Monday, November 14, 2011

5. God had a eternal plan of love for us even before creation

This post is about the fourth section of Theology of the Body (highlighted):    
      Part 1: Who Are We? Establishing an Adequate Anthropology
         Cycle 1: Original Man
         Cycle 2: Historical Man  
      Part 2: How Are We to Live? Applying an Adequate Anthropology
         Cycle 4: Christ and the Church (Catecheses 87-102)
         Cycle 5: The Dimension of Sign
         Cycle 6: Love and Fruitfulness
     We saw in the last chapter that celibates point us to heaven. Although marriage and procreation are wonderful and should be a sign of what God's love is like, that's not our ultimate goal: God's love is. Pope John Paul II unpacks scripture all throughout the first part of Theology of the Body and also in this chapter, explaining that Christ gave his life for the Church, his Bride, and wants to include us in communion with him... basically, he wants to marry us.
     In this chapter, our Holy Father bases himself on Ephesians 5:22-23 and brings together the preceding three chapters: What we were made for (communion with God and others) and what we're destined for (perfect communion with God and others in the eternal wedding banquet). It's commonly said that the Bible starts with a wedding and ends with a wedding, and St. Paul in Ephesians brings together the two great signs: marriage between man and woman and marriage between Christ and his Church.
     The Church is Christ's body and she receives everything from the head: the fullness of salvation as a gift, Christ's gift of self. The analogy of the Church as bride and Christ as bridegroom that St. Paul uses has a rich tradition in the Old Testament and empasizes God's total and irrevocable gift of himself in a way that other analogies aren't able to. "The analogy of spousal love contains a characteristic of the mystery that is not directly emphasized by the analogy of merciful love, nor by the analogy of fatherly love (nor by any other analogy used in the Bible to which we could have appealed)" (TOB 95b:3).
     This passage from Ephesians brings the union of man and woman (instituted by God in Genesis) and the union of Christ and his Church together as means to carry out God's original saving plan. All of the preceding chapters of who man is (Genesis), the situation he is in now and where he is going are brought together: "In fact, that passage from Ephesians cannot be correctly understood except in the broad biblical context, considering it as the 'crowning' of the themes and truths that ebb and flow like long waves through the Word of God revealed in Sacred Scripture" (TOB 87:4).
     God is love and he had a plan for us before he created us. The letter to the Ephesians opens with a presentation of the eternal plan of man's salvation in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3-7.10) and the second part defines Christian life as a vocation flowing from this divine plan. "Ephesians opens before us the supernatural world of the eternal mystery, of the eternal plans of God the Father in regard to man. These plans precede the 'creation of the world' and thus also the creation of man" (96:3). God is love and he wants to include us in that love. Not only do man and woman point to this love/eternal plan in marriage, but also Christ and his Church point to this love/eternal plan and carry it out. Through Christ, this mystery, what was before hidden, is revealed and accomplished. This mystery expresses itself in the visible order and becomes Sign ("visibility of the Invisible" TOB 95b:7). These two marriages are the foundation of the whole sacramental order which makes visible the eternal plan of love.
     We not only are given the fruits of redemption but Christ gives himself as a gift to the Church, his Bride. His spousal love is redeeming and the great goal of marriage is also santification: "The essential goal of the love of Christ for the Church is her santification" (91:6). When God created us for communion and created man for woman and vice versa, it was not only the creation of the most fundamental human community, but it was also the beginning of his plan to save us. Wow, makes you think marriage is pretty important, right?
     "Can we not deduce that marriage has remained the platform for the realization of God's eternal plans, according to which the sacrament of creation had come near to human beings and prepared them for the sacrament of redemption, introducing them into the dimension of the work of salvation?" (TOB 97:1)

Michelangelo's Pietà

And some music:

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