Part 1: Who Are We? Establishing an Adequate Anthropology
Cycle 1: Original Man
Cycle 2: Historical Man
Cycle 3: Eschatological Man
Part 2: How Are We to Live? Applying an Adequate Anthropology
Cycle 4: Christ and the Church
Cycle 5: The Dimension of Sign (Catecheses 103-117)
Cycle 6: Love and Fruitfulness
Have you ever seen one of those movies in which a boy and a girl are best friends when they are little, as if they’re brother and sister, and then grow up and marry each other (or say they will)?
It's the kind of love we dream about, at least I did. And that’s what Pope John Paul II talks about in this part of Theology of the Body. He first talks about the language of the body, how it speaks masculinity or femininity, personal gift and faithfulness (or unfaithfulness!) and how love cannot exist apart from the body for us. He also talks about how Christ’s words in the previous chapters are not to condemn us, by pointing out the sin in our heart, but rather to call us, by pointing to what we are really made for and called to. “The human ‘heart’ is not so much ‘accused and condemned’ by Christ because of concupiscence, but first of all ‘called’.”(107:1).
Then he goes into the brother/sister and wife/husband dimensions of love, by looking at one of the most special and different books of the Bible… the Song of Songs! In the first chapter of Theology of the Body, the Holy Father looked at Christ’s words on the Sermon of the Mount “in the beginning it was not so” and went back to the beginning. Opening up Genesis, he began a reflection on how we were made to be gifts of love expressed through the body. When Adam first receives Eve, before sin existed, he exults in poetry and says, “AT LAST, this is flesh from my flesh…” This expresses her sisterhood in humanity with him and his wonder and admiration for her. Well, the Song of Songs is the story of two lovers who act in conformity with that beginning Jesus talked about, that beginning expressed in Genesis. Their bodies speak in conformity with “the inner movements of hearts”, they aren’t lying or using one another. “It is not possible to reread it [Song of Songs] except along the lines of what is written in the first chapters of Genesis, as a testimony of the ‘beginning’ – of that beginning – to which Christ appealed in his decisive conversation with the Pharisees (cf. Mt 19:4).” (TOB 108:3) “What was barely expressed in the second chapters of Genesis (vv. 23-25) in just a few simple and essential words is developed here in a full dialogue, or rather a duet…” (TOB 108:4)
Pope John Paul II reflects on the various dimensions of love in this important book. One is the fraternal dimension. Before they are lovers, they are also friends or “brother and sister”. “The term ‘friend’ indicates what is always essential for love, which puts the second ‘I’ beside one’s own ‘I.’” (TOB 109:4) This is a particular approach that the man has toward the woman, not of use as an object for his pleasure, but as a person and as a sister. “The expression ‘sister’ speaks of union in humanity and at the same time of feminine diversity…” (TOB 109:4) “The fact that they fell like brother and sister allows them to live their reciprocal closeness in security and to manifest it (‘I could kiss you…’), finding support in this closeness, and not fearing the negative judgment of other men (‘…and no one could despise me’). The one who calls attention to this aspect of the fraternal relation is, above all, the bride.” (TOB 110:1)
Being brother and sister is the foundation of communion of persons, what we’re called to. The man in Song of Songs speaks of the woman with disinterested tenderness. “It is above all the peace of the encounter in humanity as the image of God – and the encounter by means of a reciprocal and disinterested gift. (‘Thus am I in his eyes, as the one who has found peace,’ Song 8:10).” (TOB 110:2)
There are other dimensions of love in Song of Songs that are reflected upon in this chapter. The metaphors “a garden closed, a fountain sealed” (Song 4:12) speak of the mystery of the other person and how that person is always “other”. It is the “discover of the inner inviolability of the person” (TOB 110:8). The “sister-bride” is the master of her own mystery and it is with their closeness that she lets him enter into her mystery, but it is never a violation. It’s about gift, self-gift and depths of trust. “The bride knows that ‘his desire’ is for her. She goes to meet him with the readiness of the gift of self.” (TOB 111:5)
Another dimension of love is its search. Song of Songs speaks eloquently about their search for one another, yet it seems as if their search never ends. Even as they experience closeness to each other, it seems as if this impels them to keep searching. It is a love that is never satisfied. “Thus, the verses of the Song of Songs present eros as the form of human love in which the energies of desire are at work” (TOB 113:2).
Love in Song of Songs involves the entire person, not just his or her sexual component (but also). It is an experience of beauty, of a love filled with pleasure. “In addition, love unleashes a special experience of the beautiful, which focuses on what is visible, although at the same time it involves the entire person. The experience of beauty gives rise to pleasure, which is reciprocal.” (TOB 108:6)
Finally, the Pope reflects largely upon the book of Tobit. In the marriage between Tobias and Sarah, we also find these aspects of love and others. It’s also first fraternal (“Take your sister; from now on you are her brother, and she is your sister. She is given to you from today for ever.” (Tobit 7:12) A new dimension of love is found here in which love is a test. Tobias’s love for Sarah had to face the test of life or death and it is a story of inner strength and truth of love. “And so, when they unite as husband and wife, they must find themselves in the situation in which the powers of good and evil fight against each other and measure each other.” (TOB 115:2)
This is a truly beautiful chapter of Theology of the Body and really sheds light on two incredibly beautiful books of the Bible and many dimensions of love… lived in a body as we do. I highly suggest reading it!