Theology of the Body: A Deeper Analysis of Human Sexuality

God creates so as to reveal mysteries. Human sexuality is absolutely no exception. Human sexuality, on so many dimensions, reveals profound mysteries about our human experience and beyond, both theologically and analogically. Let us probe some of the depths in a deeper context than is normally present in basic TOTB [Theology of the Body] classes. For this, two primary dimensions exist: firstly, the Trinity and then, secondly, the Incarnate One’s marriage to the just. First, let us look at the Trinity.

Caution: mature content about sensitive matter.

The Trinity as Image of the Human Family

What does it mean to say that we are made in the image and likeness of God? Normally, we see this as that we have a soul, or person-hood—intellect and will—like God. This is true; however, an even deeper layer exists: the human family in a physical sense images the Trinity. How? It is as follows. The entire essence and summary of our faith is in one word: love. Love is the beginning of all things and the end of all things. “God is love.” [1 John] That is His primary definition. God is pure gift. God creates to share the gift, the gift of Himself, His Triune self, with creatures. Toward that end, “in the beginning,” the Father proceeds from No One. Yet He is infinite gift. All that He is—His Divine life, love, truth, and mystery—He desires to share. Out of this eternal reckless desire, from that same eternity, the Father empties His entire divine substance and essence, an Image, into a Receptacle. This Receptacle, from all eternity, fully receives the Image. Because the Receptacle contains the whole Divine Essence, it is fully God. Yet, it is distinct from the Father, a different Person. This Person we call the Son. Then, the Father and the Son recklessly, completely, and totally share the essence of love between them—complete gift and reception—from all eternity. Then, this same Image shared between the Father and the Son is a third Divine Person, a Reservoir containing the Memory, the Holy Spirit.

Why did we go into all this? Because this is exactly, in an imperfect sense, what the human family is! How? Well, just look at Genesis. Adam is “alone,” like the Eternal Father in order of procession. But Adam is made for love—for gift and reception. So God places Adam into a deep sleep…. Woman proceeds from man, of equal substance (she is taken from the rib, heart to heart, and lung to lung, co-equal in priceless dignity [“God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God,…consubstantial.”]) She is bone of Adam’s bones and flesh of his flesh. Then, we contemplate the wondrous marital act: man and woman become one, recklessly sharing the whole gift of themselves—completely, totally, and faithfully—and this very love between the man and his beloved bride can become a third person of equal substance, worth, and pricelessness, a child, just as the Eternal love shared between Father and Son is a third Divine Person, the Holy Spirit.

This is the first great mystery of human sexuality. The second builds on it.

Man to Woman as Image of Creator to Creature

Now, the second mystery is unbelievably politically incorrect, but it must be shared. It simply must. A disclaimer is warranted here. This forthcoming mystery in no way implies that men are superior to women or above them in any way. It infers no such thing. Yet, it is a reality that nonetheless conveys a mystery that is just as profound as the preceding one and that has incomprehensible consequences for many of the sad situations facing the confusion in human sexuality today, not the least of which are the following: that the Eternal Son became a man and not a woman; that men and women have different roles, as a general rule; that only men may be ordained to Holy Orders; that transgender ideology and same-sex sexual activity are gravely disordered; and more. Let us, then, commence the analysis.

This mystery is this: physically, the act of love between man and woman images the spiritual relationship between God, the Creator, and the creature, the human person. More specifically, consider the blatant similarities: man has a proceeding sexuality, and woman possesses a receptive sexuality. Man holds the seed of life that is originally infused. Woman, effectively, receives it. This is the precise nature of the seed of “truth and grace” in the spiritual life: God, the Creator, is the ultimate source of all truth and grace, not the creature. The creature, effectively, can only be in a receptive position with regard to truth and grace. We creatures do not determine the truth; God does. God is the truth! “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Moreover, all grace is a finite created participation in the Divine life and love of the Trinity. It must come from God; it must be given by God. The creature does not create grace. The creature receives it. Too, this same truth and grace “proceeds” from God into us, the creatures. Hence, again, the nature of procession and reception.

Similarly, just as man overshadows woman from above [“The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you.”] and enters her inner being, lovingly infusing the total gift of life, the seed of life, so God overshadows the creature, enters its inmost being, the soul, and lovingly infuses grace for the will and truth for the intellect. The grace is conceived and brought forth in new life, a new life that proceeds from the creature to the outer world, meaning, the creature renewed at Mass with God’s Words and strength in the Eucharist goes forth to “love and serve the Lord”, to bring the life and truth it received to others through acts of charity and evangelization.

Now, again, man is in no wise superior to woman in any way just because, in the act of love, he is “above”. The co-equal pricelessness of man and woman remains intact. In fact, the man is called, far from exercising superiority or domination, to lay down his life in sacrifice for his beloved bride, just as Jesus did for the Church [“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.”]. There is, however, a point to be made here: that man comes down from above upon his bride is revelatory of a supremely important concept in our spiritual scenario of the Creator and creature, in this: that the Creator truly is above the creature. That is, we are not God. We have a desperate dependency on God for our very existence and well-being, not the least of which is the Divine Revelation of truth and life of grace, both in instantaneous strengthening and enlightening [actual grace] and in Divine life and love [sanctifying grace]. Without supernatural truth and grace, we are goners. [“With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible!”]. Hence, the imagery of the marital act with woman above man unfortunately flips the tables: the creature dwells above the Creator, which is the fall itself [“I shall ascend above the Most High”, and, “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”] For this reason, the Church gives precedence to the missionary position, effectively encouraging its uses and avoiding the opposite position only if there are physical difficulties or limitations.

The Catholic Balance of Male and Female and Why only Men can be Priests

We now come to essential theology of the Incarnation. We have just seen that God created male to female physically to image, at least in one layer, Creator to creature spiritually. For this very reason, if God makes Himself flesh, He absolutely must take on the sex that images the Creator in the Creator to creature analogy, seeing as He is Himself the Creator. Hence, the Son must become male. This also indicates why the Sacred Scripture and Tradition effectively use male pronouns for God: Father, Son, Lord. God is, again, the source of truth and grace. God comes down upon us and infuses within us truth and grace. Truth and grace proceed from God, just as male sexuality is proceeding. This, incidentally, also vindicates the Church’s tradition that only men may be ordained. How? Well, priests are in persona Christi. They mediate truth and grace of the Creator, as though they were the source, the Creator, and therefore they must bear the image of the Creator in the sexual analogy, hence, similarly, the male.

The Love Between Man and Woman, and the Greatest Joys

God is love, and from all eternity, He desired to love so much as to suffer for sinners. This would be the greatest love of God, since love is greatest to the degree that you suffer for enemies. This He did through the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross. Here, remembering that Jesus had two natures, one Divine, and one human, and noting still that the human nature is His lower nature, it was in this same lower nature touching the lowest part of creaturely human nature—suffering and death—that His greatest love was attained, His greatest joy, to love so much as to suffer physically and emotionally for sinners. So, in other words, the greatest joy for God is for His lower nature to touch the lowest part of our nature.

On the other hand, the greatest joy for us, as creatures, is for the highest part of our nature to touch the highest part of God’s nature, namely, that our souls [the highest part of our nature] might touch the Divine Nature, grace and truth, since grace is a very sharing in the Divine Nature of God, a finite created participation in God’s love, [we are partakers of the divine nature, St Peter] and truth is what God is [I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life].

Similarly, in love making, the primary source of pleasure, and therefore joy, for the man, is when the lower side of his intimate nature comes into communion with the lower essence of the female intimate nature. And the primary source of pleasure and joy for the woman is for the higher part of her intimate nature [the clitoris] to come into communion with the higher side the male intimate nature.

The Barriers

St Paul is constantly railing on circumcision. What is that about? Well God made another analogy in sexual nature. We all know that for the man, when he is born, there is a skin barrier over his most intimate nature. Jewish law said if it isn't cut away, the man will never please God or be a part of His family.

Well, Jesus came to show that that was just a picture, like most Jewish things (mainly, all things other than the Decalogue). Jesus came to show us that whether or not a barrier is present physically in our most intimate physical nature, it really means nothing. What matters is that the spiritual barrier around our inmost spiritual nature is cut away. This barrier, of course, is original sin, and it surrounds our heart, or will. Literal circumcision here cannot solve our problem; only Baptism can.

In a similar vein, in both Old and New, much fuss is made about virginity, especially female virginity. Well, another analogy. How? Well, just as it is painful for a man's intimate barrier to be stripped away to make him right with God in the Old Law, and just it is in general painful for a bride to be intimate the first time with her husband—a similar barrier needing to be put away—so it is painful for us when God first ruptures our hearts: He shows us our sins, which wounds our pride. Too, in the purgative way, the first great phase of growing in holiness, it is painful: we need to fast, abstain, sacrifice, and pray, and we are not used to it. Hence, the removal of our physical barriers is painful, and God's breaking of the barriers of our hearts is painful!

What wondrous beauty this is, the theological meaning of man and woman. May we eternally praise God for the profound theological treasure of our sexuality!

Menu icon by Icons8