08 April 2010

A Communion of Persons

General Audience of November 14, 1979

Today I read about what the duality of human nature shows us. I learned last week that man is created as two beings in unity – male and female. This was an idea that really spoke to me. This week, John Paul II tells us that while “their unity denotes…the identity of human nature; duality…shows what, on the basis of this identity, constitutes the masculinity and femininity of created man” (161).

This was another exciting set of passages for me. Apparently, Genesis 2 helps prepare us for one of my favorite doctrines – the Holy Trinity. I love that God is triune. I think it is so cool – it’s a rebuff to Aristotle and all of the philosophers who said that the highest good is self-contemplation. Our highest good is not focused on our self. It is focused on others! Jesus was a servant, and we are all called to be servants too. Our selves are perfected in our ability to love others, in our ability to have relationships. Since God is Perfection itself, it is only reasonable that he be Relationship personified too. God is triune so that He can show us how to Love. I love it! I first came to understand the Trinity like this when I read Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind to God, and I’ve loved the doctrine ever since.

Well, I have gotten a bit ahead of myself now, just as I did when I was reading. All JP2 had to write was that the duality of man is significant because male and female together form a “communion of persons” (163). After I read that sentence my mind raced ahead, jumping to the Trinity and communion of saints. Once I was able to focus on the page again, I was excited to see that I had jumped onto the same train as JP2.

The next thing John Paul II writes about is how we can use reverse logic to get from the creation stories to the fact that God is a divine communion of persons. See, we know from Genesis 1 that man is made in the image and likeness of God. In Genesis 2 we find that man is created whole only when two beings are created in unity – male and female. This makes man, in his essence, a communion of persons. We can put the pieces from Genesis 1 and 2 together to reason that if man is the image of God, then he is the image of God not only through his humanity but also through the communion of persons that man and woman form from the very beginning. Thus, God is a Divine Communion of Persons, and the creation stories prepare us for an understanding of the Trinity. How cool is that? It is amazing how much meaning is packed into, literally, three Bible verses.

So, in the mystery of creation, man is given a deep unity between what is male and female. JP2 says that this means that the blessing of fruitfulness, and its tie to human procreation, is there from the beginning (164). He does not elaborate on this idea much further, so I assume that it must be developed more in a later audience. He also drops a few more weighty theological ideas as if they were passing thoughts. He says that another significance of the phrase “flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23) is that it tells us that the body reveals man. This is important because it gives validity to the idea of a theology of the body, I get that. But then he also says that this indicates to us that the body is not only anthropological but theological as well. He says that the theology of the body is in some way also a theology of sex, of masculinity and femininity (165). He says that this is important because it means that the original meaning of unity (“and the two of them become one body” Gen 2:24) possesses both an ethical dimension and a sacramental dimension. The ethical dimension is confirmed by Christ’s response to the Pharisees in his dialogue about marriage (Mt 19 and Mk 10) and the sacramental dimension is confirmed by Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he talks about how no one hates their flesh and a man will leave his parents to dwell with his wife (Eph 5:29-32). Then the audience ends. I’m sure that everyone in attendance sat for a second and then said to themselves, “Okkkay…I guess I’ll be back next week!” And so I say to myself as well. John Paul, what an annoyingly intriguing way to leave us.

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