John Paul II’s Theology of the Body states that a true communion cannot exist without the mutual offering of each person’s self-gift to the other. In marital terms, this idea stresses the husband’s offering of himself to his bride and vice versa. While this remains true, let us make two anthropological and theological distinctions between masculine and feminine offerings.
Henri de Lubac spoke of the Fall of Man as being the atomization of Adam throughout the world. In other words, the human race was meant to be united under the headship of Adam but has now become a schizophrenic conglomeration of self-willed individuals. Men were to be united in Adam so as to “fight as one man” in a just war against the fallen Lucifer and his demonic minions.
And this is why the Body of Christ is so important.
Adam may have fallen, but God sent us His Son so that we can be reborn into His body. Christ, in other words, is the new Adam according to St. Paul, and humanity in Christ’s body are restored to the Original Mission which was meant to be fulfilled by Adam and his sons. Now in baptism we are made the sons of God by taking on Christ’s identity through entering into His Body, the Church.
Turning back to the concept of masculine versus feminine offerings, we can think back to the Paschal Mystery in which Christ truly offers up His body. His suffering, death, Resurrection, and Ascension all occurred so that we could become the body which He offered up. Every time we go to Mass and hear the priest say, “Take and eat, this is my body,” we do not simply ingest Christ, rather we are further transformed into the thing we eat: the Body of Christ!
At Mass, the sons of God making up the masculine Body gather to become ever more the Body of Christ. This is why the priest says: “Pray brethren…” in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Thus the Mass is not meant to gather “me and Jesus” Catholics, playing feminine praise and worship music so that Mass becomes a place for deeply individual worship. Rather, the Mass is public, corporate, and thus profoundly masculine.
When Jesus called his men, configuring them to his own person and asking them to give up their bodies in order to offer His, the result was the Church. And just as the masculine offering of clergymen creates the Church, so the masculine offering of laymen creates the nations. The blood-stained battlefields are a testament to that. Self-seeking individualism is overcome through the blood and sacrifice of men, and the model of this par excellance is Christ and his Apostles – a model that should always be exemplified in Christ’s clergy, the bishops and priests who daily offer the blood and sacrifice of Christ.
This is also why the greatest insult to a man is to be called a coward. Every man knows he is required in some way to offer up his own body in sacrifice as a member of a corporate masculine body. Any man who refuses to do so has rejected a fundamental aspect of his masculinity and thus has received the most unmanly title of coward.
Now while men are called to offer their bodies in corporate groups for the protection of others, woman offers her body in a very personal, intimate, and unique way to her husband and her husband alone. But just as the masculine offering results in the birth of the Church or the birth of the nation, so the offering of the woman’s body results in the birth of the child. This is yet another reason why abortion stands opposed to authentic femininity. The pro-choice movement and pacifism thus become the two great threats to man and woman, for both are refusals to fully offer up the body for the protection of others.
Abortion, however, is not the only way a woman refuses to rightly offer her body. A woman offers the gift of her virginity to her husband in order to bear the fruits of their union through childbirth. Abortion usually results when a woman has offered herself to many men, and thus it should not surprise us that a woman who has emptied the gift of her virginity now empties out her womb as well. The temple to be protected has now been desecrated.
And just as man receives the shameful title of coward when he rejects his masculine duty, so too the woman receives a shameful title when she rejects her feminine duty, and that title is whore. To be called a coward or a whore are the two most shameful titles for man and woman – but they are reflective of the nature of masculinity and femininity and the ways men and women are to rightly offer their bodies. As men and women, let us create the culture of life by offering our bodies rightly so as to protect and create life.