The St. Mary of Sorrows Youth group is studying the Theology of the Body this semester. Tonight, my lovely wife is speaking on the “Language of the Body.” Here is her written text:
To begin, where are in our TOB semester? We have learned that we are loved by God and created for love. So much so, that the Father has stamped it into our bodies as complementary expressions of His love. Men and women are different not just physically but even how we interact with the world and each other. To be free is to know the truth and see reality with the Father’s eyes. And, tonight, we continue to look at the language of the body through His eyes and ears.
The body is capable of speaking its own language. We are designed to only speak truth…not just with our words, but our bodies as well.
We are going to examine this “language of the body” and consider how to speak it well…it is a language of love that does not rejoice in what is wrong but only in the TRUTH. JP II taught that the language of the body is not only a language of love, but a language of DIVINE LOVE. The highest expression of this Divine Love is love expressed sexually.
Remembering that we are created in the image and likeness of God, this language of divine love is known as the body’s Native language.
Did you know our bodies are capable of speaking “prophetically”? Our bodies proclaim the truth about God. JPII describes the body and sexual union as “Prophetic”. The union between a husband and wife is meant to proclaim God’s love and truth. It means that we must never speak the language of our body in a way that contradicts the sacramental meaning of our body. This would make us false prophets.
BODY LANGUAGE is extremely important. Did you know that 90% of all information communicated is done through body language? Our bodies are designed for communication through our actions and words. This language can be positive (like a hug or a wave) or negative (a frown or a not so nice hand gesture knowing that no one in this room would EVER do that!!!). For example, my husband has what our family calls “eye puffies” or exhaustion bags to everyone else! When we are carrying on at dinner, we always know when Marques thinks something is funny because his eye puffies show up minutes before he laughs. He communicates through his eye puffies that he is happy.
Our bodies are not only capable of speaking, but of lying as well. We can be all smiles and niceness to someone outwardly, but thinking not so charitable thoughts inwardly. You know…that person at school? The one who drives everyone nuts? (Smile at someone and speaking niceties to them, but inwardly thinking how annoying they are and you can’t wait to be out of their presence).
Even scripture contains instances where the body can lie despite the intent behind the actions. I want to show a movie clip that I believe needs really no introduction at all.
Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss…an intimate, loving gesture that will lead to Jesus’ arrest. Judas’ heart was saying something entirely different than his actions.
Now, when it comes to the marital act, and I use this term because that is what God meant it to be…an intimate act between spouses within the covenant of marriage, many people are speaking lies without even realizing it. The marital act is a language all its own. Through this act, one spouse says to another, “I am completely yours! I belong entirely to you and you alone without reservation!”
This union of man and woman is an ICON…it is meant to point us to something greater than itself. This union is an ICON of Christ’s love for HIS Church…it is meant to point us to God. Believe it or not, this intimate act…this beautiful act… is meant to point us to God!
Let’s think…”What is a religious ICON?” A painting of Christ as we can see here. We can look at that paint and wood to reflect on the mystery of Christ…to open a WINDOW to
If we start to worship the paint and wood itself, that ICON has become an IDOL.
We can apply this same notion to the union of man and woman. The union of man and woman in the biblical VISION is an ICON. It is meant to point us to something far greater than ourselves. Just as the religious ICON should point us to something greater.
The purpose of this union on earth between man and wife is meant to reflect the marriage in Heaven between Christ and His Bride the Church. His marriage to us! That ultimate union we will have with Him.
Consider two people NOT married who are having relations, or fornicating. They are PHYSICALLY doing the same thing as a married couple, but they are actually lying to each other. Even if the couples’ intentions are good, their act is still a lie expressed in the language of their bodies. Why?
There has been no commitment made to one another…not a true commitment. They want one of the great joys of marriage…the marital act…but without the responsibilities and without the commitment that entails.
A co-habitating couple can say that they are committed to each other, but those are just words. They have not made a commitment through the means that God has established! Where are the actions to back that up? With marriage, there is a true commitment, an OATH made to each other within a Church, in front of witnesses, families and a priest. You enter into a covenant with that person. There are ACTIONS to support those words.
Because we are not mere animals and we have a rational soul, our physical union should far surpass the mere sense level of animals and should involve the SPIRIT as well as the BODY. It should be a spiritual experience, not just physical. It should be a committed LOVE that unites them, not just two people acting on physical urges.
This love between a man and woman is meant to mirror God’s love: It should be FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL and FRUITFUL. I don’t want to go too much further into this as Brian will be going into that more in depth next week. So keep those words in the back of your minds.
Now, when two people become one flesh in a sexual relationship, a bonding occurs. This isn’t just a fluffy statement!! I had a friend in high school who told me she had started sleeping with her boyfriend and she felt so much closer to him…well…duh! There is a reason why! There is actual scientific information to support this. This bonding includes powerful EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, PHYSICAL, AND SPIRITUAL LINKS. On ALL of these levels, you become ONE with your partner. In today’s society, people are too quick to dismiss all of these factors.
Research indicates the psychological basis for deep bonding is a hormone called OXYTOCIN. It’s actually nicknamed “THE HORMONE OF LOVE”. This hormone is involved in SOCIAL RECOGNITION, BONDING AND THE FORMATION OF TRUST BETWEEN PEOPLE. No wonder my friend from high school felt all those warm fuzzies and felt closer to her boyfriend…
For a WOMAN, this hormone is released during the marital act and causes an incredibly STRONG attraction to form with the man she is with.
For a MAN, OXYTOCIN and another hormone called VASPORESSIN are released during relations. Along with that strong bonding that occurs, the VASOPRESSIN for the male is called the “MANOGAMY MOLECULE”. Men, this means you are genetically hardwired for monogamy and responsibility.
You can see why these hormones are important to a married couple to heighten their BONDING with each other…to help them to stay together “for better or for worse”. MARITAL RELATIONS FLOURISH WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF MARRIAGE. THOSE RELATIONS BECOME AN INSTRUMENT OF GRACE FOR THEIR MARRIAGE.
SO WHAT HAPPENS IN LIGHT OF ALL OF THIS INFORMATION, ON THE FLIP SIDE? WHAT HAPPENS TO THE COUPLE THAT CHOOSES TO HAVE RELATIONS OUTSIDE OF THE COMMITMENT OF MARRIAGE?
It puts the other person at risk on many different levels…and we aren’t just talking physically with disease, although that is a huge risk in and of itself, but also emotionally as well. Those same hormones that work to enrich and strengthen the marital relationship become destructive.
If a partner severs a relationship that involves sexual activity, that separation has a wrenching effect leaving them feeling emotionally and mentally burned. We are left with a society of the walking wounded. We are left with a “hooking up” culture…people seeking the next pleasure high looking to fill the void that has occurred. The myth of “friends with benefits” doesn’t exist. THE CHEMISTRY OF BONDING HAPPENS WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT! The bonds that are a chemical reaction within our bodies CANNOT be stopped.
Sexual activity (including heavy petting, oral sex and the like) outside of marriage is a LIE. We end up treating the other person as a means of pleasure for ourselves. It puts relationships at risk by creating uneven and inconsistent levels of communication…to be quite frank, our genitals are saying one thing, but the emotions, intellect and will say something entirely different.
The SONG OF SONGS…the greatest love poem of all time…says this:
“DO NOT AROUSE, DO NOT STIR UP LOVE BEFORE ITS TIME.”
It says this 3 separate times within that book of scripture alone. Again, sexual activity/relations thrive within the marital covenant. Even the actions LEADING TO AROUSAL are designed to prepare MAN AND WIFE to give themselves to each other FREELY, FULLY, FAITHFULLY, AND FRUITFULLY.
Now, what happens when CONTRACEPTION is introduced into the equation? John Paul the Second stated that we live in a “culture of death”. This can be split into 2 categories: a death to life and a death to marriage. Sadly, these 2 are linked together.
First, in the death to life we are not just talking about death to pre-born babies, but to the very IDEA of babies…children…YOU!!!
Our fertility, ladies and gentlemen, this beautiful GIFT from God that allows us to be co-creators with HIM, (how amazing and cool is that? Co-creators with God??) Our fertility is considered and treated like a DISEASE that needs to be fixed. We are considered backwards and irresponsible if we aren’t accepting of or using contraception.
What lengths people will go to today to mutilate their bodies to forsake the gift of children??? To forsake what the marital embrace is meant for…children!!!
How does contraception affect the marriage? When you come together in the marital embrace, you are supposed to be giving TOTALLY to each other with no barriers, no holding back, not even your fertility. The Church teaches that there are 2 goods of marriage that should NEVER be separated…the unitive and the procreative.
Unitive…obviously all of the things we touched on already. The procreative…this is the openness to life…which is actually the greater good. So, I would ask the question…what about the couple who is getting married but decides that they aren’t ready for children yet? They want to save money? Buy a house? Pay off loans? Are they ready to take on that procreative side of marriage? If you are not ready for children then you are not ready for marriage.
When a contraceptive barrier is introduced, you become a tool. You are actually saying “I love you…except for this. My fertility is mine and I don’t trust you with it.” ” So I am going to use you for my pleasure and use contraception so I won’t have any unwanted consequences from this.” You become merely an object to pleasure your partner. Where is the life-giving love in that?
Sadly, we have become a contraceptive culture. It has sadly become the norm even among Catholics.
We all know that…
- 50% of all marriages end in divorce today. Fewer people are getting married at all. Marriage rates have steadily been declining. Declining birth rates and divorce mushroomed together right along with the use of contraception.
- 90% of all Americans will engage in contraceptive relations in one form or another over the course of their lives…the Pill, condoms, sterilizations, injections, IUD’s…and sadly, Catholics are no exception to this.
Why? No one taught them the proper language of the body – all they heard was no. There are couples that believe the Church doesn’t belong in their bedrooms and has no right to tell them what to do in this area of their lives. There are couples who are afraid to have a child. I didn’t receive any instruction on any of this until college. My parents certainly didn’t know and didn’t pass it on to any of us.
Polls and studies show that contraception is just as popular with Catholics as it is with the rest of the US. We aren’t just talking about those Catholics that rarely go to Mass either! We are talking about the Catholics that fill the pews every week and say their faith is important to them!
We need to recover and reclaim what God has originally ordained for our bodies. We need to rescue it back from today’s culture!
While speaking on the whole topic of body language, we need to touch on Pornography. Pornography has become something running rampant in our society. There are some who believe that looking at naked bodies is no big deal, but it can be a very big deal.
Now we aren’t speaking about tasteful art that you can find in a museum. Walking through the National Art Museum with my kids was a beautiful experience. They were able to gaze at the famous Venus statue that was there for a short period of time. They looked at it in awe of how the sculptor could shape the body so perfectly, so beautifully portray this gift from God…the statue was stunning and we were all able to “see” it for what it was…a beautiful piece of art.
There is something we call the “Ethos of the Image”. This is simply the responsibility the artist has to represent persons with dignity, especially through the depiction of the human body in art form…like the Venus statue. On the flip side of this, we have what is called the “Ethos of Seeing”. That is OUR responsibility. It is the responsibility WE the viewers have to see humans as persons with dignity, not objects to be lusted after.
This is where pornography twists the beauty that is the human form. Pornography is the explicit depiction of persons in WORDS or images created in order to cause the arousal of lust on the part of the observer. We aren’t just speaking about the pictures or movies…LADIES we are also referring to the romance novels that can have that same effect. The body becomes separated from the person. They simply become an object for one’s own pleasure…they become just a collection of body parts.
We need to be careful not to objectify others. This goes for guys and girls. I think it is easy for all the blame to be put on the guys, but girls are just as bad. On the Confirmation retreat, I was going through a confession list with the girls and I brought up a simple question. “Have you ever walked through the halls at school and did a double take on a young man thinking how hot he is?” They didn’t realize that very action was treating him as an object.
On the other side of the coin, guys, you need to be careful of the same thing. You know, the cute girl walking down the street whose clothes aren’t appropriate. Do you stare or look away? Do you try to preserve her dignity as a person? And, ladies I don’t mean to pick on you but, let’s watch how we dress and act so as not to tempt these gentlemen into just seeing a collection of parts and not the whole person.
We don’t want to be treated like objects, let’s not dress or act in a way that would lead men into treating us that way!! Let’s not wear the skin tight clothes, the booty shorts, the short skirts. What are we doing? Reducing ourselves to body parts…not allowing the other to see you as a whole.
In conclusion, we bear a great responsibility with our bodies.
Our bodies are gifts to us from a loving Creator. Consider the true language of Christ’s body…BEATEN. BLOODIED. BROKEN FOR YOU AND ME. As He stretched out His arms to all of you from the Cross, He allowed Himself to be crucified so we could have victory over sin and the freedom to live with Him forever.
His non-verbal promise of love made to us through the language of His body has become the standard visual aid in the Catholic Church. The crucifix is the symbol of love. The language of Christ’s body on the Cross was so powerful that we now also use it at the start and end of all of our prayers.
What will your sign be? What will you say with your body today, tomorrow and for the rest of your life?