One of the great errors of our day is the implicit rejection of the truth that our bodies have something to tell us about who we are and what we are called to do and be. Most moderns see the body merely as a tool of sorts and assertions are made that “I can do as I please with my own body.” Further, that a person is male or female is purely incidental and merely an arbitrary quality one “happens to have.” That our sex should speak to anything deeper than genitals and other “mere” physical differences is set aside to one degree or another. Or so it is said. In effect, it would seem that our bodies have little or nothing to say to us. According to modern culture they are incidental.
The rejection of the body as instructive or in any way determinative has reached its zenith in attempted normalization of homosexual activity and so called “Gay Marriage.” Any non-ideological analysis of the body will indicate that the man was not made for the man, nor the woman for the women. Rather the man is made for the woman and the woman for the man. This is set forth quite clearly in the pure physicality of things. St. Paul calls homosexual acts παρὰ φύσιν “(para physin) – that is “contrary to the nature of things.”
The Soul is the Form of the Body – Now of course I can hear the objections that some how we are not only physical beings and to use simply physical arguments is not proper. This is true but the body cannot be ignored. This is because the soul is the form of the body. That is to say, our soul, its essence and abilities, give rise to the structure and physical attributes of the body. Consider for a moment a glove. Now, what is the form of a glove? In other words, what determines how a glove is formed, shaped and designed? Well, of course, it is the hand. It is both the shape of the hand and its capacities that give rise to the design and function of the glove. A glove with only three fingers or with eight fingers would be a poor glove indeed. The proper form of the glove is the hand. And it is not just the shape of the hand that dictates the design of the glove, it is also the required function of the hand that must be considered. Hence, fingers need to move and be able to work together for the hand to achieve its purpose. A glove that was extremely stiff or rigid, and permitted the fingers no movement, would be a poor glove. Hence a good glove protects the hand but also permits it to achieve its proper end. Thus the fully functioning hand is the form (or blueprint) for the glove.
In the same way, the soul is the form (or blueprint) of the body. Our bodies have the design that they have due to the capacities of the soul. We are able to talk because our souls have something to say. Our fingers are nimble yet strong because our souls have the capacity to work at tasks that require both strength and subtlety. We have highly developed brains because our souls have the capacity to think and reason. Animals have less of all this because their souls have little capacity in any of these regards. My Cat Daniel does not speak, not only because he has no larynx. He has no larynx because he has nothing to say. The lack of capacity in his animal soul (or life-giving principle) is reflected in the design of his body.
Sexuality is more than skin-deep – Now when it comes to sexuality in the human person, our sex (or as some incorrectly call it, our “gender,” (gender is a grammar term that refers to the classification of nouns in romance languages) is not just a 50/50 coin toss. Our soul is male or female and hence our bodies reflect that fact. I don’t just happen to be male, I AM male. My soul is male, my spirit is male, hence my body is male . So called “sex-change” operations are a lie. Cross-dressing is a lie. “Transgendered” and what ever other made up and confused assertions cannot change the truth of what the soul is. You can adapt the body but not the soul. The soul simply says, “Sum quod sum” (I am what I am).
Now again, the modern age has chosen simply to set all this aside and to see the body as incidental or arbitrary. This is a key error of the modern age and has led to a lot of the confusion we have about many things. We have already seen how the widespread approval of homosexual acts has stemmed from this. But there are other confusions that spread from this.
Consider for example how the body speaks to the question of marriage. That the body has a nuptial (i.e. marital) meaning is literally inscribed in our bodies. God observed of Adam “It is not good for the man to be alone.” This fact is also evident in our bodies. I do not wish to be too explicit here but it is clear that the woman has physical aspects of her that are designed to find completion in union with a man, her husband. Likewise the man has physical aspects of him that are designed to find completion with a woman, his wife. The body has a “nuptial” meaning. It is our destiny, it is written in our nature, to be in a complimentary relationship with “the other.” But the complementarity is not just a physical one. Remember, the soul is the form (or blueprint) of the body. Hence the intended complementarity extends beyond the physical, to the soul. We are made to find completion in the complementarity of the other. A man brings things to the relationship (physical and spiritual) that a woman cannot. A woman brings things to the relationship (physical and spiritual) that a man cannot. It is literally written in our bodies that we are generally meant to be completed and complimented by someone of the “opposite” (i.e. complimentary) sex. And this complementarity is meant to bear fruit. The physical complementarity of spouses is fertile, is fruitful. Here too the body reflects the soul and the fruitfulness is more than merely physical, it is spiritual and soulful.
[It is a true fact that not every one finds a suitable marriage partner. But, from the standpoint of learning from nuptial meaning of the body, this is seen as less than ideal rather than merely a neutral “alternative” lifestyle called the “single life.” This point is debated in the Church today however and I can only state such a conclusion as an opinion, not as the official teaching of the Church].
Another consideration in this has to be the question of celibacy in the Church and of the male priesthood. If the body, among other things has a nuptial meaning whence does celibacy and virginity for the sake of the kingdom find its place? Simply in this. Priests and Religious sisters are not single. A religious sister is a bride of Christ. She weds her soul to Christ and is a beautiful image of the Church as bride (cf Eph 5:21ff). Fully professed sisters even wear the ring. As a priest, I do not consider myself a bachelor. I have a bride, the Church. She is a beautiful though demanding bride! And do you know how many people call me “Father?” Our Religious in my parish are usually called “Sister,” but the Superior is called “Mother” by us all. And here too, our bodies reflect the reality of our call. A woman images the Church as Bride. A man images Christ as groom. It is another error of modern times to say that a woman can be a priest. Jesus Christ didn’t just happen to be a man. He is the Groom of the Church, the Church is his bride. The maleness of the Messiah, of Jesus, was not just a 50/50 coin toss. Nor was it rooted merely in the “sociological requirements of the patriarchal culture of his time.” It is not merely incidental to his mission. He is male because he is groom. The priests who are configured to him are also male because the body has a nuptial meaning and the Church is in a nuptial relationship to Christ. Christ is the groom, the priests through whom he ministers to his bride are thus male. To say that a female can image the groom is, frankly, silly and bespeaks how far our culture has gone in thinking of the body as merely incidental, rather than essential and nuptial.
The body does not lie. Our culture lies and distorts, but the body does not. Many choose today to consider the body incidental, a mere tool that can be refashioned at will. But the Church is heir to a far longer and well tested understanding that the body is essential (not incidental) to who are. Our differences are more than skin deep. The soul is the form (or blueprint) of the body and thus our differences and our complementarity are deep and essential as well as necessary. Our dignity is equal but our complementarity cannot and should not be denied. God himself has made this distinction and intends it for our instruction. The body does not lie and we must once again choose to learn from it.
Here is a quirky and clever video that turns the table on the question of ordination. It also goes a long way to say that we cannot, in the end simply pretend to be what we are not. Our bodies do not lie, even if we try to.