My favorite day in Lent is March 25. No, it’s not my favorite since I can eat dessert because it is a solemnity (though that’s a bonus)! Rather, it is the day that “the body entered theology…through the main door” (TOB 23:4). What does Pope John Paul mean? And how does this affect us?
Since the beginning of creation, the body guides us to knowing God (the very definition of the word theology). Because everyBODY’s body is directed toward each other (hands to hold, eyes to gaze, arms to hug), we can know we are made to be gifts to one another by giving and receiving, and thereby, love makes of us a new creation. How does that show us God? It’s because God’s eternal inner life is one of giving, receiving, and a fruitful, creative giving of Life—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are eternal Gifts Whose very pattern is the blueprint of our embodied lives. The body has a theology since the creation of Adam and Eve.
Yet, when the Son became human, with a tiny fetus body inside Mother Mary’s body at the Annunciation, His Sacred Body became an eternal sign of Who God is…since Jesus IS God Incarnate. The more we contemplate His Sacred Body—Incarnate, Eucharistic, and Mystical—the more we enter into the Mystery of the Godhead, thus the body entered theology through the front door.
To add to this, I’d like to point out what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says in his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy (SL). Since the 3rd century, March 25 has been seen as a day of creation in three ways. First, tradition has it (even if it is simply an anagogic, that is, a transcendent interpretation) that “…March 25 [is] interpreted as the day of the world’s creation” (SL, 66). Secondly, March 25—9 months before Christmas—is “…honored both by the Annunciation by the angel and the Lord’s conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin” (SL, 66-67). Finally, the early Church Father, Tertullian (ca. 150-ca. 207) “…assumes as a well-known tradition that Christ suffered death on March 25” (CL, 66).
These three major events, creation itself, the Word made creation, and Jesus’s death which is the source of our own re-creation (a gift of new life) all come together mysteriously on March 25. Back in 2016, we got to celebrate (or grieve) the day of the Annunciation/Incarnation on Good Friday. Referring to this day, Eleanor Parker coined the phrase, the “paradoxical conjunction of feast and fast.” (https://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.com/2016/03/this-doubtful-day-of-feast-or-fast-good.html). In other words, we rejoice that the Incarnation took place—the Body of Jesus took center stage in the history of the cosmos. And yet, we are taken aback at the Mystery of the Body of Jesus hanging on the Cross, this Body-Person who died so we might live, both on March 25.
So, as you and I celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation/Incarnation, go ahead and have that chocolate donut, yet don’t forget to ponder anew that through these events celebrated on March 25, you and I are brought into the Body of Christ, made new by His giving, our receiving, and our entrance in the new creation we are through Jesus’s Paschal Mystery we celebrate this Lent.
Monica Ashour, MTS; MHum is President, Author, International Speaker, and Content Creation Director at Theology of the Body Evangelization Team, Inc. (TOBET)