Monday, August 15, 2011
GIVE GLORY TO THE HUMAN BODY AND ALL MATERIAL THINGS ON THIS SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, BODY AND SOUL INTO HEAVEN
Our culture today is very materialistic and many seldom focus on the life of redemption of body and soul, but rather live life with reckless abandon, using and abusing the gifts that God has given us, including our body and soul. While the Catholic Church has no problem with adorning one’s body to enhance its looks, even in death, we do teach that one should not intentionally mutilate one’s body. A tattoo here and there and a place for modest "piercings" certainly fall within the parameters of what is benign. However, we know that today’s culture of piercing bodies and tattooing them to the point of disfigurement betrays a hostility to the body and views it as a temporary commodity that one can do with as one pleases, that our bodies and souls belong to us rather than to God. Catholic teaching emphasizes that we belong to God, body and soul and that we come from God and will return to Him.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Body and Soul into heaven illustrates the sacredness of who we are, not just our souls but also our bodies.
Like Mary we belong to God completely not just partially. Realizing this should enable us to appreciate the material things that God gives us, our human flesh being primary. Just as we should take care of our souls and bodies, we also take care of the good earth. The green movement and ecological concerns throughout the world are not incompatible with Catholic teaching or the doctrine of the Assumption in anyway whatsoever.
Also, we build magnificent structures like our churches and care for them as a sign of the kingdom to come which is not only spiritual but tangible as well since in the heavenly realm there contains the Risen Body of our Lord as well as our Blessed Mother’s redeemed body.
We know that it is a sin intentionally to mutilate one’s body but also to do the same to the good earth and the environment in which we live. We were all appalled with the senseless murder of Lauren Giddings (the Mercer University Law School graduate in Macon and a member of St. Joseph Church) and as Catholics we were appalled with the manner in which her body after death was treated and desecrated by dismemberment.
In fact we use the term "desecration" of her human body because in baptism Jesus consecrated her body a temple of the Holy Spirit and thus she was made holy. In death, we honor our bodies with Christian burial. We prepare them for viewing and adorn them to make them beautiful, not to mask the reality of death but to show forth in a symbolic way the "resurrection" of our bodies at the end of time. In death, Christian bodies are "religious relics" because they have been made holy in Baptism and thus should be disposed properly as we dispose properly blessed items that have run their course like statues, rosaries and the like.
Catholics have always appreciated the arts that glorify the body. There is a big difference between art and pornography. Art shows the human form in a way that does not degrade or offend, for example Michelangelo’s David or art depicting the child Jesus suckling from the exposed breasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Even nudes are to be found in the Sistine chapel and other Catholic churches throughout the world.
Pornography on the other hand turns the human person and its image into an object of lust, to be used and abused for one’s own selfish gratification. The sin of pornography is the exploitation of people who are depicted and those who view it which leads to the most crass form of selfishness for personal gratification.
I always advise people, men in particular, if they have a problem with the sin of lust that they should view those who tempt them not as objects for their lustful purposes, but as God’s work of art to bring our hearts and minds to what heaven will be like. By God's grace lust which is a deadly sin, is transformed by God's grace into passion, the redemption of lust.
The Assumption is all about heaven and what heaven will be like which will have also a tangible element beyond all comparison with what we can see, touch, see, hear and taste here on earth. The ultimate tangibility will be seeing the living God in the Divine Person of the Most Blessed Trinity with our tangible eyes and with those same eyes seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints redeemed in the Blood of Christ.
At every Mass through the material and tangible elements of the church, altar, people, bread and wine, we experience the holy and see the gifts of the earth which show forth in a tangible, sacramental way, the invisible presence of the Risen Lord and all the angels and saints.
Given the theology of what I articulate above, what comparisons do you see in these two images as it concerns the Catholic understanding of the human body?