The Gospel Truth

Heavenly Bodies | May 15, 2013

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.

Why the end of time?

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.

Daniel Leyva - US Men's Gymnastics

A hint of heaven

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.

Abby Wambach - US Women's Soccer

ESPN’s celebration of top athletes

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.

File:Pierre-Auguste Renoir 085.jpg

Celebrated feminine beauty

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.

The perfect man

The drawing is based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De Architectura.

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.

My favorite work of art has always been The Thinker a bronze sculpture on marble pedestal by Auguste Rodin, whose first cast, of 1902, is now in the Musée Rodin in Paris.

It was originally named The Poet and alleged to have been Dante, contemplating

It was based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and entitled the portal The Gates of Hell.

Some critics believe The Thinker was originally intended to depict Dante at the Gates of Hell, pondering his great poem.

Paris 2010 - Le Penseur.jpg

A unity of body and soul

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.

No shame in Heaven

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.

A real war on women

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.

In the eye of the beholder

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.

The Vitruvian Female

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.

The gateway to joy

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.

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4 Comments »

  1. As much as I regret it, it seems we will have to wait to experience eternal life. And when we get our bodies back at the end of the world, they will be perfect. Thank you,Jesus. !!!

    Comment by Mary B. Lachney — May 16, 2013 @ 3:13 am

  2. I have an even harder time imagining a physical eternity than a spriitual one. I believe it; I look forward to it; I just can’t imagine it. Will we inhabit the earth? Will we float around? Will we enjoy wonderful food and drink? Will the spiritual realm be “visible” to us? Will other animals share our existence?

    None of the answers to these questions will make me believe more or less in the ressurection of the body, but I can’t help wondering.

    Comment by John Kelly — May 16, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

  3. Well professor,if our God had any sense about my body,I hope I can pivot to make that double play without any pain in my knees. Thanks for the two of three blogs on
    Heavenly Bodies,waiting with bated breath for number three.

    Comment by Mike Ellington — May 17, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

  4. First things first: are we to be allowed to wear our favorite pair of brown jersey work-gloves in the hereafter?

    If I were to find myself in some sort of eternal existence I think I would be highly disappointed to find myself trammeled by anything even remotely resembling my human body. I’m highly familiar with it’s many design flaws in an intimate and frequently-un-enjoyable manner.

    I supposed we could take something which would seem to have been improved-upon had it actually been “designed by a committee” and perfect it but why? What’s the point? Have you ever read/heard the phrase “where’s my air-car”–a lamentation that the realities of technology have failed to keep pace with the optimism prevalent in speculative fiction of the ’50s and ’60s?

    So if we’re to be shackled to these ridiculous bodies for eternity then are we also to travel around eternity in a perfected Douglas “Dakota” and to enjoy racing against each other in a “perfected” Winton Flyer when we desire the thrill of indulging in some “motor-sports”?

    Where do we draw the line? Are we to be the wiry little tough-as-leather fellows one typically sees in the first photographs or will we be a perfected version of the increasingly “voluptuous” lard-asses one tends to see increasingly—usually back in those first photographs only to be found in the person of the foreman on the job where/when the Daguerreotype was taken?

    As far as having to wait so long to achieve this state of perfected imperfection I suspect that once you got to that point you’d be discovering that this tremendous-seeming span of time was really only the briefest flash of an instant. I think increasingly physics is finding things out which would militate for the idea that what we perceive as physical space is largely an illusion–certainly “solid” matter is—and since they already maintain that time and space are as intimately interwoven as you say spirit and temporal flesh are then this would mean that the sense of “time” is probably just as much unreal once we truly know ourselves.

    I suspect that true enlightenment or cosmic consciousness, nirvana, valhalla, heaven or however you want to view your ultimate reward is going to be so alien to anything you can imagine with your human-body-limited highly-filtered perceptions that to catch a glimpse now would only frighten and/or horrify you.

    The truth of heaven vs hell may be more a case of whether what you went through arriving at your destination prepared you to fully appreciate that state at which you ultimately arrive rather than any difference in the destination. Living the “good life” would prepare you to accept and appreciate/enjoy the ultimate truth while not paying attention to your lessons would cause you to be ill-prepared for that ultimate irreducible reality.

    And in the end this is liable to amount to whether one has the imagination to amuse one’s self in what would seem to be the most grinding boring situation—trying to imagine all the possibilities of a universe consisting only of one single geometric point.

    I’ve been credited at times as being endowed by a generous sufficiency of imagination but I’m not sure anything I’ve learned from life so-far will adequately prepare me for that particular possibility.

    Here’s to a long temporal life well-lived where we all learn a whole lot more than we ever thought we could/would. It may come in handy but if not at least it would be less boring.

    James Stenzel
    Missouri
    USA

    Comment by James Stenzel — May 24, 2013 @ 10:37 am


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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