Why is it that nervousness sends our stomachs into queasiness? Why is it that heartbreak often feels quite literal?
My best friend over at CrossfitCatholithic and I, who are in the habit of discussing deep theological matters (interspersed with giggling of course), have recently been wrestling with the relationship between body and soul. She wrote a wonderful blog post about her thoughts on the matter. As the proverbial student, I’ve spent the last few days doing some more research on this subject – excuse me while I go write a dissertation.
“The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual”(CCC 362).
“In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man”(CCC 363).
“The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:”(364).
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.
“The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature”(365).
We cannot have the corporal works of mercy without the spiritual and vice versa. Everything we do is with our whole being – body and soul. Why do you think we pray on our knees?
Our example of perfect unity is the trinity. Although perfectly united as equal persons, the trinity still has a head, a leader – God the Father. Likewise, although the body and soul are truly one, the body must be led by the soul. The soul is what sets man apart from animals – what makes him a spiritual being, capable of understanding and loving his creator.
Since the fall of man, all things came to be disordered and disunited – the union of body and soul has not escaped that. “My soul is willing, but my flesh is so weak.” – Matthew 26:41
“Flesh” means bodily desires, not the body itself. The Greek word used for this is “sarx,” which is generally read with a negative connotation. The word for body, “soma,” is used in such places as “this is my body given up for you.”
The flesh was corrupted by sin during the fall of man. Then God did something wonderful – he took on flesh, and by doing so redeemed it. He continues to come to us as Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, to remind us of this reality.