We all crave love. A gentle touch, an acknowledging look, a tender word. These sentiments all reach to our core. They lift our spirits, they give us confidence, and they fulfill something deep within that relentlessly demands to be satisfied. But why? What is it about this communion with another that can instantly cast light over what we thought was a drab and dreary world?
Because, within love, lies the remembrance of perfection and the hope of redemption. When we come together with another, we memorialize the “first feast of humanity.” (Theology of the Body 19:6) We remember that moment in Eden when, before the inception of sin, man and woman came together and experienced the ecstasy of intimate union, unmarred by the loss of innocence. A union that “draws its origin from the divine sources of Truth and Love in the very mystery of creation.” (TOB 19:6)
These “divine sources of Truth and Love” reveal that it is through union that self-knowledge is discovered. It is through union that man discovers that he “appears in the visible world as the highest expression of the divine gift, because he bears within himself the inner dimension of the gift. And with it he carries into the world his particular likeness to God, with which he transcends and also rules his ‘visibility’ in the world, his bodiliness, his masculinity or femininity, his nakedness.” (TOB 19:3)
God designed each of us with care, as a man or a woman, with a plan for how each person’s masculinity or femininity will reveal His likeness to the world. Our bodies point to this plan of His from the beginning. From the moment we enter this world, we are declared male or female. Before we can speak, our bodies speak for us. The Truth of our Creator is inscribed into our very biology.
In other words, our bodies are a sign of God to the rest of the world. And since our bodies are made in the image and likeness of God Himself, we are called to love as God loves: to give ourselves freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully–four aspects of love that are manifested on the cross, and four aspects of love that are perfectly conveyed by the love between a man and a woman.
Are there people who struggle with this–who struggle to really know themselves as male or female? Absolutely. Every facet of life carries with it the weight of our ancestors’ fatal fall into sin. And real love always comes with its share of pain–we have only to look at the crucifix to see this truth. Love isn’t a constant pursuit of happiness, but, rather, a lifelong journey towards lasting joy.
This lasting joy is what we’re chasing. Eternal happiness is what we long for. We were not created to be fully satisfied by the things of this world. But we can find a certain satisfaction in hints of heaven along our earthly path.
The union of man and woman is one hint of heaven for which we were created. A man realizes more fully his masculinity when he looks upon the complementarity of his wife’s femininity, and a woman realizes more fully her femininity when she looks upon the complementarity of her husband’s masculinity. “[Man and woman] reveal themselves to one another with that specific depth of their own human ‘I’ which precisely reveals itself also through their sex, their masculinity and femininity.” (TOB 20:4) And when that deep revelation of love materializes into the fruitfulness of a baby, well, any parent will tell you that gazing upon the sweet face of a newborn is a glimpse into the face of God.
This is why, in spite of hardship and suffering, we continue to desire procreation. We continue to long to see the image of God in another new creation and to look upon that creation as God did in the very beginning and say, “It is good.”
It is in coming together as God intended, as man and woman, male and female, that the human race continues to survive. And not only does it survive, but it thrives as those joined in sacred marriage reveal the beauty of the Trinity to the world.
This is the importance of maintaining the integrity of our God-given sex. When we retain the integrity of our biology, we retain the revelation of God’s love to the world. For it is “in his body as man or woman, man senses himself as a subject of holiness.” (TOB 19:5)
And should this sense of holiness become clouded, confused, or disordered, we must fight the forces of our fallen nature. We must trust in the promises of the next world rather than become discouraged by the hardships of this one. We must “draw a first hope already from the mystery of creation: namely, that the fruit of the divine economy of truth and love, which revealed itself ‘at the beginning,’ is not Death, but Life, and not so much the destruction of the body of man made ‘in the image of God,’ but rather the ‘call to glory.’ (Rom 8:30)” (TOB 19:6)
Copyright 2016 Charisse Tierney