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The Theology of the Body of Saint John Paul II

The Theology of the Body of Saint John Paul II

What is the Theology of the Body?

The theology of the body, developed by Saint John Paul II, is an integral vision of the human person: body, soul, and mind. From 1979 to 1984, John Paul II devoted 129 Wednesday catechisms to answering essential questions related to the body, life, and sexuality. This pontifical teaching on "human love in the divine plan" is based on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis, the Gospels and the Letters of Saint Paul. With nearly 800 pages of text, it is the largest pontifical teaching given in the history of the Church. This new approach to the reality of the body, of the person, and of sexuality renewed the whole way in which the Church understood these questions. The central idea of John Paul II is that of the human person made for giving and actually fulfilling this in the gift of himself. This teaching is offered as part of the preparations for marriage, it provides a solid basis for the union and understanding of the other for a couple.

The Main Points of the Theology of the Body

  • The Creation of Man: “Man and woman, he created them.” John Paul II explains the vocation of man: the gift of himself. Teaching is based on the likeness of man to God.
  • Sin and redemption. John Paul II returns to the upheaval of original sin and its consequences for man. He explains the plan of God in the beginning and the break that is caused by sin.
  • The resurrection of the flesh and eternal life. John Paul II reminds Christians of their destiny for eternal life with their bodies. He explains the accomplishment that awaits each person after death.
  • Marriage The theology of the sacrament of marriage is renewed. John Paul II shows the parallel between love in the couple and God's love for humanity, the sacrament of marriage is in the image of Christ's wedding with his Church.
  • Sexuality John Paul II gives the meaning of the conjugal act: it is the ultimate expression of the gift of the spouses, it has a double unitive and procreative meaning. The Pope also redefines the virtue of chastity according to the states of life.

Quotes from John Paul II on the theology of the body

  • Quote on the place of the body

"Because the Word of God became flesh, the body entered, I would say, through the great door into theology."

"Through its visible masculinity and femininity, the body – and only it - is able to make visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the invisible mystery hidden from all eternity in God and thus be the sign ".

  • Quotation on original sin

"After the sin of the origins, the difference of sex, male and female, was suddenly felt and understood as an element of reciprocal opposition of people, as if sexuality had become an ‘’ obstacle ’’ in the personal relations of men and women."

  • Quote on marriage

"Marriage corresponds to the vocation of Christians only if it reflects the love that Christ the Bridegroom gives to the Church his Bride and that the Church strives to give back to Christ in return for his own."

The Institute of Theology of the Body

Located in Lyon since 2014, the Institut de Théologie du Corps is a private institution of higher education. It is intended to disseminate the teaching of the Church and John Paul II concerning human love, the body and sexuality. The institute, in conjunction with the Pontifical Theological Institute John Paul II of Rome, offers a master's degree in theology of the body.

To go further

Learn more about the theology of the body in the works and lectures of Yves Semen, French translator of the catechisms of John Paul II in their new edition. Here are the reference books on the subject:

  • The Theology of the Body Explained: Introduction to the Catechisms of John Paul II by Anthony Percy.
  • The theology of the body for beginners: a new sexual revolution, by Christopher West.