In Soul Food, I wrote about both the importance of the body and the soul and how our civilization has for centuries bifurcated the two as some kind of warring entities.
The truth is that they are intricately woven like a fine hand-made or in this case God-make garment.
To separate them or pull out their threads and is to kill the body, thus ruining the garment of life.
Both need each other as Adam needed Eve.
That’s why one of the most interesting teachings of the Catholic Church is on the Resurrection of the body, presumably at the end of time.
Quite frankly I don’t know why we have to wait…forever how long that may be.
The body has been the vehicle for the activities of the soul’s will and should be risen at the same time that the soul is.
John Paul II was emphatic when he wrote in his book, Love and Responsibility that it cannot be forgotten that our bodies will be resurrected in the end.
In the book he discussed what role our masculinity and femininity will play in the afterlife, especially since procreation will not be part of it.
For a fuller explanation of this, look for Part III.
It may be a little difficult to imagine what our heavenly bodies might look like but ESPN’s special photo shoot on world-class athletes gives a brief hint as to what our heavenly might look like.
Our bodies were not only created to be in union with another human person, but also to share in spiritual union with God, which is the ultimate goal of human existence.
I know many people, especially women, might shutter at the thought of having their bodies visibly present in eternity.
Theologians speculate that our bodies will be glorified.
The imagery often projected is that we will wear flowing robes that will make it hard to distinguish man from women.
To me this is a repudiation of all John Paul II’s ground-breaking book about the human body.
I have already written that my view conceives of heaven as partly a nude beach where we are free to wander, swim in the ocean, breathe in the air and exhilarate in the beauties of God, nature and our fellow-men and women without any fabric restrictions.
St. John provided his ideal and highly mysterious vision of Heaven in the Book of Revelation, which is arguably the most difficult of all the books of the Bible.
Even before ESPN the human body attracted many creative people from the first time man learned to capture stick figures on a wall, through the fine arts of European painting.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir celebrated the gift of feminine beauty with his many nudes of voluptuous women in the late 19 century.
In each attempt the artist was trying to capture the beauty and true of the model’s inner soul–the invisible soul if you would of the material human body.
Leonardo da Vinci was one of the best at trying to present the perfect human body in all of its divine proportions.
Da Vinci drew The Vitruvian Man circa 1490.
He believed the workings of the human body were analogous to the workings of the universe.
Nature so designed the human body that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is always a tenth part of the whole height.
The open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same while the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth.
In his book, Da Vinci’s Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image Toby Lester pointed out that da Vinci’s drawing corresponds in nice ways to existing descriptions of Leonardo that exist.
Lester believes that the drawing of The Vitruvian Man was actually a self-portrait.
His opinion rests on the reports of many of da Vinci’s contemporaries, who of described him as being very finely built, strong, very beautiful with locks of hair that curled and went down to his shoulders.
It was originally named The Poet and alleged to have been Dante, contemplating
The statue is obviously nude and seems to depict perfections of the human body while engaging in a mental or even spiritual activity.
I used to quip that he was thinking about where he left his clothes.
The human body is the pinnacle of God’s creation and in Heaven we can expect a throwback or return to that Sixth Day when God did his best work.
To me this is just an added incentive to make the celestial grade.
However I found out early that there were all kinds of heavenly bodies on earth.
In 1966 I was preparing to visit some friends in New Orleans when some of the older men in the small town where I was teachings suggested I look at the heavenly bodies on Bourbon Street.
Someone else had to explain it to me.
Unfortunately the human body of women has often been used for pornographic imagery, which is designed to unsettle normal relationships between men and women.
It has reached epidemic proportions in this country and around the world.
As a result moral society has been reflexive in its encounter with any kind of female or even male nudity because of the pornographic abuse of freedom in the United States.
Pope John Paul II was valiant in his attempt to put the nude human in its proper moral perspective.
Because God created it, the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty...
Nakedness should not be equated with shamelessness. Immodesty is present only when nudity plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person.
The human body in itself is never shameful.
Shamelessness is a function of the interior of a person.’
With regards to viewing nudity, it’s clear that there’s a spectrum of appropriateness.
On one hand, it may be appropriate for a man to view his wife’s or baby’s unclothed body.
During routine examinations a male physician may be within his right to view a woman’s unclothed body.
On the other hand, it’s never appropriate for a man to view a woman even his wife with lustful desire in his heart, whether she is clothed or unclothed.
By definition lust is the desire to use another person like an object for one’s own sexual gratification.
Treating people like things is always morally wrong.
Impurity of body only occurs when nudity plays a negative role with respect to the value of the person.
The late pope did warn that concupiscence can create a tangible sexual tension that surrounds relations between the sexes.
In these situations the person must make a real interior effort to avoid any utilitarian attitudes toward nudity in any form.
Appreciation and not desire has always been my rule in such situations.
The human body per se is not impure, nor is the reaction of sensuality, nor sensuality itself.
Lust begins when the will appropriates the reaction of sensuality and reduces the other person – because of his or her body and sex – to an object of pleasure.
Our earthly bodies can also be the transmitters of spiritual joy.
With regard to our earthly bodies St. Francis, the namesake of the Catholic Church’s new pope, was quoted in Omer Engelbert’s definitive biography about the 13th century saint as saying that spiritual joy is as necessary to the soul as blood is to the body.
What Francis missed here was the fact that because of the body’s meticulous make-up bodily hormones can transport feelings of heavenly ecstasy through the blood to every inch of the body and even the soul.
I have felt this in my own life with the incessant and overpowering feelings of joy, well-being and near mind-expanding ecstasy after a therapeutic massage.
These feelings were not just ephemeral but not only made me smile more but warmed my relationships with all the people I came in contact with that day.
As I have stated before these are not just temporary feelings but to me a foretouch of what heaven may be like.
I feel that they are ground in my religious faith and inspire me to look to the heavens above with hope, anticipation and high expectations.