GENERAL AUDIENCE OF WEDNESDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 1979
Because of bad
weather, the General Audience was held indoors both in St Peter's Basilica
and in the Paul VI Audience Hall. The following address was delivered to
the Italian-speaking visitors at St Peter's, and was later summarized in
various languages for the other language groups in the Audience Hall.
1. Following the narrative of Genesis, we have seen that the
"definitive" creation of man consists in the creation of the unity of two
beings. Their unity denotes above all the identity of human
nature; their duality, on the other hand, manifests what, on the basis of
this identity, constitutes the masculinity and femininity of created
man. This ontological dimension of unity and duality has, at the same
time, an axiological meaning. From the text of Genesis 2:23 and from the
whole context, it is clearly seen that man was created as a particular
value before God. "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was
very good" (Gn 1:31). But man was also created as a particular value for
because he is man; second, because the woman is for the man, and vice
versa, the man is for the woman.
While the first chapter of Genesis expresses this value in a purely
theological form (and indirectly a metaphysical one), the second chapter,
on the other hand, reveals, so to speak, the first circle of the
experience lived by man as value. This experience is already inscribed
in the meaning of original solitude and then in the whole narrative of the
creation of man as male and female. The concise text of Gen 2:23, which
contains the words of the first man at the sight of the woman created,
"taken out of him", can be considered the biblical prototype of the
Canticle of Canticles. And if it is possible to read impressions and
emotions through words so remote, one might almost venture to say that the
depth and force of this first and "original" emotion of the male-man
in the presence of the humanity of the woman, and at the same time in the
presence of the femininity of the other human being, seems something
unique and unrepeatable.
Unity in "communion of persons"
2. In this way the meaning of man's original unity, through masculinity
and femininity, is expressed as an overcoming of the frontier of solitude.
At the same time it is an affirmationwith
regard to both human beingsof
everything that constitutes man in solitude. In the Bible narrative,
solitude is the way that leads to that unity which, following Vatican II,
we can define as communio personarum.(1)
As we have already seen, in his original solitude man acquires a
personal consciousness in the process of distinction from all living
beings (animalia). At the same time, in this solitude, he opens up
to a being akin to himself, defined in Genesis (2:18, 20) as "a helper fit
for him." This opening is no less decisive for the person of man; in fact,
it is perhaps even more decisive than the distinction itself. In the
Yahwist narrative, man's solitude is presented to us not only as the first
discovery of the characteristic transcendence peculiar to the person. It
is also presented as the discovery of an adequate relationship "to" the
person, and therefore as an opening and expectation of a "communion of
The term "community" could also be used here, if it were not generic
and did not have so many meanings. Communio expresses more, with
greater precision, since it indicates precisely that "help" which is
derived, in a sense, from the very fact of existing as a person "beside" a
person. In the Bible narrative this fact becomes eo ipsoin
existence of the person "for" the person, since man in his original
solitude was, in a way, already in this relationship. That is confirmed,
in a negative sense, precisely by this solitude.
Furthermore, the communion of persons could be formed only on the basis
of a "double solitude" of man and of woman, that is, as their meeting in
their distinction from the world of living beings (animalia), which
gave them both the possibility of being and existing in a special
reciprocity. The concept of "help" also expresses this reciprocity in
existence, which no other living being could have ensured. All that
constituted the foundation of the solitude of each of them was
indispensable for this reciprocity. Self-knowledge and self-determination,
that is, subjectivity and consciousness of the meaning of one's own body,
was also indispensable.
Image of inscrutable divine communion
3. In the first chapter, the narrative of the creation of man affirms
directly, right from the beginning, that man was created in the image of
God as male and female. The narrative of the second chapter, on the other
hand, does not speak of the "image of God." But in its own way it reveals
that the complete and definitive creation of "man" (subjected first to the
experience of original solitude) is expressed in giving life to that
communio personarum that man and woman form. In this way, the Yahwist
narrative agrees with the content of the first narrative.
If, vice versa, we wish to draw also from the narrative of the Yahwist
text the concept of "image of God," we can then deduce that man became
the "image and likeness" of God not only through his own humanity, but
also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right
from the beginning. The function of the image is to reflect the one who is
the model, to reproduce its own prototype. Man becomes the image of God
not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. Right
"from the beginning," he is not only an image in which the solitude of a
person who rules the world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an
image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons.
In this way, the second narrative could also be a preparation for
understanding the Trinitarian concept of the "image of God," even if the
latter appears only in the first narrative. Obviously, that is not without
significance for the theology of the body. Perhaps it even constitutes the
deepest theological aspect of all that can be said about man. In the
mystery of creationon
the basis of the original and constituent "solitude" of his beingman
was endowed with a deep unity between what is, humanly and through the
body, male in him and what is, equally humanly and through the body,
female in him. On all this, right from the beginning, the blessing of
fertility descended, linked with human procreation (cf. Gn 1:28).
The body reveals man
4. In this way, we find ourselves almost at the heart of the
anthropological reality that has the name "body." The words of Genesis
2:23 speak of it directly and for the first time in the following terms:
"flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones." The male-man uttered these
words, as if it were only at the sight of the woman that he was able to
identify and call by name what makes them visibly similar to each other,
and at the same time what manifests humanity.
In the light of the preceding analysis of all the "bodies" which man
has come into contact with and which he has defined, conceptually giving
them their name (animalia), the expression "flesh of my flesh"
takes on precisely this meaning: the body reveals man. This concise
formula already contains everything that human science could ever say
about the structure of the body as organism, about its vitality, and its
particular sexual physiology, etc. This first expression of the man,
"flesh of my flesh," also contains a reference to what makes that body
truly human. Therefore it referred to what determines man as a person,
that is, as a being who, even in all his corporality, is similar to
Meaning of unity
We find ourselves, therefore, almost at the very core of the
anthropological reality, the name of which is "body," the human body.
However, as can easily be seen, this core is not only anthropological, but
also essentially theological. Right from the beginning, the theology of
the body is bound up with the creation of man in the image of God. It
becomes, in a way, also the theology of sex, or rather the theology of
masculinity and femininity, which has its starting point here in Genesis.
The original meaning of unity, to which words of Genesis 2:24 bear
witness, will have in the revelation of God an ample and distant
perspective. This unity through the body"and
the two will be one flesh"possesses
a multiform dimension. It possesses an ethical dimension, as is confirmed
by Christ's answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19 (cf. Mk 10). It also has
a sacramental dimension, a strictly theological one, as is proved by St.
Paul's words to the Ephesians(3) which refer also to the tradition of the
prophets (Hosea, Isaiah, Ezekiel). And this is so because that unity which
is realized through the body indicates, right from the beginning, not only
the "body," but also the "incarnate" communion of personscommunio
calls for this communion right from the beginning.
Masculinity and femininity express the dual aspect of man's
somatic constitution. ("This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of
my flesh"), and indicate, furthermore, through the same words of Genesis
2:23, they indicate the new consciousness of the sense of one's own
body: a sense which, it can be said, consists in a mutual enrichment.
Precisely this consciousness, through which humanity is formed again as
the communion of persons, seems to be the layer which in the narrative of
the creation of man (and in the revelation of the body contained in it) is
deeper than his somatic structure as male and female. In any case, this
structure is presented right from the beginning with a deep consciousness
of human corporality and sexuality, and that establishes an inalienable
norm for the understanding of man on the theological plane.
1) "But God did not create man as a solitary being, for from the
beginning "male and female he created them" (Gn 1:27). Their companionship
produces the primary form of interpersonal communion" (Gaudium et Spes
2) The dualistic contraposition "soul-body" does not appear in the
conception of the most ancient books of the Bible. As has already been
stressed (cf. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, November 5,
1979, page 15, note 1), we can speak rather of a complementary combination
"body-life." The body is the expression of man's personality, and if it
does not fully exhaust this concept, it must be understood in biblical
language as pars pro toto; cf. for example: "Flesh and blood has
not revealed this to you, but my Father..." (Mt 16:17), that is, it was
not a man who revealed it to you.
3) "For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes
it, as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body. For
this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his
wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one,
and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church" (Eph 5:29-32).
This will be the subject of our reflections in the part entitled "The