Theology of the Body: Part three of a nine part series
The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. (Pope Francis, “Laudato Si’,” pa. 155)
At the summit of its syntheses, the soul lives for and desires union with God. Man, therefore, is polarized not only by matter but also by God from whom he receives subsistence. Insofar as man is rational, he imitates God’s perfect Being by the act of intellection. By virtue of his subsistence and the way in which he possesses his subsistence, he reflects God’s pure Act of Existence. Hence, incarnate spirit is an image of God, who, through subsistence, participates in God’s Being and Subsistence. But man is more than a body, more than subsistence, he is incarnate spirit, that is, a person, a subsistent being of a rational nature. In effect, the human person, by virtue of his being an image of God, bears a relation to God, and is therefore an inviolable mystery in himself.
Man’s desire for union with God can be attributed to the fact that he is a dynamism, oriented to and passively attracted by God, who, as Truth, is the ultimate object of the intellect and who, as the absolute Good, is the ultimate end of the will. This orientation is inherent in the driving force of the will, and is moved by the love of God, which is sensed by man as desire, and which is structurally infused in his subsistence in the moment of his creation.
This love of God is anterior to and the center of freedom. Inasmuch as man is a person, the point and subject of freedom, one must hold that the love of God is the center of the person. When one recalls that man is subsistent and open, the poles of this paradox correspond to freedom and love. Subsistence is the condition of possibility for free-will; while openness is the condition of possibility for the call of the infinite God’s love to finite man. Insofar as the love of God is the principle of all man’s acts, precisely because it is inherent in existence which is the condition of possibility for subsistence, that is, man’s possession of his essence, love must be anterior to freedom. God bestows his love on man with the infusion of the essence, which means he is acted upon by an Other (God) before he acts by himself. Concomitantly, to state that the love of God is anterior to the person is true inasmuch as man possesses this love at the moment of creation, therefore, prior to realizing the end of his vocation to communion with God, which is the ultimate end of spiritual freedom. Since freedom has a center, which is love, and since the person is the point of freedom, then it follows that person would also have to be the point of love.
By himself, however, man cannot understand nor integrate his matter; therefore, he is incapable of attaining the end of spiritual freedom and personalization.
Father Glenn Comandini is
Advisor to The Catholic Spirit.