And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul. ~ Gen. 2:7
This phrase “body and soul” gets used so often that we often don’t internalize the impact of the way God created us. Yet this basic principle has a profound effect on…well, pretty much everything! Take the right to life, for example: one of the primary reasons we believe that abortion is wrong is that we because the baby inside a mother isn’t just a lifeless bunch of cells, but a living human person, both body and soul.
What does it mean to be a “body-soul composite”? On the one hand, you and I possess physical bodies with all their fantastic moving parts, complicated systems, and inevitable decay. Simultaneously, we each possess an animating, spiritual principle, which gives us life, rationality, and immortality. But these two aspects of our being are intertwined and united to become single whole. And that is where the real beauty of God’s creation is manifest; as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
“The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.” (364)
Our mortal body and immortal soul aren’t just opposing principles (despite those days when diet goals struggle with desire for chocolate.) Rather, the two can work together to bring us closer to God, in a way that even the angels can’t experience! And as Catholics, we get the best place of all to come close to God in both body and soul: the Mass.
In the words of Pope Pius XII, our worship is external because “every impulse of the human heart…expresses itself naturally through the senses” and internal because “we must always live in Christ and give ourselves to Him completely, so that in Him, with Him and through Him the heavenly Father may be duly glorified” (Mediator Dei, 23-24.) The rituals of the liturgy, the music, the beauty of our churches; all of these help us to focus our minds and hearts so that we are able to glorify God to the fullest extent of our being.
At the very heart of the Mass is the sacrament through which God Himself comes to us in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, through the simple physical act of eating. Isn’t it beautiful how Christ chose to make give us Himself in such a uniquely human way? As the body is fed, the soul welcomes its Creator, and both are purified.
While we might sometimes feel like we’re driving a team of two very independent horses, the gift of the Eucharist tames our body and guides our soul. This is the most sublime example of body and soul working together; but from birth to salvation, the things that make us human lie at the root of what we believe, how we act, and how we can come close to God.
Copyright 2016 Rebecca Willen