The God Loves Us Body and Soul

The God Loves Us Body and Soul

The other day a member asked me to talk about the importance of the philosophical principles that we are expounding. Why is our composite nature so important? I will do my best to offer some of the thoughts that have popped into my head regarding the aforementioned member’s request. 


The covenants that God has made with man? 

  1. Gen 1-3 God makes a covenant with a single man and the covenant involves bodily and spiritual consummation in guarding of the garden, prohibition of one fruit, and walking with the Lord — Gen 3 contains a prophecy of the future covenant of Christ. 
  2. Gen 9 the Noahic covenant is made with a family. Blood and flesh — blood is considered the animating principle of the flesh — are sacrificed to God in a burnt offering by Noah and his sons
  3. Gen 12-15 the Abrahamic covenant is a covenant with a family and is symbolized by fleshly and spiritual circumcision. In addition, the aspects of flesh and blood are again present as Abraham cuts the sacrifices in half and a smoking brazier passes between the halves. 
    1. Note that the smoking brazier for the ancient Hebrew — Aramean in Abraham’s case — calls to mind previous covenants and immolated sacrifices, it engages the senses with incense and the ears with sound. 
    2. Incense is universally recognized as an external ritual of a prayer — incense — being offered — immolated — to God. Because it engages the body in ritual behaviors that are symbolically ordered to the spiritual.
  4. Exodus 19-24 contains the Mosaic covenant made with a tribe and symbolized by the Torah and the sprinkling of blood upon the altar and the people, connecting the people to the sacrificial altar. 
    1. Despite common thinking, this covenant — along with each of the preceding covenants — was to be shared with the world. Having noted his people’s struggle to remember their God and his love for them, he gave them strict bodily disciplines to set them apart culturally from those around them. Those same restrictions, had they been lived for the love of God rather than our normal legalistic tendency, would have conformed the soul to God — righteousness. 
      1. Dietary restrictions
      2. Social restrictions
      3. Worship restrictions. 
    2. Midrash – rabbinical teachings on the Torah
      1. The Exodus is the wedding story of God: 
        1. wooing Israel from the false gods of Egypt 
        2. preparing her as His bride by 40 days in the desert
        3. exchanging wedding vows — the Ten Commandments and the sprinkling of the blood
        4. consummating the marriage vows by taking up residence in their midst — the tabernacle tent.
  5. 2 Samuel contains the Davidic covenant, which was made with a nation, and was made exclusively with words. 
    1. Interestingly enough the covenant with David is only fulfilled on God’s side with the coming of the Christ and the coming of Jesus. What I mean is that the messiah or κύριος or anointed one cannot be sufficient unless he contains the fullness of the bodily dimensions and also the fullness of the spiritual dimensions within his person. No fallen man could ever do this. And so the promise, in hindsight, is prophesying that the culmination, i.e. consummation of the covenant will be the ever ruling anointed one.


All of these covenants contain bodily interactions, spiritual realities, psychological realities, social realities. And the rules governing them seem to be focused on the conformation of one’s external actions, but each covenant speaks of and points to a deeper spiritual reality for the external restriction of action.

There is a universal trope called the false suitor. Perhaps you’ve heard of it: Girl is in love with guy A. Guy B seeks to convince the girl that guy A is not the right guy for her, but he is. The girl ends up with guy B. It is the basic romantic comedy structure, and it can be found throughout history, literature, and cultures. As such I believe it is a cosmological truth written into the very nature of creation, which manifests some truth about God.

The Jewish rabbinical tradition has applied this trope to the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 19-24 for millennia. The covenant is a wedding between the constant and faithful groom and his faithless bride. God sees his beloved bride in love with another — the Egyptian gods — and so he woos them. First, he speaks to them of his love through the actions of Moses and the words Aaron. To show why he is the right God for them, he sends the plagues, of which each one is a mockery of an Egyptian deity. 

Having convinced his people of his worthiness as a suitor, God leads them into the desert to focus his bride upon him alone and to prepare for the wedding. Reaching the foot of Mt. Sinai, he speaks to each individual personally. The people freak out hearing the disembodied voice and send Moses to receive the covenant on their behalf. 

So as the people stand on the day of their wedding before their groom, and they form a molten calf. As the vows are being exchanged, they commit adultery. Seeking out another suitor than the one who had wooed them, this sin is seen as worse than the sin of Adam because the people should have known better.

When Moses presents to the people the Ten Commandments, he is giving the vows of God to his bride. “For richer or poorer” does not mean only if we are rich or poor, but includes everything in between. So the Ten Commandments are not merely just a ten-point burden to be laid upon the people but rather are meant to represent all aspects of the vows, the fullness of God’s love for them and their love for him, that should have gone far beyond mere legalism. For the rhetorical geek out there, this is a form of speech known as a merism, a form of synecdoche, and a common rhetorical trope in the Bible.

God’s fitting punishment, a sign of Christ taking our sins upon the cross, requires physical punishment and restitution for the spiritual sin of his people. But the people’s punishment for this great spiritual sin is not a spiritual punishment. Seraph ‘serpents’ remind us of the seraphim who drove Adam and Even out of the Garden and one of the nine choirs of angels.

I share more of the detail of the Mosaic covenant here because we all just went through it again in Lent. We are faithless in our marriage to our beloved — God — and he is always faithful, making covenant after covenant. If you strive for these spiritual things, as evidenced by these physical actions or restrictions, “I may grant to you grace, spiritual things.” 

Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man — body & soul composite — unites the wholeness of the person in the fulfillment of all preceding covenants and the establishing of his new covenant. We see this in the small ways that we worship and pray – incense, kneeling, the communion rail, vaults in the church drawing our eyes to heaven, and many others. We can also see this in each of the seven sacraments. The matter and form of the seven sacraments engage the fullness of the persons present and bring about the supernatural reality that they present, they engage our composite natures and order both dimensions to God. The consummation of the sacrament then is the spiritual union or deepening of one’s spiritual union with God. 

By Baptism we become one with God, sharing in his Divine nature and obtaining the possibility of spending eternity united with him. Confession and Anointing renew the union when we have damaged it. Confirmation deepens the union, conforming us more to God. Matrimony and Holy Orders consecrate God’s willed way for the person to communicate his love to the world. And while each of the sacraments is a renewal and reaffirming of our ‘wedding vows’, the Eucharist would be the consummation of the vows. 

Speaking mystically — think Song of Songs — when we approach the Eucharist at mass, the liturgy has physically prompted our movements to focus on the one moment of the consecration: calling to mind our sins, seeking forgiveness, listening to our wedding story (the liturgy of the word, i.e. salvation history), receiving instruction on how to please our groom (homily), offering of goods and self on the altar, and quiet focus on the beloved.

At that point, we bring his Body and Blood into us. Normally food is digested and in destroying it, we make it a part of us, but with the Eucharist, our preparation and reception physically and spiritually bring about an infinite outpouring of love and joy. Perhaps we struggle to ‘feel’ it, but our God rejoices  — is ecstatic — to be joined with his beloved. And in his ecstasy, he pours forth infinite spiritual intimacy, the closest union possible, a sharing in his Divine nature –in a deeper and more profound way every time we renew our ‘vows’ to him, i.e. the sacraments.


I will continue with this thought in another shorter post.

Much of this information comes from listening to a homily prep podcast called the Lanky Guys. Fr. Mosset and Dr. Powell have great discussions each week about the upcoming Sunday readings and their context within the lectionary, the liturgical life of the Church, and salvation history. The last seven episodes — 223-230 — would most directly evidence my musings.

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