1. “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30; cf. Mk 12:25). “They are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Lk 20:36).
Let us try to understand these words of Christ about the future resurrection in order to draw a conclusion with regard to the spiritualization of man, different from that of earthly life. We could speak here also of a perfect system of forces in mutual relations between what is spiritual in man and what is physical. As a result of original sin, historical man experiences a multiple imperfection in this system of forces, which is expressed in St. Paul’s well-known words: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind” (Rom 7:23).
Eschatological man will be free from that opposition. In the resurrection the body will return to perfect unity and harmony with the spirit. Man will no longer experience the opposition between what is spiritual and what is physical in him. Spiritualization means not only that the spirit will dominate the body, but, I would say, that it will fully permeate the body, and that the forces of the spirit will permeate the energies of the body.
2. In earthly life, the dominion of the spirit over the body—and the simultaneous subordination of the body to the spirit—can, as the result of persevering work on themselves, express a personality that is spiritually mature. However, the fact that the energies of the spirit succeed in dominating the forces of the body does not remove the possibility of their mutual opposition. The spiritualization to which the synoptic Gospels refer in the texts analyzed here (cf. Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:34-35), already lies beyond this possibility. It is therefore a perfect spiritualization, in which the possibility that “another law is at war with the law of...the mind” (cf. Rom 7:23) is completely eliminated. This state which—as is evident—is differentiated essentially (and not only with regard to degree) from what we experience in earthly life, does not signify any disincarnation of the body nor, consequently, a dehumanization of man. On the contrary, it signifies his perfect realization. In fact, in the composite, psychosomatic being which man is, perfection cannot consist in a mutual opposition of spirit and body. But it consists in a deep harmony between them, in safeguarding the primacy of the spirit. In the “other world,” this primacy will be realized and will be manifested in a perfect spontaneity, without any opposition on the part of the body. However, that must not be understood as a definitive victory of the spirit over the body. The resurrection will consist in the perfect participation of all that is physical in man in what is spiritual in him. At the same time it will consist in the perfect realization of what is personal in man.
3. The words of the synoptic Gospels testify that the state of man in the other world will not only be a state of perfect spiritualization, but also of fundamental divinization of his humanity. The “sons of the resurrection” — as we read in Luke 20:36 — are not only equal to angels, but are also sons of God. The conclusion can be drawn that the degree of spiritualization characteristic of eschatological man will have its source in the degree of his divinization, incomparably superior to the one that can be attained in earthly life.
It must be added that here it is a question not only of a different degree, but in a way, of another kind of divinization.
Participation in divine nature, participation in the interior life of God himself, penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine, will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will arrive at such fullness which previously had been absolutely inaccessible to it.
This new spiritualization will therefore be the fruit of grace, that is, of the communication of God in his very divinity, not only to man’s soul, but to his whole psychosomatic subjectivity.
We speak here of subjectivity (and not only of “nature”), because that divinization is to be understood
not only as an interior state of man (that is, of the subject) capable of seeing God face to face,
but also as a new formation of the whole personal subjectivity of man in accordance with union with God in his Trinitarian mystery and of intimacy with him in the perfect communion of persons.
This intimacy—with all its subjective intensity—will not absorb man’s personal subjectivity, but rather will make it stand out to an incomparably greater and fuller extent.
4. Divinization in the other world, as indicated by Christ’s words, will bring the human spirit such a range of experience of truth and love such as man would never have been able to attain in earthly life. When Christ speaks of the resurrection, he proves at the same time that the human body will also take part, in its way, in this eschatological experience of truth and love, united with the vision of God face to face. When Christ says that those who take part in the future resurrection “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mk 12:25), his words—as has already been pointed out—affirm not only the end of earthly history, bound up with marriage and procreation, but also seem to reveal the new meaning of the body. Is it possible, in this case, at the level of biblical eschatology, to think of the discovery of the nuptial meaning of the body, above all as the virginal meaning of being male and female, as regards the body? To answer this question, which emerges from the words reported by the synoptic Gospels, we should penetrate more deeply into the essence of what will be the beatific vision of the divine Being, a vision of God face to face in the future life. It is also necessary to let oneself be guided by that range of experience of truth and love which goes beyond the limits of the cognitive and spiritual possibilities of man in temporality, and in which he will become a participant in the other world.
5. This eschatological experience of the living God will not only concentrate in itself all man’s spiritual energies, but, at the same time, it will reveal to him, in a deep and experiential way, the self-communication of God to the whole of creation and, in particular, to man. This is the most personal self-giving by God, in his very divinity, to man: to that being who, from the beginning, bears within himself the image and likeness of God. In this way, in the other world the object of the vision will be that mystery hidden in the Father from eternity, a mystery which in time was revealed in Christ, in order to be accomplished incessantly through the Holy Spirit. That mystery will become, if we may use the expression, the content of the eschatological experience and the form of the entire human existence in the dimension of the other world. Eternal life must be understood in the eschatological sense, that is, as the full and perfect experience of that grace (charis) of God, in which man becomes a participant through faith during earthly life, and which, on the contrary, will not only have to reveal itself in all its penetrating depth to those who take part in the other world, but also will have to be experienced in its beatifying reality.
We suspend here our reflection centered on Christ’s words about the future resurrection of the body. In this spiritualization and divinization in which man will participate in the resurrection, we discover—in an eschatological dimension—the same characteristics that qualified the nuptial meaning of the body. We discover them in the meeting with the mystery of the living God, which is revealed through the vision of him face to face.
1. What is the essence of the Church’s doctrine concerning the transmission of life in the conjugal community, of that doctrine of which we are reminded by the pastoral Constitution of the Council Gaudium et Spes, and by the encyclical Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI?
The problem consists in maintaining an adequate relationship between what is defined as “domination [moderatio] ...of the forces of nature” (HV 2: ), and the “mastery [moderatio] of self “ (HV 21) which is indispensable for the human person. Modern man shows a tendency to transfer the methods proper to the former to those of the latter. “Man has made stupendous progress in the domination [moderatio] and rational organization of the forces of nature,” we read in the encyclical, “to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control [moderatio] over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life” (HV 2).
This extension of the sphere of the means of “domination of the forces of nature” menaces the human person for whom the method of “self-mastery” is and remains specific. The mastery of self corresponds to the fundamental constitution of the person; it is indeed a “natural” method. On the contrary, the resort to artificial means destroys the constitutive dimension of the person. It deprives man of the subjectivity proper to him and makes him an object of manipulation.
2. The human body is not merely an organism of sexual reactions. But it is, at the same time, the means of expressing the entire man, the person, which reveals itself by means of the language of the body. This language has an important interpersonal meaning, especially in reciprocal relationships between man and woman. Moreover, our previous analyses show that in this case the language of the body should express, at a determinate level, the truth of the sacrament. Participating in the eternal plan of love (“sacrament hidden in God”), the language of the body becomes a kind of prophetism of the body.
It may be said that the Encyclical Humanae Vitae carries to the extreme consequences, not merely logical and moral, but also practical and pastoral, this truth concerning the human body in its masculinity and femininity.
3. The unity of the two aspects of the problem—the sacramental (or theological) dimension and the personalistic one—corresponds to the overall revelation of the body. From this derives also the connection of the strictly theological vision with the ethical one, which appeals to the natural law.
The subject of the natural law is man, not only in the “natural” aspect of his existence, but also in the integral truth of his personal subjectivity. He is shown to us, in revelation, as male and female, in his full temporal and eschatological vocation. He is called by God to be a witness and interpreter of the eternal plan of love, by becoming the minister of the sacrament which from the beginning was constituted by the sign of the union of flesh.
4. As ministers of a sacrament which is constituted by consent and perfected by conjugal union, man and woman are called to express that mysterious language of their bodies in all the truth which is proper to it. By means of gestures and reactions, by means of the whole dynamism, reciprocally conditioned, of tension and enjoyment—whose direct source is the body in its masculinity and its femininity, the body in its action and interaction—by means of all this, man, the person, “speaks.”
Man and woman carry on in the language of the body that dialogue which, according to Genesis, chapter 2, vv.24, 25, had its beginning on the day of creation. Precisely on the level of this language of the body—which is something more than mere sexual reaction and which, as authentic language of the persons, is subject to the demands of truth, that is, to objective moral norms—man and woman reciprocally express themselves in the fullest and most profound way possible to them. By the corporeal dimension of masculinity and femininity, man and woman express themselves in the measure of the whole truth of the human person.
5. Man is precisely a person because he is master of himself and has self-control. Indeed, insofar as he is master of himself he can give himself to the other. And it is this dimension—the dimension of the liberty of the gift—which becomes essential and decisive for that language of the body, in which man and woman reciprocally express themselves in the conjugal union. Granted that this is communion of persons, the language of the body should be judged according to the criterion of truth. It is precisely this criterion which the Encyclical Humanae Vitae recalls, as is confirmed by the passages quoted previously.
6. According to the criterion of this truth, which should be expressed in the language of the body, the conjugal act signifies not only love, but also potential fecundity. Therefore it cannot be deprived of its full and adequate significance by artificial means. In the conjugal act it is not licit to separate the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect, because both the one and the other pertain to the intimate truth of the conjugal act. The one is activated together with the other and in a certain sense the one by means of the other. This is what the Encyclical teaches (cf. HV 12). Therefore, in such a case the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love.
7. It can be said that in the case of an artificial separation of these two aspects, a real bodily union is carried out in the conjugal act, but it does not correspond to the interior truth and to the dignity of personal communion: communion of persons. This communion demands that the language of the body be expressed reciprocally in the integral truth of its meaning. If this truth be lacking, one cannot speak either of the truth of self-mastery, or of the truth of the reciprocal gift and of the reciprocal acceptance of self on the part of the person. Such a violation of the interior order of conjugal union, which is rooted in the very order of the person, constitutes the essential evil of the contraceptive act.
8. The above-given interpretation of moral doctrine expressed in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae is situated against the vast background of reflections connected with the theology of the body. The reflections on “sign” in connection with marriage understood as a sacrament are of special validity for this interpretation. The essence of the violation which upsets the interior order of the conjugal act cannot be understood in a theologically adequate way, without the reflections on the theme of the concupiscence of the flesh.
1. We are continuing the analysis of the virtue of continence in the light of the doctrine contained in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. It is well to recall that the great classics of ethical (and anthropological) thought, both the pre-Christian ones and the Christian ones (St. Thomas Aquinas), see in the virtue of continence not only the capacity to contain bodily and sensual reactions, but even more the capacity to control and guide man’s whole sensual and emotive sphere. In the case under discussion, it is a question of the capacity to direct the line of excitement toward its correct development and also the line of emotion itself, orienting it toward the deepening and interior intensification of its pure and, in a certain sense, disinterested character.
2. This differentiation between the line of excitement and the line of emotion is not an opposition. It does not mean that the conjugal act, as a result of excitement, does not at the same time involve the deep emotion of the other person. Certainly it does, or at any rate, it should not be otherwise.
In the conjugal act, the intimate union should involve a particular intensification of emotion, or rather the deep emotion, of the other person. This is also contained in Ephesians in the form of an exhortation directed to married couples: “Defer to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).
The distinction between excitement and emotion, noted in this analysis, proves only the subjective reactive-emotive richness of the human “I.” This richness excludes any unilateral reduction and enables the virtue of continence to be practiced as a capacity to direct the manifesting of both the excitement and the emotion, aroused by the reciprocal reacting of masculinity and femininity.
3. The virtue of continence, so understood, has an essential role in maintaining the interior balance between the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative (cf. HV 12) in view of a truly responsible fatherhood and motherhood.
The Encyclical Humanae Vitae devotes due attention to the biological aspect of the question, that is to say, to the rhythmic character of human fertility. In the light of the encyclical, this “periodicalness” can be called a providential index for a responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Nevertheless a question such as this one, which has such a profoundly personalistic and sacramental (theological) meaning, is not resolved only on this level.
The encyclical teaches responsible fatherhood and motherhood “as a proof of a mature conjugal love.” Therefore it contains not only the answer to the concrete question that is asked in the sphere of the ethics of married life but, as already has been stated—it also indicates a plan of conjugal spirituality, which we wish at least to outline.
4. The correct way of intending and practicing periodic continence as a virtue (that is, according to Humanae Vitae 21, the “mastery of self”) also essentially determines the “naturalness” of the method, called also the “natural method.” This is “naturalness” at the level of the person. Therefore there can be no thought of a mechanical application of biological laws. The knowledge itself of the rhythms of fertility—even though indispensable—still does not create that interior freedom of the gift, which is by its nature explicitly spiritual and depends on man’s interior maturity. This freedom presupposes such a capacity to direct the sensual and emotive reactions as to make possible the giving of self to the other “I” on the grounds of the mature self-possession of one’s own “I” in its corporeal and emotive subjectivity.
5. As we know from the biblical and theological analyses we have previously done, the human body in its masculinity and femininity is interiorly ordered to the communion of the persons (communio personarum). Its spousal meaning consists in this. The spousal meaning of the body has been distorted, almost at its roots, by concupiscence (especially by the concupiscence of the flesh in the sphere of the threefold concupiscence). The virtue of continence in its mature form gradually reveals the pure aspect of the spousal meaning of the body. In this way, continence develops the personal communion of the man and the woman, a communion that cannot be formed and developed in the full truth of its possibilities only on the level of concupiscence. This is precisely what the Encyclical Humanae Vitae affirms. This truth has two aspects: the personalistic and the theological.
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