Pope Benedict XVI extolled his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, for introducing the “theology of the body,” as he met on May 13 with participants in a conference organized by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
Offering his own reflections on the subject, Pope Benedict noted that with a proper knowledge of human nature “we can understand that our bodies are not inert, heavy material but, if we know how to listen, they speak the language of true love.”
With the Incarnation, the Pope said, “God takes on the body and revealed himself in it.” In his short talk, the Holy Father extended his predecessor’s meditation on the language of the body.
As an anecdotal aside, I was asked, when teaching at a Northeastern seminary, to teach a class on the the "Theology of the Body".
I opted for a focus upon the "foundations" of this particular teaching of Blessed John Paul II rather than the "popular" Christopher West material, which has come under critique and criticism from people such as David L. Schindler, a renowned theologian, and Alice von Hildebrand, a philosopher and wife of the heroic Dietrich von Hildebrand, a man that Pope Pius XII called "a 20th century doctor of the Church".
I am most grateful that Pope Benedict XVI has made the "authentic" teaching of his predecessor a positive thing. Unfortunately this whole issue has become polemical in the last two years because of a lack of proper understanding.
The Incarnation is truly the point of reference. The authentic interpretation of the "Theology of the Body" absolutely must be seen in the light of "The Word made Flesh";
every other interpretation fails when it is grounded in the mere material aspects of human existence. Christ reveals who man is (from Lumen gentium, Second Vatican Ecumenical Council). It is not the other way round. We do not know Who Christ Is from our human experience: He, and only He, reveals who we are. That is fundamental.
There are all kinds of "interpretations" out there...unfortunately, there are those who either dismiss this as some kind of "modernism" or those who try to make the love between man and wife in marriage something it is not meant to be.
Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Revelation reveals to us our inherent dignity, our mission/vocation to a love that is completely self-giving (in marriage or in virginity/celibacy) and He is the only reference-point. Marital union is an aspect of the Sacrament of Marriage; it must always be held within the moral law of God and in the sacred "reserve" of intimacy/secret (as the von Hildebrands emphasize) that upholds both the dignity of the partners and the dignity of the marital union.
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