GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 2 JANUARY
During the General Audience in
the Paul VI Hall on 2 January, the Holy Father gave the following address.
1. Let us return to analyzing the text of Genesis 2:25: "And the man
and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (Gn 2:25). According to
this passage, the man and the woman saw themselves, as it were, through
the mystery of creation. They saw themselves in this way, before knowing
that they were naked. This seeing each other is not just a participation
in exterior perception of the world. It also has an interior dimension of
participation in the vision of the Creator himself—that
vision of which the Elohist text speaks several times: "God saw everything
that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gn 1:31).
Seeing each other
"Nakedness" signifies the original good of God's vision. It signifies
all the simplicity and fullness of the vision through which the "pure"
value of humanity as male and female, the "pure" value of the body and of
sex, is manifested. The situation that is indicated, in such a concise and
at the same time inspiring way, by the original revelation of the body as
seen especially by Genesis 2:25, does not know an interior rupture and
opposition between what is spiritual and what is sensible. It does not
know a rupture and opposition between what constitutes the person humanly
and what in man is determined by sex—what
is male and female.
Seeing each other, as if through the mystery of creation, man and woman
see each other even more fully and distinctly than through the sense of
sight itself, that is, through the eyes of the body. They see and know
each other with all the peace of the interior gaze, which creates
precisely the fullness of the intimacy of persons.
Gift for each other
If shame brings with it a specific limitation in seeing with the eyes
of the body, this takes place above all because personal intimacy is
disturbed and almost threatened by this sight. According to Genesis 2:25,
the man and the woman were not ashamed seeing and knowing each other in
all the peace and tranquillity of the interior gaze. They communicate in
the fullness of humanity, which is manifested in them as reciprocal
complementarity precisely because they are "male" and "female." At the
same time, they communicate on the basis of that communion of persons in
which, through femininity and masculinity, they become a gift for each
other. In this way they reach in reciprocity a special understanding of
the meaning of their own body.
The original meaning of nakedness corresponds to that simplicity and
fullness of vision in which understanding the meaning of the body comes
about at the very heart of their community-communion. We will call it
"nuptial." The man and the woman in Genesis 2:23-25 emerge, precisely at
the "beginning," with this consciousness of the meaning of their body.
This deserves a careful analysis.
Bearing a divine image
2. If the narrative of the creation of man in the two versions, the
Elohist and the Yahwist, enables us to establish the original meaning of
solitude, unity and nakedness, it thereby enables us also to find
ourselves on the ground of an adequate anthropology, which tries to
understand and interpret man in what is essentially human.(1)
The Bible texts contain the essential elements of this anthropology,
which are manifested in the theological context of the "image of God."
This concept conceals within it the root of the truth about man. This is
revealed through that "beginning," which Christ referred to in the talk
with the Pharisees (cf. Mt 19:3-9), when he treated of the creation of the
human male and female. It must be recalled that all the analyses we make
here are connected, at least indirectly, precisely with these words of
his. Man, whom God created male and female, bears the divine image
imprinted on his body "from the beginning." Man and woman constitute two
different ways of the human "being a body" in the unity of that image.
Now, it is opportune to turn again to those fundamental words which
Christ used, that is, the word "created" and the subject "Creator." They
introduce in the considerations made so far a new dimension, a new
criterion of understanding and interpretation, which we will call
"hermeneutics of the gift." The dimension of the gift decides the
essential truth and depth of meaning of the original solitude, unity and
nakedness. It is also at the heart of the mystery of creation, which
enables us to construct the theology of the body "from the beginning," but
demands, at the same time, that we should construct it just in this way.
Calls into existence
3. The word "created" on Christ's lips contains the same truth that we
find in Genesis. The first account of creation repeats this word several
times, from Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the
earth," to Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image."(2) God
reveals himself above all as Creator. Christ referred to that fundamental
revelation contained in Genesis. In it, the concept of creation has all
only metaphysical, but also fully theological.
The Creator is he who "calls to existence from nothingness," and who
establishes the world in existence and man in the world, because he "is
love" (1 Jn 4:8). Actually, we do not find this word in the narrative of
creation. However, this narrative often repeats: "God saw what he had
made, and behold, it was very good." Through these words we are led to
glimpse in love the divine motive of creation, the source from which it
springs. Only love gives a beginning to good and delights in good (cf. 1
Cor 13). As the action of God, the creation signifies not only calling
from nothingness to existence and establishing the existence of the world
and of man in the world. It also signifies, according to the first
narrative, beresit bara, giving. It is a fundamental and "radical"
giving, that is, a giving in which the gift comes into being precisely
4. The reading of the first chapters of Genesis introduces us to the
mystery of creation, that is, the beginning of the world by the will of
God, who is omnipotence and love. Consequently, every creature bears
within it the sign of the original and fundamental gift.
At the same time, however, the concept of "giving" cannot refer to a
nothingness. It indicates the one who gives and the one who receives the
gift, and also the relationship that is established between them. Now,
this relationship emerges in the account of creation at the moment of the
creation of man. This relationship is manifested above all by the
expression: "God created man in his own image; in the image of God he
created him" (Gn 1:27).
In the narrative of the creation of the visible world, the giving has a
meaning only with regard to man. In the whole work of creation, it can be
said only of him that a gift was conferred on him; the visible world was
created "for him." The biblical account of creation offers us sufficient
reasons to understand and interpret in this way. Creation is a gift,
because man appears in it. As the "image of God," man is capable of
understanding the meaning of gift in the call from nothingness to
existence. He is capable of answering the Creator with the language of
this understanding. Interpreting the narrative of creation with this
language, it can be deduced from it that creation constitutes the
fundamental and original gift. Man appears in creation as the one who
received the world as a gift, and it can also be said that the world
received man as a gift.
At this point, we must interrupt our analysis. What we have said so far
is in close relationship with all the anthropological problems of the
"beginning." Man appears as created, that is, as the one who, in the midst
of the "world," received the other man as a gift. Later we will have to
make precisely this dimension of the gift the subject of a deep analysis
in order to understand also the meaning of the human body in its rightful
extent. This will be the subject of our next meditations.
1) The concept of an "adequate anthropology" has been explained in the
text itself as "understanding and interpretation of man in what is
essentially human." This concept determines the very principle of
reduction, characteristic of the philosophy of man, indicates the limit of
this principle, and indirectly excludes the possibility of going beyond
this limit. An adequate anthropology rests on essentially "human"
experience, opposed to the reductionism of the "naturalistic" type, which
often goes hand in hand with the evolutionistic theory about the
beginnings of man.
2) The Hebrew term bara—created,
used exclusively to determine the action of God—appears
in the account of creation only in v. 1 (creation of the heavens and of
the earth), in v. 21 (creation of animals), and in v. 27 (creation of
man). However, it appears here as often as three times. This signifies the
fullness and perfection of that act which is the creation of man, male and
female. This repetition indicates that the world of creation reached its
culminating point here.