Body, Soul and Spirit: Love and the Integral Unity of Human Nature
the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man (Catechism, no. 363).
Lest it be ignored or misunderstood, the human body is an integral element of CONSCIOUS SPIRITUAL EXISTENCE. The body is a SPIRITUALIZED MATERIAL ENTITY precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul: "Man, though made of body and soul, is [an integrated] unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him, they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise given freely to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day" (Catechism, no. 364).
Since it is an "out-looking" physical structure, the body demonstrates that human beings exist for the Other (God) and for others: neighbors and the natural order of things. Indeed, the most intrinsic meaning of the human body is discovered in lived love-relationships. Practically speaking, then, the vocation of love begins with and through the human body.
At the same time, the human body is a "fence," as it were, separating one person from another. No one, for example, can look inside another person. The materiality of the human body hides everyone's inner self and his or her interior life. Better said, except for God, no person can look into the inmost being of another person: "Man judges by appearances, but God looks into the heart" (1 Sm 16:7).
In other words, the human body is a defined "boundary," so to speak, that sets each person apart and aside from every other person. The body, then, prevents anyone from seeing or touching the loves found in another person's heart. Furthermore, in a curious way, the human body causes every person to be a stranger to every other person.
Nevertheless, there is still a third dimension to the physicality of human nature. The human body serves as a "connector" between one person and another person. Everyone first meets another person through the human body. In fact, it is only through the body that a person can see and communicate with another person. Moreover, it is through the body that every person sees his or her "outer self" and, thereby, can approach other outward-looking persons.
In the postures and gestures expressed by the human body, every person can be seen in a somewhat visible way. Stated differently, one person can see another person in the way his or her body acts or reacts. Through the external movements of the human body, it is possible, on occasion for one person to see what the interior life of the other person might be like.
Nonetheless, the human body is still a solid "fence," a definite "boundary," yet a "connector" for relationships and communication. Unlike animals, however, the physicality of human nature is not lived by the bodily senses alone. The human person, a spirit-filled being, can rise above and go beyond the limitations of the sensory life. Thus, everyone seeks to be conscious of and, thus, deepen their lived love-relationships with God, others, self, and the world - even if it is at a distance.
"As defined in sacred scripture, the Catholic Church adheres to the COMPOSITE WHOLE of human nature: "BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT" (2Th 5:23): The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body, that is, it is because of its spiritual soul that the body, made of matter, becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter. In man, there are not two natures united, but rather the union of spirit, soul, and body forms a single nature"
(Catechism, no. 365).
"When speaking of the integration and completeness of human nature, the Catholic Church returns always to the Creator-Spirit, God: "The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and, also, that the spiritual soul is immortal. The spiritual soul does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection" (Catechism, no. 366).
Given the fantasies and fallacies bandied about by the modern media, to secure the integrity of human nature and, thus, the identity of the human person, the Catholic Church imparts this instruction: "Sometimes, the soul is distinguished from the spirit. Saint Paul, for instance, prays that God may sanctify his people "wholly," with "body, soul, and spirit," kept sound and blameless at the Lord's coming. The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. "Spirit" signifies that, from Creation, man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God" (Catechism, no. 367).
Now, the "Who am I?" question, can be answered - with two words: being and becoming! BEING is who I am: a spirit-filled, composite entity created by God. BECOMING is how I choose freely to mature in the vocation of love given at the very moment of conception in my mother's womb. Therefore, the following presentations will continue to explain the vocation of love in terms that pertain directly to: the subjective order. "Male and female he created them."
John D. Meehan has been involved in the lay apostolate of the Catholic Church since the close of the Second Vatican Council. He resides in New Hampshire with his lovely wife Elizabeth.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: John D. Meehan, marriage, family life, love
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