A theology of the body
by Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB., MA.
April 08, 2010
The theology of the body, the fact that our bodies “speak a language” that points us to the ultimate “why” behind our being human and gendered, comes to its fullest expression during this Paschal season of the Church.
In many Eastern Christian Churches the Sunday immediately following Pascha (Easter) has a special significance in terms of the theology of the body. On this Sunday Eastern Christian Churches focus an account of Jesus’ appearance to the Apostles in the Upper Room after His Resurrection when Thomas is also present.
The Bible makes a point to say that Jesus entered the Upper Room although the doors were locked. He passes through the door like a ghost or in some spiritual form. At the same time Jesus Christ invites the “doubting” Thomas to touch the wounds on Jesus’ body which he incurred during his Crucifixion. This means that the wounds and the physical body of Jesus must have been real enough to have wounds that could actually be recognized and touched.
It was only when Thomas touched the wounds that he pronounced the most important words in the entire Bible: “My Lord and my God.”
So, in this moment the body of Jesus was both spiritual and physical all at the same time.
In this way Jesus was in the state in which we are all meant to be except for the fact of Adam and Eve’s sin. It is also the state that Christians believe we will all end up in for those who make it to Heaven. Our bodies will rise up gloriously transfigured and will reunite with our souls so that we will be whole persons once again in Heaven forever. Our bodies were never meant to be separated from our souls. As the author Peter Kreeft said, death is a “cosmic obscenity.”
But it is also the week leading up to Pascha and Thomas Sunday that is significant for our understanding of the theology of the body. In many Eastern Christian Churches, this week is called The Week of the “Bridegroom.” This incredible week speaks of the Spousal Mystery upon which the theology of the body is founded. The worship services speak of Christ the Bridegroom coming to wed or “marry” His Bride which is all of creation and in particular, humanity. God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, is coming to take every hit for his Bride, to bleed, suffer and die for Her. On the Cross, Christ is now known as the “New Adam.” His Mother will now become the New Eve and He will call her “woman,” and not “Mother.”
The only other time Christ called his Mother, “woman” was during His first Miracle at the Wedding of Cana. It is the same word used to describe the original Eve in the beginning of the Bible.
On the Cross was consummated a mystical marriage between the Bridegroom Christ (the New Adam) and His Bride (the New Eve). This is why in many Eastern Christian Churches on Paschal (Easter) Sunday the people will sing, “Christ emerges from the tomb like a Bridegroom from the Bridal chamber and fills the women with joy.” Christ’s death and Resurrection is the consummation of his entire plan to unite Himself intimately in love with His Bride and to take her to heights never known before. It is upon these events in the life of Christ that find the “why” behind our own deep desire for intimacy, marriage, sexuality, fruitfulness and fellowship and all the while this is stamped in the very language, the theology of our gendered bodies.