Pope: Human Body Can Speak Language of Love

Says Sin Has Not Succeeded in Erasing It

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- People today have a hard time understanding the splendor of Michelangelo’s depiction of the human body because we tend to see the body as «heavy matter,» opposed to the spirit, according to Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this reflection in an address Friday to participants in a conference marking the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. 

Friday was the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II; at that day’s general audience, he would have announced the creation of the Pontifical Council for the Family and the institute for study.

Benedict XVI took up his predecessor’s theology in his reflection on the language of the body. He recounted an incident shortly after Michelangelo’s death, when the painter Paolo Veronese was accused before the Inquisition of having painted inappropriate figures in a depiction of the Last Supper.

The painter referred in his defense to the nude figures in Michelangelo’s artwork in the Sistine Chapel, to which the inquisitor responded: «Do you not know that in these figures there is nothing save what is of spirit?»

The Pope proposed that this lesson is hard to understand today because «the body appears to us as inert, heavy matter, opposed to the consciousness and the freedom of the spirit.»

But Michelangelo’s bodies are «inhabited by light, life, splendor,» the Holy Father said. «He wanted to show in this way that our bodies hide a mystery. In them the spirit manifests itself and operates. […] Our bodies are not inert, heavy, but they speak — if we know how to hear them — the language of true love.»

Benedict XVI went on to reflect about the «first word of this language,» found in creation. «The bodies of Adam and Eve, before the Fall, appear in perfect harmony,» he explained. «There is a language in them that they did not create, an eros rooted in their nature, that invites them mutually to receive themselves from the Creator, to be able thus to give themselves.»

In love, he continued, man is «re-created.» And the true appeal of sexuality is in this context.

But sin, the Holy Father observed, has also given the body a negative language: «It speaks to us of the oppression of the other, of the desire to possess and exploit.»

Nevertheless, the Fall is «not the last word on the body in salvation history,» the Pope assured. «God also offers to man a journey of redemption of the body, whose language is preserved in the family. If after the Fall, Eve received the name Mother of the Living this testifies that the power of sin does not succeed in erasing the original language of the body, the blessing of life that God continues to offer when man and woman unite in one flesh. The family is the place where the theology of the body and the theology of love intersect.»

It is in the family, the Holy Father said, that man discovers himself not as an autonomous individual, but as someone in relation to others, «whose identity is founded on being called to love, to receive himself from others and give himself to others.»


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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-32577?l=english

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