What is Theology of the Body?
Pope John Paul II devoted the first major teaching project of his pontificate – 129 short talks between September of 1979 and November of 1984 – to providing a profoundly beautiful vision of human embodiment and erotic love. He gave this project the working title “Theology of the Body.”
Far from being a footnote in the Christian life, the way we understand the body and the sexual relationship “concerns the whole Bible” (TOB 69:8). It plunges us into “the perspective of the whole Gospel, of the whole teaching, even more, of the whole mission of Christ” (TOB 49:3). Christ’s mission, according to the spousal analogy of the Scriptures, is to “marry” us. He invites us to live with him in an eternal life-giving union of love.
This is what the union of the sexes is meant to proclaim and foreshadow – the eternal union of Christ and the Church. As St. Paul says, quoting from Genesis, “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32).
By helping us understand this profound interconnection between sex and the Christian mystery, John Paul’s Theology of the Body not only paves the way for lasting renewal of marriage and the family; it enables everyone to rediscover “the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life” (TOB 46:6).
TOB Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, John Paul II’s general audience addresses on Human Love in the Divine Plan, Michael Waldstein translation (Pauline, 2006)