. He comes to acknowledge that a life in Christ cannot be individualistic; rather, it must be in communion with his body, the Church.
Father Glenn J. Comandini, STD is Advisor to The Catholic Spirit