GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 30 JANUARY
During the General Audience on 30
January the Holy Father gave the following address.
1. The reality of the gift and the act of giving, outlined in the first
chapters of Genesis as the content constituting the mystery of creation,
confirms that the radiation of love is an integral part of this same
mystery. Only love creates the good. Love alone can, in a word, be
perceived in all its dimensions and its aspects in created things and
especially in man. Its presence is almost the final result of that
interpretation of the gift, which we are carrying out here. Original
happiness, the beatifying beginning of man whom God created "male and
female" (Gn 1:27), the nuptial significance of the body in its original
this expresses its radication in love.
This consistent giving goes back to the deepest roots of consciousness
and subconsciousness, to the ultimate levels of the subjective existence
of both, man and woman. This giving is reflected in their mutual
experience of the body and bears witness to its radication in love. The
first verses of the Bible speak about it so much as to remove all doubt.
They speak not only of the creation of the world and of man in the world.
They also speak of grace, that is, of the communication of holiness, of
the radiation of the Spirit, which produced a special state of
"spiritualization" in that man, who in fact was the first. In biblical
language, that is, in the language of revelation, the adjective "first"
means precisely "of God": "Adam, the son of God" (cf. Lk 3:38).
2. Happiness is being rooted in love. Original happiness speaks to us
of the beginning of man, who emerged from love and initiated love. That
happened in an irrevocable way, despite the subsequent sin and death. In
his time, Christ will be a witness to this irreversible love of the
Creator and Father, which had already been expressed in the mystery of
creation and in the grace of original innocence. The common beginning of
man and woman, that is, the original truth of their body in masculinity
and femininity, to which Genesis 2:25 draws our attention, does not know
shame. This beginning can also be defined as the original and beatifying
immunity from shame as the result of love.
Foundation of original innocence
3. This immunity directs us toward the mystery of man's original
innocence. It is a mystery of his existence, prior to the knowledge of
good and evil and almost "outside" it. The fact that man existed in this
way, before breaking the first covenant with his Creator, belongs to the
fullness of the mystery of creation. As we have already said, creation is
a gift to man. His fullness and deepest dimension is determined by grace,
that is, by participation in the interior life of God himself, in his
holiness. This is also, in man, the interior foundation and source of his
original innocence. It is with this conceptand
more precisely with that of "original justice"that
theology defines the state of man before original sin.
In the present analysis of the beginning, which opens up for us the
ways indispensable for understanding the theology of the body, we must
dwell on the mystery of man's original state. That awareness of the bodyrather,
awareness of the meaning of the bodywhich
we are trying to highlight through analysis of the beginning, reveals the
peculiarity of original innocence.
What is most manifested, perhaps, in Genesis 2:25, in a direct way, is
precisely the mystery of this innocence, which the original man and woman
both bear, each in himself or herself. The body itself is, in a way, an
"eyewitness" of this characteristic. It is significant that the
affirmation contained in Genesis 2:25about
nakedness mutually free from shameis
a statement unique in its kind in the whole Bible, so that it will never
be repeated. On the contrary, we can quote many texts in which nakedness
will be connected with shame or even, in an even stronger sense, with
Dimension of grace
In this wide context the reasons are all the more visible for
discovering in Genesis 2:25 a particular trace of the mystery of original
innocence and a particular factor of its radiation in the human subject.
This innocence belongs to the dimension of grace contained in the mystery
of creation, that is, to that mysterious gift made to the inner manto
the human heartwhich
enables both of them, man and woman, to exist from the beginning in the
mutual relationship of the disinterested gift of oneself.
In that is contained the revelation and at the same time the discovery
of the "nuptial" meaning of the body in its masculinity and femininity. It
can be understood why we speak, in this case, of revelation and at the
same time of discovery. From the point of view of our analysis, it is
essential that the discovery of the nuptial meaning of the body, which we
read in the testimony of Genesis, takes place through original innocence.
In fact, this discovery reveals and highlights the latter.
4. Original innocence belongs to the mystery of man's beginning, from
which historical man was then separated by committing original sin. This
does not mean, however, that he is not able to approach that mystery by
means of his theological knowledge.
Historical man tries to understand the mystery of original
innocence almost by means of a contrast, that is, going back also to the
experience of his own sin and his own sinfulness.(2) He tries to
understand original innocence as an essential characteristic for the
theology of the body, starting from the experience of shame. In fact, the
Bible text itself directs him in this way. Original innocence, therefore,
is what "radically," that is, at its roots, excludes shame of the body in
the man-woman relationship. It eliminates its necessity in man, in his
heart, that is, in his conscience.
Original innocence speaks above all of the Creator's gift. It speaks
of the grace that made it possible for man to experience the meaning
of the primary donation of the world. In particular it concerns the
meaning of the mutual donation of one to the other through masculinity and
femininity in this world. However, this innocence seems to refer above all
to the interior state of the human heart, of the human will. At least
indirectly, it includes the revelation and discovery of human moral
conscience, of the whole dimension of conscience. Obviously, this was
before the knowledge of good and evil. In a certain sense, it must be
understood as original righteousness.
Purity of heart
5. In the prism of our historical a posteriori, we are
trying to reconstruct, in a certain way, the characteristic of original
innocence. This is understood as the content of the reciprocal experience
of the body as experience of its nuptial meaning (according to Genesis
2:23-25). Happiness and innocence are part of the framework of the
communion of persons, as if it were a question of two convergent threads
of man's existence in the mystery of creation. So the beatifying awareness
of the meaning of the bodythat
is, of the nuptial meaning of human masculinity and femininityis
conditioned by original innocence.
We can understand that original innocence as a particular "purity of
heart," which preserves an interior faithfulness to the gift according to
the nuptial meaning of the body. Consequently, original innocence,
conceived in this way, is manifested as a tranquil testimony of conscience
which (in this case) precedes any experience of good and evil. Yet this
serene testimony of conscience is something all the more beatifying. It
can be said that awareness of the nuptial meaning of the body, in its
masculinity and femininity, becomes humanly beatifying only by means of
To this subjectthat
is, to the link which, in the analysis of man's beginning, can be seen
between his innocence (purity of heart) and his happinesswe
shall devote the next meditation.
1) In the ancient Middle East, "nakedness," in the sense of "lack of
clothing," meant the state of abjection of men deprived of freedom:
slaves, prisoners of war or condemned persons, those who did not enjoy the
protection of the law. In women, nakedness was considered a dishonor (cf.,
e.g., the threats of the prophets: Hos 1:2 and Ez 23:26, 29).
2) "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I
do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want but I do the
very thing I hate.... So then, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which
dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is
in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do
the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what
I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within
me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close
at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in
my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me
captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I
am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:14-15, 17-24; cf.
"Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor" Ovid, Metamorph. VII,
A free man, concerned about his dignity, had to be dressed sumptuously.
The longer the trains of his clothes, the higher was his dignity (cf.,
e.g., Joseph's coat, which made his brothers jealous, or that of the
Pharisees, who lengthened their fringes).