Some Important Introductory Notes
Rev. Fr. Louis Cecilia Adu-Poku
Nature and meaning of sexuality
Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.
In our secular humanistic society, we see the beauty of sexuality misappropriated and sadly unappreciated. Many “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19) are degrading themselves and others by sexual sin. People are now turning to the Epicurean and Hedonistic philosophies which emphasised pleasure.
Far from presenting sexuality as ignoble and degrading (which I will articulate in the subsequent paragraphs) as was done by ancient pagan philosophies such as Stoicism, Gnosticism and Manichaeism we have to view the reality of human sexuality as the totality of the human person but not something resonating only in the genitalia.
Sexuality permeates our whole person always and forever, it stamps all our actions and it becomes creative in many aspects other than procreation.
Theology of the body
Genital sexuality: God by analogical terms is a sexual being (genital) with the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, Jn. 1:14 and Is. 9:5 “…for a child has been born, a son is given to us”. He had the capacity to love and procreate. However He chose virginity for the sake of the kingdom. cf. Matt 19:12
Generic sexuality: God by analogical terms is a sexual being (generic) with the creation of man and woman. This is because HE forms bonds of communion with others. He is a communion of persons in love.
From the book of Genesis we are told that Adam and Eve (and all of mankind) were created in the image and likeness of God.
- The gift of intellect and free will (our ability to know and choose)
- Ability to possess ourselves and give ourselves to others (forming a communion of persons in love, since God who is love is a communion of persons in the Trinity).
- Man is both spiritual and physical (man being corporeal and spiritual mirrors God in the incarnation-when the second divine person took on our human nature.)
Original unity of man and woman
i.Original solitude: man experiences original solitude in these ways
- He is alone as the only rational creature on earth
- He is alone without the woman, without another human person.
First as the only rational creature man is aware of himself, of his body and its meaning. He knows he created by God, and as such is not God. He realises that he is not the same as the animals either. This knowledge (that he is different from animals and God) also gives him self determination by which he chooses good and evil. He has the ability to name the animals and as such becomes aware of his superiority.
Secondly, being without the woman, man does not realise the essence of being a person. The other creatures were not suitable companions for him, cf. Gen 2:20. The concept of original solitude therefore includes both self consciousness and self determination.
Through original unity one aspect of man’s solitude is overcome whiles the other is still confirmed and maintained till today. With the creation of woman man is no longer “alone” in the world of creatures but the two as one are still “alone” because they are conspicuously different from the other creatures. Man realises his completeness only by ‘existing with someone’, and more deeply and completely existing for someone. Man, whom God created as male and female, bears the divine image imprinted on his body from the beginning. The two constitute different ways of the human “being a body” in the unity of the imago Dei.
Nakedness signifies the original good of God’s vision. Man and woman see and know each other with all the peace of the interior gaze, which creates precisely the fullness of the intimacy of persons. “Man and wife were both naked yet felt no shame” Gen 2:25. They beheld each other with God’s eyes, who saw everything he had made, and behold it was very good, cf. Gen 1:31. They saw in each other’s body a sign and language of love, a beauty which each could welcome and reciprocate.
Their nakedness, far from being of little significance, says volumes about their love for each other and their purity of hearts. Since shame is a result of being viewed as an object to be used by the other person, Adam and Eve’s lack of shame demonstrates to us that they both saw and received each other as a gift and sought only to give themselves to one another, but not to use the other.
In the beginning the naked body actually showed Adam and Eve their call to love, to a spiritual as well as bodily communion. This call to form a communion of persons was meant to be lived through their bodies. A ‘naked body’ (for man and woman) therefore is a call to love. (Besides the nakedness of spouses then every other nakedness is shameful)
Man and woman instinctively gravitate towards each other on account of the sexual drive. But sexual unions entirely based on this instinctive drive is not complete human love. Young adults must learn to encounter each other in an amicable, courteous way and in mutual regard. It is important to meet persons of the other sex in a fair way without sexual provocation. It is necessary that they know the individuality of the other sex in order to gradually come to a deliberate choice of partner for their future marriage or can consciously decide to renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom.
Showing affection: caresses, necking and petting
Though the danger exists that these encounters can degenerate into sexual intimacy and a premature commitment we have to make sure that we are not quick to reject them since we can only continue to exist if we give the desire of possession, power and pleasure the right scale.
Since the maturing process in the love of the sexes is slow, it needs time. As much as young people may feel urged to express their affection for each other in a more sensitive manner, caresses do not belong to their form of companionship. Caresses are only for those people who are testing themselves seriously, in order to determine whether they want to remain together and grow together in the exclusive companionship of marriage. A too early solid bond has an adverse effect on the maturity of the young person and its dissolution may have tragic consequences for the girl.
The manifestations of mutual affection are often covered by the terms necking and petting. The terms are often used interchangeably. Necking designates caresses of a lighter nature, such as stroking of the hair, patting on the shoulder. It pertains to the category of affections that are congruous between brother and sister. Complete body contact and sexual excitement are avoided.
Petting on the other hand refers to more intimate forms of caresses such as hugging, embraces, bodily contacts of a kind that ordinarily produce sexual arousal, especially in man.
Choosing to be different
There exist many pressures in the world today that invite early and unrestrained enjoyment of sexual pleasure. They make little of self control, maturing in love and pre-marital chastity. Anybody who wants to go along with all possible entertainments and presentations of erotic nature and who indiscriminately takes to every reading matter cannot succeed in the mastering of sexuality and in growing up in a mature love.
Association with others who are likewise striving for clean and decent attitude is an important aid to achieve this goal.
Some biblical view of sexuality
To be human is to be born of other men. There is a man and woman behind every person. The statements in the OT especially the book of Genesis have preserved mankind’s primal understanding of the sexual differentiations of humans. Human heterosexuality (as we have seen from the preceding paragraphs) is the work of the Creator. Gen 1:27. The entire human person is created good; therefore sexuality as a gift from God is very good.
The first words in the Bible from God to the human race are: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gn. 1:28). Sex was created by God and re-created as holy by Jesus’ redemption. By Jesus’ Incarnation, God became a sexual being (see Jn. 1:14).
Therefore, sexual relations within marriage are not only good but “very good” (see Gn. 1:31). Because God lives in our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, sexual relations are not merely biological functions but two temples united in one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). For the Christian, sex is a Trinitarian relationship of God, self, and spouse. It is a mystery that is supernatural and shot through with the divine. Also, sex is a precious opportunity to share in the life-giving power of God, our Creator. Therefore, sex is not to be trivialized into merely the physical, as if the human person were only a sophisticated animal. Sex is not merely a drive, but a gift and a calling to share in God’s life.
Everything God created is ecological. It all fits together; nothing is isolated. Even the individual parts of creation have their own miniature ecology. In one square mile, the water, air, wildlife, ground, and vegetation are intricately balanced. It is the same with the human person. The body, mind, emotions, psychology, personality, and relationships are united in intimate, multi-faceted inter-relationships. Unless we are extremely careful, it is easy to destroy the ecology of the human person. Only the Creator knows the intricacies of the ecological system.
Sex is part of the ecology of the human person. If we choose to ignore God’s revelation of the realities of sex, we will destroy the right order of our bodily faculties. “Every other sin a man commits is outside his body, but the fornicator sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). And that is just the beginning of the chaos resulting from the ecological pollution and destruction from illicit sex and other types of sexual sin. For example, Solomon, the wisest person in the world, deteriorated through yielding to sexual desires so that the Israelite nation moved toward civil war, division, and ultimate destruction ( I Kgs. 11:2-3). When the ecology, integrity, and dignity of an individual is damaged by sexual sin, this in turn contributes to the pollution of other eco-systems.
I Cor. 6:19
Jesus, who has purchased our bodies at the price of His precious blood, calls us to be sexually pure. He owns our bodies. We are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19). He has the right to expect purity because our bodies belong to Him. So let us glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20).
Even though Jesus has the right of ownership to our bodies, He asks us to offer our bodies freely as a living sacrifice to Him (Rom. 12:1). If we make that choice and respect Jesus’ right to our bodies, then the question is no longer, “What do I want to do with my body?” but “What does Jesus want to do with my body?” What right have we to use a body that belongs to Jesus for things Jesus doesn’t want? We have no right to use our bodies for sexual fantasies, masturbation, fornication, and adultery. These things are against the wishes of Jesus, the Owner. We must ask the Owner what food and drink He wants in our bodies. Jesus means it when He says He owns our bodies. We must acknowledge this and refuse to accept the lie that our bodies belong to us.
I Thes. 4:4-5
Sexual purity stemmed from an instinctive awareness that sexual temptations are strategic in spiritual warfare. Sexual sins are not necessarily worse than other sins but they are battles that, if lost, often lead to losing the war. They are strategic. That is why Paul in his teaching on spiritual warfare and the armour of God mentions first the belt around our loins. This refers to our sexual organs (Eph 6:14). In a physical fight, if we get hit below the belt, we are finished. So, in spiritual warfare, if we sin sexually and let the devil hit us below the belt, we will very likely get beat up badly. Don’t let the devil sexually harass you. Die rather than give in to sexual temptation.
Time and again the sexual passions threaten a person’s spiritual self, peace and true happiness.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Austin Flannery, ed.
Christian Ethics, Moral Theology in the Light of Vatican II, Karl Peschke
Theology of the Body, John Paul II