Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our Bodies: A Gift Worth More

How many times have I been sitting in church, listening to the homily, and felt like there was a burning spotlight right above me? If I had a nickel for every time, I could buy St. Mary's Chapel new carpet…I'll say that much.  It's as if our soul and body were fighting a war, our soul all along knowing that we would only be hurt in the end, writhing in our own guilt and self-degradation. However, our body won, and the Devil proved that the apple is still being eaten, that the fall of man happens every day.

There's the trick. We have been convinced that the flesh is evil, that our bodies don't want God. Our souls are separate entities that thirst for the fresh springs of God, while our bodies thirst for the polluted waters of the world.

The truth is that our bodies want God, too.  We’re reminded in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 when Paul says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

The Price and Our Priceless Gift
Okay, I get really super duper excited talking about the Theology of the Body!  Usually, what makes sense in my head comes out of my mouth sounding like utter nonsense. I hardly know where to start, but I'm giving it a shot. Here goes...

One of the turning points in my understanding of Theology of the Body was when I was on the TOBET (Theology of the Body Evangelization Team) retreat.  We were having a discussion about Christ's marriage with His church.  While hanging upon the cross, naked and His arms outstretched, He proclaimed, "It is finished."  What was finished?

The consummation of His marriage with His bride, the Church. In that moment, when Christ was in the vulnerable state of nakedness without shame, He gave His body for us, just as a husband and wife give their bodies to each other in marriage. This was the first in a string of theological parallels between Church doctrine and sexuality.  Woah!  Mind BLOWN, right?!

Just to name a few of my favorites...at Easter, the priest dips the Easter candle into the baptismal fount. You know the part I’m talking about.  The one where you thought you got a great seat until the priest moved to the back of the church, and you can barely see over the heads of people around you? Yeah, that’s the one. In this celebration of His marriage vows with His Church, Christ is the priest holding the candle that plunges into the fount, which symbolizes the Church, and those that are baptized are reborn into the faith.

Another moment I love is more of an everyday experience. Prior to celebrating the Eucharist, the priest prepares the Body and Blood of Christ. The chalice has always been a symbol of female sexuality throughout all of literature, and it's in this chalice, a symbol of Christ's female counterpart, the Church, that the priest pours the wine that will later turn into Christ's blood, mixing with it water that symbolizes us, the people of his Church, and finally a piece of the bread that is now Christ's body. When we take the Body and Blood of Christ, it is the ultimate one flesh union. Does this mean that every time we partake in the Eucharist, Christ is renewing His marriage vows with us, just as a husband and wife renew their marriage vows in their sexual union? Absolutely.

Am I crazy for thinking that is utterly profound and beautiful? There's nothing sick or disturbing about it. In fact, it is only because of the lies the world has told us about sex (that it's dirty and sinful) that we think those theological sexual references seem out of place, while in reality, there's nowhere else they could belong!

Paul tells the Corinthians their bodies are temples; every church is a temple, too. Through our sexuality, our bodies, our temples, we have the ability to bring new life into the world. Likewise, the Church, the temple where we all come together as brothers and sisters, gives birth to new believers constantly.

If more of us could have such a view that sex is not sinful at all, but profound and sacred, there would be the utmost respect for the sanctity of sex in our culture. Say goodbye to promiscuity, pornography, sex jokes, overly sexualized entertainment, etc. We would hold ourselves, as well as everyone else, in highest esteem, truly seeing our sexuality for the gift it is.

Unwrapping the Gift
Society says chastity stifles us, and we “free” ourselves when we embrace our sexuality.  But society’s version of "embracing our sexuality" really means experiment and sleep around as long as it's "safe." What that world is failing to see is that we, as Christians, do free ourselves in embracing our sexuality, through finding joy in ourselves and others, celebrating our bodies for the temples they are, and "doing everything for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:33). Think of how much guilt and self-reproach we could avoid if we did everything for the glory of God!

JPII calls us all to be modern day saints "who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world, but who aren't of the world.

Escaping the world is not the solution.

We must realize that it is our duty to teach the world purity.  This all begins by realizing that our bodies are not prisons, but temples, and purity is the greatest glorification of, not only God, but ourselves.  Theology of the Body is not suppressing the flesh, but setting it free through purity from the world's desires.  And I believe it is the true understanding to the ultimate liberation of our bodies.

Mia Sampietro

 I love every kind of cat, and I have about a million hobbies (singing, painting, piano, etc.), but I love sharing the Love of God.  I'm a dreamer that could talk forever, and there are two things in the world I'm absolutely positive about: 1) God is amazing and 2) Laughter is THE best medicine.  I am double majoring in Art History and Spanish, but my life is totally in God's hands.

If you would like to contact Mia, you can email her at: sampietrme@titan.sfasu.edu

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