Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Body and Soul, But Truly One

Lately I've been troubled by seeing people say things like "I am a soul. I have a body." or "My body is like a car that I drive around." This is often evoked in aid of fighting racial prejudice. I get it. Beauty is only skin deep and so forth and so on. It comes from a noble impulse.

But it troubles me on a deeper level. It feels like a rejection of the body in favor of the soul. And that is an ancient idea rearing its ugly head again. Gnosticism in modern form.

Bishop Robert Barron sums up neatly, with a current example. (Emphasis added.)
Gnosticism was, and is, a multi-headed beast, but one of its major tenets is that matter is a fallen, inferior form of being, produced by a low-level deity. The soul is trapped in matter, and the whole point of the spiritual life is to acquire the gnosis (knowledge) requisite to facilitate an escape of the soul from the body. ...

In justifying the transformation that he has undergone, [Bruce] Jenner consistently says something along these lines: “Deep down, I always knew that I was a woman, but I felt trapped in the body of a man. Therefore, I have the right to change my body to bring it in line with my true identity.” Notice how the mind or the will — the inner self — is casually identified as the “real me” whereas the body is presented as an antagonist which can and should be manipulated by the authentic self. The soul and the body are in a master/slave relationship, the former legitimately dominating and re-making the latter. This schema is, to a tee, gnostic — and just as repugnant to Biblical religion as it was nineteen hundred years ago. For Biblical people, the body can never be construed as a prison for the soul, nor as an object for the soul’s manipulation. Moreover, the mind or will is not the “true self” standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self. Until we realize that the lionization of Caitlyn Jenner amounts to an embracing of Gnosticism, we haven’t grasped the nettle of the issue.
Bishop Robert Barron, Vibrant Paradoxes
Our bodies matter. Try thinking noble thoughts and rising above when you've got a 24-hour bug. It reminds us that our body and soul are inextricably intertwined.

That, after all, is one of the most wonderful and mind blowing things about the Incarnation. Jesus became man. GOD became man, body and soul together.

Did Jesus get the flu and lie limply after throwing up? We don't think about that but it's very possible because illness is part of the human experience and no one is more human than Jesus.

When he was resurrected his body mattered so much that he still had the marks of crucifixion. And he was still body and soul ... eating fish more than once to prove it. Jesus shows us that the whole package matters. It's one of the reasons Catholics clothe the poor, feed the hungry, built hospitals to help the sick, visit prisons, and do so many other corporal works of mercy. Our bodies matter.

Heck, the final resurrection will reunite our bodies and souls. That's how much our bodies matter.

Undoubtedly, body and soul are different but in a mysterious way they are also one. On that note I'll leave you with this bit from the Catechism.

362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

363 In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person.230 But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man.

364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.
365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

Hendrick ter Brugghen, The incredulity of St. Thomas

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