Theology of the Body…for the liturgy
Pope Francis's new apostolic letter, Desiderio Desideravi, is Theology of the Body—for the liturgy.
Guardini writes, “Here there is outlined the first task of the work of liturgical formation: man must become once again capable of symbols.” This is a responsibility for all, for ordained ministers and the faithful alike. The task is not easy because modern man has become illiterate, no longer able to read symbols; it is almost as if their existence is not even suspected.
This happens also with the symbol of our body. Our body is a symbol because it is an intimate union of soul and body; it is the visibility of the spiritual soul in the corporeal order; and in this consists human uniqueness, the specificity of the person irreducible to any other form of living being. Our openness to the transcendent, to God, is constitutive of us. Not to recognize this leads us inevitably not only to a not knowing of God but also to not knowing ourselves.
It is enough to look at the paradoxical way in which the body is treated, in one moment cared for in an almost obsessive way, inspired by the myth of eternal youth, and in another moment reducing the body to a materiality to which there is denied every dignity. The fact is that value cannot be given to the body starting only from the body itself. Every symbol is at the same time both powerful and fragile. If it is not respected, if it is not treated for what it is, it shatters, loses its force, becomes insignificant.
We no longer have the gaze of St. Francis, who looked at the sun — which he called brother because so he felt it to be — and saw it beautiful and radiant with great splendour, and, full of wonder, he sang that it bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
To have lost the capacity to grasp the symbolic value of the body and of every creature renders the symbolic language of the Liturgy almost inaccessible to the modern mentality. And yet there can be no question of renouncing such language. It cannot be renounced because it is how the Holy Trinity chose to reach us through the flesh of the Word. It is rather a question of recovering the capacity to use and understand the symbols of the Liturgy.
We must not lose hope because this dimension in us, as I have just said, is constitutive; and despite the evils of materialism and spiritualism — both of them negations of the unity of soul and body — it is always ready to re-emerge, as is every truth.