GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 23 JULY
During the General Audience of 23
July, in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father gave the following address.
1. The human body in its original masculinity and femininity,
according to the mystery of creationas
we know from the analysis of Genesis 2:23-25is
not only a source of fertility, that is, of procreation, but right "from
the beginning" it has a nuptial character: that is to say, it is capable
of expressing the love with which the man-person becomes a gift, thus
fulfilling the deep meaning of his being and his existence. In this
peculiarity, the body is the expression of the spirit and is called, in
the mystery of creation, to exist in the communion of persons in the image
of God. The concupiscence "that comes from the world"here
it is directly a question of the concupiscence of the bodylimits
and distorts the body's objective way of existing, of which man has become
The human heart experiences the degree of this limitation or
distortion, especially in the sphere of man-woman mutual relations.
Precisely in the experience of the heart, femininity and masculinity, in
their mutual relations, no longer seem to express the spirit which aims at
personal communion. They remain only an object of attraction, in a certain
sense as happens in the world of living beings, which, like man, have
received the blessing of fertility (cf. Gn 1).
2. This similarity is certainly contained in the work of creation.
Genesis 2 and especially verse 24 confirm this. However, already in the
mystery of creation, that which constituted the natural, somatic and
sexual substratum of that attraction, fully expressed the call of man and
woman to personal communion. After sin, on the contrary, in the new
situation of which Genesis 3 speaks, this expression was weakened and
dimmed. It is as if it were lacking in the shaping of mutual relations, or
as if it were driven back to another plane.
The natural and somatic substratum of human sexuality was manifested as
an almost autogenous force. It is marked by a certain "coercion of the
body," operating according to its own dynamics, which limits the
expression of the spirit and the experience of the exchange of the gift of
the person. The words of Genesis 3:15 addressed to the first woman seem to
indicate this quite clearly: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and
he shall rule over you."
3. The human body in its masculinity and femininity has almost lost the
capacity of expressing this love. In it, the man-person becomes a gift, in
conformity with the deepest structure and finality of his personal
existence, as we have already observed in preceding analyses. Here we do
not formulate this judgment absolutely and we add the adverb "almost." We
do so because the dimension of the giftnamely,
the capacity of expressing love with which man, by means of femininity or
masculinity, becomes a gift for the otherhas
continued to some extent to permeate and mold the love that is born in the
human heart. The nuptial meaning of the body has not been completely
suffocated by concupiscence, but only habitually threatened.
The heart has become a battlefield between love and lust. The more lust
dominates the heart, the less the heart experiences the nuptial meaning of
the body. It becomes less sensitive to the gift of the person, which
expresses that meaning in the mutual relations of man and woman.
Certainly, that lust which Christ speaks of in Matthew 5:27-28 appears in
many forms in the human heart. It is not always plain and obvious.
Sometimes it is concealed, so that it passes itself off as love, although
it changes its true profile and dims the limpidity of the gift in the
mutual relationship of persons. Does this mean that it is our duty to
distrust the human heart? No! It only means that we must keep it under
4. The image of the concupiscence of the body, which emerges from the
present analysis, has a clear reference to the image of the person, with
which we connected our preceding reflections on the nuptial meaning of the
body. Man as a person is "the only creature on earth that God has willed
for its own sake" and, at the same time, he is the one who "can fully
discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself."(1) Lust in
the lust of the body in particularattacks
this "sincere giving." It deprives man of the dignity of giving, which is
expressed by his body through femininity and masculinity. In a way it
depersonalizes man, making him an object "for the other." Instead of being
"together with the other"a
subject in unity, in the sacramental unity of the bodyman
becomes an object for man, the female for the male and vice versa. Genesis
3:16 and Genesis 3:7 bear witness to this, with all the clearness of the
contrast, as compared with Genesis 2:23-25.
5. Violating the dimension of the mutual giving of the man and the
woman, concupiscence also calls in question the fact that each of them was
willed by the Creator "for his own sake." In a certain sense, the
subjectivity of the person gives way to the objectivity of the body. Owing
to the body, man becomes an object for manthe
female for the male and vice versa. Concupiscence means that the personal
relations of man and of woman are unilaterally and reductively linked with
the body and sex, in the sense that these relations become almost
incapable of accepting the mutual gift of the person. They do not contain
or deal with femininity/masculinity according to the full dimension of
personal subjectivity. They do not express communion, but they remain
unilaterally determined by sex.
6. Concupiscence entails the loss of the interior freedom of the gift.
The nuptial meaning of the human body is connected precisely with this
freedom. Man can become a giftthat
is, the man and the woman can exist in the relationship of mutual
each of them controls himself. Manifested as a "coercion sui
generis of the body," concupiscence limits interiorly and reduces
self-control. For that reason, in a certain sense it makes impossible the
interior freedom of giving. Together with that, the beauty that the human
body possesses in its male and female aspect, as an expression of the
spirit, is obscured. The body remains as an object of lust and, therefore,
as a "field of appropriation" of the other human being. In itself,
concupiscence is not capable of promoting union as the communion of
persons. By itself, it does not unite, but appropriates. The relationship
of the gift is changed into the relationship of appropriation.
At this point, let us interrupt our reflections today. The last problem
dealt with has such great importance, and is so subtle, from the point of
view of the difference between authentic love (that is, between the
"communion of persons") and lust, that we shall have to take it up again
at our next meeting.
1) Gaudium et spes, no. 24: "Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when he
prayed to the Father 'that all may be one...even as we are one' (Jn
17:21-22), opened up vistas closed to human reason, for he implied a
certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of
God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is
the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find
himself except through a sincere gift of himself."