The freedom of love

This freedom lies at the basis of the nuptial meaning of the body. The human body, with its sex, and its masculinity and femininity seen in the very mystery of creation, is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation, as in the whole natural order. It includes right from the beginning the nuptial attribute, that is, the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift and – by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence. Let us recall here the text of the last Council which declared that man is the only creature in the visible world that God willed “for its own sake.” It then added that man “can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself” (GS 24).

The root of that original nakedness free from shame, which Genesis 2:25 speaks of, must be sought in that complete truth about man. Man or woman, in the context of their beatifying beginning, are free with the freedom of the gift. To remain in the relationship of the “sincere gift of themselves” and to become such a gift for each other, through the whole of their humanity made of femininity and masculinity (also in relation to that perspective which Genesis 2:24 speaks of), they must be free precisely in this way.

We mean here freedom especially as mastery of oneself (self-control). From this aspect, it is indispensable that man may be able to “give himself,” that he may become a gift, that he will be able to “fully discover his true self ” in “a sincere giving of himself ” (referring to the words of the Council). Thus the words, “They were naked and were not ashamed” can and must be understood as the revelation – and at the same time rediscovery – of freedom. This freedom makes possible and qualifies the nuptial sense of the body.

Genesis 2:25 says even more, however. It indicates the possibility and the characteristic of this mutual “experience of the body.” It enables us also to identify that nuptial meaning of the body in actu. When we read: “They were naked and were not ashamed,” we directly touch its fruits and indirectly touch almost the root of it. Free interiorly from the constraint of their own bodies and sex, free with the freedom of the gift, man and woman could enjoy the whole truth, the whole self-evidence of man, just as God-Yahweh had revealed these things to them in the mystery of creation.

This truth about man, which the conciliar text states precisely in the words quoted above, has two main emphases. The first affirms that man is the only creature in the world that the Creator willed “for its own sake.” The second consists in saying that this same mm, willed by the Creator in this way right from “the beginning,” can find himself only in the disinterested giving of himself. Now, this truth about man, which seems in particular to grasp the original condition connected with the very beginning of man in the mystery of creation, can be reread in both directions, on the basis of the conciliar text. This rereading helps us to understand even more the nuptial meaning of the body. This meaning seems inscribed in the original condition of man and woman (according to Genesis 2:23-25) and in particular in the meaning of their original nakedness. – from the pope’s general audience of January 16, 1980