Before the Fig Leaves


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Before the Fig Leaves:

Before the Fig Leaves God’s Original Plan for the Body and Sex

What it Means to be Human:

“Jesus Christ…by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (GS, n. 22) What it Means to be Human

In the Beginning it Was Not So:

Pharisees questioned Jesus about the meaning of marriage Moses allowed divorce Jesus responded: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8) In the Beginning it Was Not So

In the Beginning it Was Not So:

In effect, Jesus is saying: “Do you think all the tension, conflict, and heartache in the male-female relationship is normal? This isn’t normal. This isn’t the way God created it to be. Something has gone terribly wrong.” In the Beginning it Was Not So

Driving on Flat Tires?:

It’s as if we’re all driving around town in cars with flat tires The rubber is shredding off the rims The rims are getting all dented up We think this is normal After all, everyone’s tires look this way Driving on Flat Tires?

Re-inflating our Flat Tires:

Jesus is saying to the Pharisees (an to all of us), “In the beginning, they had air in their tires”! If we want to know the meaning of the “one flesh” union, according to Christ, we have to go back to “the beginning,” before sin distorted things. Christ came into the world to re-inflate our flat tires! We cannot return to the state of innocence—but by following Christ we can receive God’s original plan for the sexes and live it with Christ’s help. Re-inflating our Flat Tires

Original Human Experiences:

We seek an understanding of the first man and woman’s experiences of the body and sexuality. We, of course, don’t have any direct experience of the first man and woman’s state of total innocence. But an “echo” of the beginning exists within each of us. They are so intermingled with the ordinary things of life that we do not generally notice their extraordinary character. Original Human Experiences

Symbolism & Truth:

We approach these experiences through the symbolism of biblical language. Symbolism is the most apt way to convey deep spiritual truths. This is precisely what the Book of Genesis seeks to do. The biblical creation accounts were never meant to be scientific accounts of the origin of the world. Symbolism & Truth

The Meaning of our Existence:

Scientific knowledge is certainly valuable as far as it goes, But it can’t tell us the spiritual meaning of our existence. Perhaps an analogy might help? The Meaning of our Existence

The Optometrist vs. the Husband:

Consider the difference for a woman when her optometrist looks in her eyes and when her husband or boyfriend does so. The scientist looks at her cornea and records the scientific facts. The husband or boyfriend is looking at her soul and proclaims something more poetic and inspired (we hope!). The Optometrist vs. the Husband

A Lover Inspired by God:

Does the scientist “disprove” the husband or boyfriend? NO! These are simply two perspectives on the same reality. The author(s) of Genesis wasn’t a scientist, But a lover inspired by God to proclaim the spiritual mysteries at the origin of the world and of mankind. A Lover Inspired by God

Original Solitude:

Original Solitude The First Discovery of “Personhood”

Original Solitude: The First Discovery of “Personhood”:

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” ( Gn 2:18). Obviously “solitude” indicates that the man is alone without woman. But there is a much deeper meaning: the Adam is “alone” in the visible world as a person . Original Solitude: The First Discovery of “Personhood”


Naming the animals, Adam discovers his own “name,” his own identity. Adam finds no “helper” among the animals Adam differs from the animals What is the difference? In a word, FREEDOM Adam is not determined by bodily instinct He has the “breath of life” inspiring his body Freedom!

I am Somebody:

An “inspired” body is not just a body but some body. A person can choose what to do with his or her body. Adam experiences himself as a self . He’s more than an “object” in the world; he is a “subject.” He has an “inner world” or an “inner life.” I am Somebody

Freedom = Love:

Why was Adam endowed with freedom? Because Adam was called to love. Without freedom, love is impossible. In his solitude, Adam realizes that love is his origin his vocation h is destiny Unlike the animals, he’s invited to enter a “covenant of love with God himself. Freedom = Love

Covenantal Love:

Tasting this love, Adam also longs with all his being to share this love (covenant) with another person like himself. This is why it’s “not good for the man to be alone.” Covenantal Love

Two-fold Vocation:

Adam discovers his two-fold vocation: Love of God Love of neighbor “Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31) Two-fold Vocation

Yes or No?:

Adam also discovers his capacity to negate this vocation. God invites Adam to love; he never forces him because forced love isn’t love at all. Adam can say “yes” to God’s invitation, or he can say “no.” This fundamental choice is realized in his body . Yes or No?

Body/Soul Composite:

Solitude—the first discovery of personhood and freedom—is something spiritual But it is “experienced” bodily Hence, “the body expresses the person” The body expresses the freedom of the person Or, at least, it’s meant to. Body/Soul Composite

A Two-Sided Coin:

Freedom is God’s gift to humanity. But some choices negate our vocation to love. Some choices can never bring happiness. We are “free” in a sense to “do whatever we want with our bodies.” But we’re not free to determine whether what we do with our bodies is good or evil. A Two-Sided Coin

Choosing Wisely:

Adam learns that freedom is a tree (the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”) from which he cannot eat, lest he die (see Gn 2:16-17). Human freedom—”choice”—is fully realized not by inventing good and evil, But by choosing properly between them. Choosing Wisely

The Choice is Yours:

All of these insights are “contained” in the experience of Adam’s solitude. Freedom is given for love. It can lead to destruction and division, But, it’s intended to bestow life and establish unity. It’s our choice . The Choice is Yours

Original Unity:

Original Unity The Communion of Persons

At Last!:

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” ( Gn 2:23) An expression of absolute wonder and fascination At Last!

A Bodily Focus:

Notice the bodily focus. Adam is fascinated with Eve’s body Because this “at last” is a body that expresses a person All the animals he named were bodies But not persons A Bodily Focus

It Took a Rib:

In the Hebrew, “flesh” & “bones” signified the whole human being Woman’s creation from one of Adam’s bones is a figurative way of expressing that both men & women share the same humanity Both are persons made in God’s image Both are “alone” in the world in the sense that they are both different from the animals (original solitude) Both are called to live a covenant of love It Took a Rib

Unity Overcomes Solitude:

“Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” ( Gn 2:24) The experience of unity overcomes man’s solitude in the sense of being alone without the “other.” It affirms everything about human solitude in the sense that man and woman are both persons different from the animals. Unity Overcomes Solitude

Divine Love:

Human sexual union isn’t merely a biological reality It’s also a spiritual and theological reality The human body is meant to reveal and participate in the spiritual mystery of divine love. “In marriage, the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion” (CCC, n. 2360) Divine Love

A Sacramental Expression:

Animals aren’t capable of this “spiritual communion” because they aren’t spiritual Their “dust” or matter isn’t “in-spired” (filled with the Spirit). They aren’t made in God’s image Becoming “one flesh,” therefore refers not only to the joining of two bodies (as with animals) but is “a ‘sacramental’ expression which corresponds to the communion of persons” (Pope John Paul II, 1980) A Sacramental Expression

Imago Dei:

In essence, then, “man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion” (Pope John Paul II) Man images God “not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man & woman form right from the beginning” Imago Dei

An Icon:

This is the purpose and dignity of human sexual love: To be an icon in some way of the inner life of the Most Blessed Trinity! God created us male & female and called us to communion as the primordial revelation of his own mystery in the created world An Icon

Original Nakedness:

Original Nakedness Key to Understanding God’s Original Plan

The Key:

“…the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” ( Gn 2:25) “Precisely the key” for understanding God’s original plan for human life But how are to understand this since we’ve inherited the “fig leaves”? Only by contrast…by looking at our own experience of shame and “flipping it over” The Key

The Woman in the Shower:

Consider a woman in the shower She feels no need to cover her body when she’s alone But if a strange man bursts into the bathroom she would Why? The Woman in the Shower

What’s the “Object”?:

“Shame” in this sense is a form of self-defense against being treated as an object for sexual use The woman in the shower knows that she is never, ever meant to be treated as a “thing” for someone’s kicks Experience teaches her that men (because of lust) tend to objectify women’s bodies What’s the “Object”?

Protecting Her Dignity:

The woman covers her body not because it’s “bad” or “shameful” She covers herself to protect her own dignity from the stranger’s “lustful look” A look that fails to respect her God-given dignity as a person Protecting Her Dignity

The Flipside:

“ Flipover ” this woman’s experience and we arrive at Adam & Eve’s experience of nakedness without shame Lust (self-seeking sexual desire) hadn’t yet entered the human heart Nakedness without shame = total defenselessness in each other’s presence No threat to each other’s dignity The Flipside

God’s Plan of Love:

They “see and know each other…with all the peace of the interior gaze” Indicating not only the sight of the body But a body that reveals a personal and spiritual mystery They saw God’s plan of love (theology) inscribed in their naked bodies That’s exactly what they desired To love as God loves in and through their bodies! God’s Plan of Love

To Love as God Loves:

This is why “nakedness without shame” is the key for understanding God’s plan for our lives It reveals the original truth of love God created sexual desire “in the beginning” to be the very power to love as He loves In a free, sincere, and total gift of self This is how Adam & Eve experienced it! Sexual desire wasn’t felt as a compulsion or instinct for selfish gratification To Love as God Loves

Freedom to Bless:

Adam & Eve, “in the beginning,” were entirely free to be a gift to one another Only a person who is free from the compulsion of lust is capable of being a true “gift” to another The “freedom of the gift,” then, is the freedom to bless Freedom from the compulsion to grasp and possess Freedom to Bless

A Glorious Vision Lost:

“In the beginning, Adam & Eve participated in God’s vision They knew their goodness They knew God’s glorious plan of love They saw it inscribed in their bodies They experienced it in their mutual desire We lost this glorious vision with the dawn of sin But, don’t forget that “Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins (CCC, n. 2336) A Glorious Vision Lost

The Nuptial Meaning of the Body:

The Nuptial Meaning of the Body Revealing God’s Holiness

Eternal Mystery of Self-Giving Love:

In the beginning, nakedness revealed God’s holiness in the visible world God’s holiness is his eternal mystery of self-giving love The “exchange of love” between Father, Son & Holy Spirit Eternal Mystery of Self-Giving Love

Human Holiness:

Human holiness is what “enables man to express himself deeply with his own body…precisely by means of the ‘sincere gift’ of himself “Man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself” (GS, n. 24) We can only discover “who we are” by loving as God loves! Human Holiness

Christ’s New Commandment:

“Love one another as I have loved you” ( Jn 15:12) How did Christ love us? “ This is my body which is given up for you ” ( Lk 22:19) Love is supremely spiritual But, as Christ demonstrates, love is expressed and realized in the body In fact, God inscribed the call to divine love in our bodies—in our sexuality—right from the beginning! Christ’s New Commandment

Nuptial Meaning of the Body:

In original nakedness, Adam & Eve discover the nuptial meaning of the body Nuptial love is the love of total self-donation The “nuptial meaning of the body” is the body’s capacity of expressing love “that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift and—by means of this gift—fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence” Nuptial Meaning of the Body

Life’s Purpose:

The very purpose then of human life is to love as God loves And this is what your body as a man or a woman calls you to A man’s body doesn’t make sense by itself Nor does a woman’s body But seen in the light of each other, sexual difference reveals the unmistakable plan of God that man and woman are meant to be a “gift” to one another Life’s Purpose

“…then comes Adam with the baby carriage!”:

Man and woman’s mutual gift (in the normal course of events) leads to a “third” “Knowledge” leads to generation: “Adam knew his wife and she conceived” ( Gn 4:1) Fatherhood and motherhood “crown” and completely reveal the mystery of sexuality “…then comes Adam with the baby carriage!”

Be Fruitful:

God’s first directive: “Be fruitful and multiply” ( Gn 1:28) Isn’t merely an injunction to propagate It’s a call to love in God’s image and thus “fulfill the very meaning our being and existence” Be Fruitful

The Fundamental Element of Existence:

The Fundamental Element of Existence The Universal Call to Holiness

Giving Up Our Bodies for Others:

Marriage & procreation aren’t the only way to “love as God loves” They are the original model Whenever we imitate Christ in “giving up our bodies” for others, we express the body’s nuptial meaning Celibacy for the kingdom is not a rejection of sexuality It’s a call to embrace the ultimate meaning & purpose of sexuality Giving Up Our Bodies for Others

“Skipping” Marriage:

The “one flesh” union is only a foreshadowing of something infinitely more grand and glorious—the eternal union of Christ and the Church! Those who choose Christian celibacy “skip” earthly marriage to devote themselves entirely to the eternal one “Skipping” Marriage

The Whole Point:

No matter what the vocation We are called to participate in God’s love and share it with others When we have the purity to see it, this is what the human body and human sexuality teach us The nuptial meaning of the body reveals what Vatican II describes as “the universal call to holiness” The Whole Point

An Embodied Holiness:

The nuptial meaning of the body “is the fundamental element of human existence in the world” The more we grow in authentic (embodied!) holiness, the more we “discover and strengthen that bond that exists between the dignity of the human being (man or woman) and the nuptial meaning of his body An Embodied Holiness

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