Sexuality is both matter and spirit, where nature and soul are united by divine love
Descartes’s philosophy Cogito Ergo Sum – I think, I am existing– distinguishes reality as res cogitanz and res extenza. The former means that consciousness is achieved by thinking and the latter means all the consequences that flow from it. The most important consequence of Cogito Ergo Sum is the mind and the other things than the mind is the secondary thing. Descartes’s philosophy creates dualism in the way of thinking. His dualism philosophy breaks the unity of the essence of anything and excludes other aspects that lie outside the realm of mind. Everything that is not the mind is reduced as a thing, as matter. In this horizon, for him, the body is a matter that is spatially extended, whereas the mind is the substance that thinks and contains the rational soul.
His philosophy has a deep influence on modern thinking. One of his influences is the view of sexuality. Nowadays, it is seen as a thing (res), a matter. The term res refers to an object. Then it is only an object of pleasure, an object of biology. For that reason, it loses its beauty and sacredness because the richness of sexuality is belittled and is besieged only by pleasure. When its beauty and sacredness fade away then it becomes meaningless which brings to slavery. It damages the root of society which is the family. This short article will try to explain the true meaning of sexuality.
Sexuality is self-giving and self-receiving in love
Love is the nature of humans; it is the basic and fundamental existence of man and woman. We exist because of love: God’s love and human (man and woman) love. Since we are created in the image of God, we are made of love. Since we come from the love between man and woman, we are made of love. Through this nature, man and woman are called to love and to be self-giving and self-receiving through their body.
In love, man and woman give dan receive love. Then when a man and a woman love each other, a natural tendency that is to give will emerge. In love, one tries to give anything to whom they love. Love is a driven force for the self-giving through which man and woman are called to be happy and for self-actualization because love is the soil and the water for self-actualization. Self-giving means also self-receiving because man and woman cannot always give, man and woman must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love. Receiving is an act of love also.
The peak and the greatest actualization of self-giving and self-receiving in love between man and woman are in the sexual relationships through which they surrender themselves to each other through their own bodies. Their love finds wholeness in the communion of two bodies: the body masculine and the body of feminine. This capacity for love as self-giving and self-receiving is “incarnated” in the nuptial meaning of the body, which bears the imprint of the person’s masculinity and femininity.
The body either masculine or feminine represents its richness which reveals a mystery and at the same time a revelation. It is a mystery because the body contains flesh and spirit which embrace the full existence of humans. It is a mystery because the body is the gift of God, nourished by and expressed in the encounter of man and woman. It is a revelation because the body is the manifest and visible spirit. It is a revelation because the body is the real God’s image. It is the most valuable treasure of the body because given human is a unity of body and spirit, their bodies and sexuality, male and female, are an integral part of God’s design and essential to being made in the imago Dei. The body, therefore, has great dignity and values.
Because of the nature of love, the nature of the body is to long for other bodies to love and to be loved. The body calls and needs the other body to give and receive each other. Its needs and voice shout: “where is my bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh” (Genesis 2: 23). The body wants the other body only in the area of love. The body finds its completion by giving each other in other flesh and bone through love because love reveals the hidden thing of the spirit manifested in the body. This nature is not a blind mechanism moved by mere lust. There is something beyond this mechanism. Then if a body finds its completion by giving and receiving each other through a sexual relationship meanwhile sexual relationship can be defined as a communion of two bodies: male and female body, it can be said that a sexual relationship is a place for the bodies to give and to receive each other in order to find its completion. In other words, sexual difference is a sign of the human call to love in perfection as man and woman, to give and to receive inscribed within who they are, including their very bodies in the unity of body and spirit. Human love embraces the body and spirit. Therefore, sexuality is the way to express the perfection of the body and spirit; sexuality is the realization and manifestation of love through the body and spirit.
This richness of sexuality of course counters the view of sexuality as a pleasure. We can see and know that if sexuality is reduced only for pleasure, a human can never achieve their completion and perfection. Emptiness will be the consequence for those who play sexuality as pleasure. Yes, the pleasure is gotten but the emptiness also escorts it. Sex has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man and woman become a commodity. Sex is the only material of his or her body so that the body experiences a banalization. It is called banalization because the body does not recognize its integrity, its wholeness. Under this condition, the body is wild and uncontrolled. Banalization denigrates the body as a mere biological mechanism. Sexuality is only a matter of lust without spirit, no longer expression of love and freedom but it is manipulation and slavery.
Otherwise, sexuality that is done in love will be the pure giving and pure receiving between man and woman who love each other. But love presupposes commitment and loyalty which leads to the true body, real unity of the body. This true love assumes man as a unity in duality: body and spirit. Here the body finds its freedom and freedom only exist when love is present through flesh and spirit. Sexuality which is done in true love makes the human ascend to the Trinity mystery. The Trinity is the communion of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of us as man and woman is called to the Trinity communion. Love and sexuality are bound up in this noble truth.
As it said that love is self-giving. Self-giving in love through sexuality reflects the divine one. The relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit within the Trinity is the model of self-giving love. Through pure love, a person experiences God in the “mutual exchange of self-donation (John Paul II, Theology of The Body). Furthermore, to give means to tear my being so that the other being can survive and reach happiness. My torn being is the same as the sacrifice for the other. It reminds the work of divine love for human salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus sacrifices himself on the cross for the world and universe. St John said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).: In sexuality, through the self-giving in love one sacrifices all his being or her being for his or her love. The pleasure of sexuality is the effect of having a sexual relationship, it is not the main aim of sexuality. In addition, selfishness which usually accompanies pleasure is conquered by love. When sexuality is done within love, it is impossible to use his or her body as only a means to satisfy lustfulness. In love, there is only the sacrifice for the loved one and sexuality is the path and the capacity of expressing love and sacrifice between man and woman. Love and sacrifice for the loved one is the divine way to show who is God: God is not something that cannot be understood and beyond human capacity, but as a living God who is experienced in love through sexuality through which God unites two opposite body (man and woman) so that become one communion of body. In communion between man and woman, love is a gift and a grace that fulfill the meaning of his or her being and existence.
Sexuality as a communion of two bodies
“A man leaves his father and mother and joins himself with his wife, and they become one body” (Gen 2:24). This Genesis verse is the core meaning of sexuality. It is shown from the verbs to leave, to join, and to become and from the last object: one body. These three verbs and the object represent a mysterious process of sexuality. If something is said in a process, there must be a pattern consisting of beginning-middle-ending. This pattern is a dynamic activity, it flows toward wholeness.
The sexuality pattern started with a man leaving his father and mother. This verb to leave is the same as to separate. This separation is motivated by his holy vocation which is inscribed in his nature: “Be fruitful, multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Sexuality is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who “abandons his mother and father” in order to find a woman. So, it is only together: man and woman represent complete humanity and become one flesh.
The next is to join himself with his wife. The verb to join means to have sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is the body language expressing exclusive and total love between a man and woman through his and her genitals. It is the manifestation of masculine genital and feminine genital under divine light. By and through it, man and woman participate and sink into a divine mystery. This participation lifts up and transcends all their being to divine love. Nothing can elucidate this experience in which language and human thought cannot permeate that area. But there is great feeling leading to the achievement of indescribable beauty, a beauty from his and her nature as man and woman. But this beauty directs man and woman towards marriage, it demands a marriage bond, a bond that is unique and definitive. The reason is that in marriage, sexual intercourse finds its meaning; in marriage, love binds love according to its nature. In this context, genital behavior is the key to going to friendship-marriage or destruct marriage-friendship. If sexual intercourse is framed under pleasure or a mechanism of biologism then the relationship between a man and a woman is fake, being betrayed, frustrated, and hate which brings to violence, and unhappiness later.
The last verb is to become. This verb points to the result and the end of preceding verbs (to leave and to join). To become means after having sexual intercourse, the marriage now is perfect and legitimate. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of love is the measure of human love in marriage. Those verbs (to leave, to join, and to become) reach their completion in the last object of the verses which is marriage. In the marriage, the body of man and woman unite perfectly and become one body, one communion between the body of a man and the body of a woman. Every form of the communion of love through marriage will always bear masculine and feminine characteristics. In marriage, there is only one body, one communion, and one love.
The term one has an important character. Oneness shows wholeness, completeness, and perfection. It can be symbolized by a circle. In a circle, there is always a beginning-middle-end which is unseen because the beginning-middle-end fuses and unites each other. So, oneness refuses to divide. Something that can be divided is not called oneness again and it is fragmentary. The most unique characteristic of oneness is singleness. The oneness is always identical to singleness. It also does not know plurality. Oneness itself has been already singleness. Thus, one body in marriage is singleness, perfection, and wholeness. This is the essence of marriage. Communion of two bodies (read: marriage) result in one body desires only singleness and wholeness which can be grasped only by faithfulness. Here, faithfulness has an important role to form a oneness. That is why sexuality is done with his or her beloved one. Sexuality must be done in faithfulness because sexuality is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love”. Faithfulness is a key to the wholeness, to the perfection of sexual intercourse.
There is a hidden meaning of faithfulness of sexuality. What is that? The content and purpose of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation can be summarized within a simple phrase: communion between God and humans. It is God’s initiative to take communion with humans. God so loves and asks humans to communion with Him. Hence human sexuality means not only worldly, biological communion but also heavenly communion. Behind the worldly meaning is contained the divine one. The communion between man and woman through sexuality is the communion between God and humans. Then communion man and woman through sexual intercourse rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason, it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification, and healing. We see that there is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, and eternity—a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence. God is faithful to humans even though many times humans prostitutes themselves by praising other gods. The book of Hosea draws on God’s loyalty and God’s love for humans. God is represented as a husband and a human as his wife. This book reveals the essence of faithfulness. Then if it is linked with sexuality, faithfulness becomes the nature of sexuality. When one makes a sexual activity, God is there, and God is present. Now we can understand also Jesus’s words when he debated with Pharisees about divorce: “What God has united; man must not divide” (Mat 19: 6). God unites man and woman through sexuality. Within it, God himself ties up the two bodies to become one body. To divide this united body by unfaithfulness breaks divine order which leads to ugliness; we are so far from the essence of love, the true body, and the beauty of sexuality. Ugliness just corrupts the body and sexuality as a slave. And slavery is a work of evil trying to separate humans from communion with God. Separating from communion with God leads us to chaos.
Sexuality is one of the greatest graces which are bestowed by God and it is inscribed on the body of a man and the body of a woman. As one of the greatest graces, sexuality transcends and lifts man and woman to God. There is deep meaning in sexuality meanwhile some modern philosophical thinking tries to reduce and belittle sexuality as pleasure or a biological mechanism. Many persons forget the deep meaning of sexuality and play it as a commercial thing. In this paradigm, man and woman are also changed as objects and the body is only a matter. It is wrong because one treats the other as only a sexual thing so this violates his or her wholeness, being, and existence as a person. At the same time, sexuality loses its beauty and becomes a banalization of the body: it is uncontrolled, chaotic, slavery, and loses its freedom. As the consequence, it is not strange that adultery, affair, abortion, and free sex becomes something adored and justified by modern society and such society is a sick society.
If one realizes the real meaning of sexuality as self-giving-in-love and self-receiving-in-love also a communion of the two bodies in divine love, one will find the completion and perfection of sexuality. The true lover must be not egoistic and give of himself or herself without reservation or question and must display lifelong fidelity (Johannes Baptist Metz). Then, one can understand, feel, and sinks in the beauty of sexuality. The beauty of sexuality between man and woman is like encountering two rivers in order to become more beautiful and stronger for their stream (Paulo Coelho). The communion between man and woman in one flesh is like one fountain eradiating the true life (Ibid). It utters a divine secret that flesh does not know. This beauty only can be achieved through faithfulness and loyalty and it is not based on lust, biological mechanism, or sexual drive.
Sexual drive as the nature of the body shows a longing for the other person, a masculine body longs for the feminine body and vice versa, indeed it misses for the most the other than the other that is God. Why? Because relation with God is the live-giving relation; relation with God is the most living relation, the sweetest one. Said Elizabeth Dreyer: “As relational, sexuality is replete with potential elements for the spiritual life – self-knowledge; self-gift; love; kindness; intimacy; touch; kiss; embrace; nakedness; trust; vulnerability; pleasure; union; ecstasy; the sense of transcendent; play; self-denial; creativity; companionship; forgiveness”.
Man and woman are called to love in body and spirit. It means that sexuality and the body are holy, they are part of spirituality. Spirituality and sexuality are one in unity. They all are good and holy. The one who tries to eliminate sexuality from spiritual life is like the dead man but forgets to be entombed (Sigfried Zahnweh). On the contrary, the one who tries to assume sexuality is separated from spirituality like the man who hits one of his eyes when he walks in drunkenness. Sexuality is the necessary condition and requirement to love and have mercy. To love God, to love the other, and to love the creature; to have mercy to myself, to have mercy to yourself, to have mercy to itself. Sexuality is the servant of love, on the contrary, love is not the servant of sexual lust.
In order that us to live humanly and understand also reach the beauty and the sacredness of sexuality, we must control and must elevate it from the desire of releasing sexual drive only to make it the love of expression and of sacredness (Sigfried Zahnweh). But how these things can be done? It starts from our view on body and sexuality which is not to separate body and sexuality from spirit and God. The body represents the incarnated spirit and the spirit shows the meaning of the body. Sexuality declares God’s grace and the beauty of God is manifested in sexuality. Through this thinking, we respect man and woman fully as a whole man and woman. They are lovable people with their sexuality, personality, values, willingness to be loved, to be admired for their dignity. They are not an object of pleasure but are subjects who have feelings and want to love and be loved. We gain our true freedom and self-control which follows from sexuality. Our freedom and self-control elevate us to self-giving in communion and friendship with God, with others, and any creature. Our relationship between woman and man is comfortable, peaceful, and warm. We taste the sweetness of every relation and because of our respect for man and woman, the grandeur of honor is our crown. We grow in maturity, purification, and holiness. Sexuality sanctifies the body and the spirit through love and faithfulness. Sexuality is really a ladder to reach and unite with God, other,s and the universe in freedom and truth. No doubt that sexuality is God’s beauty and God’s mystery between a man and a woman who loves each other in divine light.
 Robinson, Howard.“Dualism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Winter 2012 Edition. Edward N. Zalta. Quoted from Wikipedia
 Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, no.10, www.vatican.va
 see CCC, nos. 355-373
 Deus Caritas Est, no.11
 Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, no.10, www.vatican.va
 Deus Caritas Est no. 5
 Elizabeth Dreyer, Earth Crammed with Heaven: A Spirituality of Everyday Life (New York: Paulist Press, 1994) p. 116
 Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, no.10. www.vatican.va
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