“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

This quote from Psalm 19 is why I love JRR Tolkien. And Benedict XVI. For they speak about the symbolic nature of the world. And it is John Paul II who draws our attention to the most important symbol of all—the human body.

3 joyful kids playing in the snow

Benedict XVI explained in his book In the Beginning that when the Father created the world through the Word, He stamped meaning into the world. The sun symbolizes glory. Flowers symbolize the beauty of new life. Dark waters symbolize a haunting depth (just try swimming in the water of a dark lake at night sometime and see what your brain imagines in the darkness below you). God stamped meaning into the world.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.” All creation has a hidden language. Jesus understood this. As Jesus said of the crowds rejoicing at His entry into Jerusalem, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Jesus is showing us the symbolic nature of the world which is constantly proclaiming God’s glory in a language that is hidden.

JRR Tolkien revealed this profound reality in his writings. There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings when the fellowship gets to Lothlorien and meets Galadriel. The whole place looks magical to them. But not quite magical. Sam says to Frodo, “If there’s any magic about, it’s right down deep, where I can’t lay my hands on it, in a manner of speaking.” Frodo agrees, “You can see and feel it everywhere.” Tolkien is writing about this “magical” symbolism that is written into the world from the beginning of creation.

And the greatest symbol of all these symbols of nature is the human body. This is the thesis of the Theology of the Body. John Paul II says, “The body and it alone is capable of making what is invisible visible: the spiritual and the divine.” Of all the spiritual realities, the most essential attribute of God is love. And as humans we reflect God in our ability to love in and through our bodies.

When I hold someone who is dear to me, I am revealing in my body the invisible reality of my affection for that person. And together in our bodies we are revealing the pure love of the Trinity by loving and being loved. I know people sometimes think the phrase “loving another” in the context of TOB means sex, but that’s not what I mean. Yes, sex might be an expression of that bodily love, but it’s not the one that I believe most profoundly images the Trinity.

Rather, simply by living what John Paul II calls the “peace of the interior look,” God’s love is revealed in our bodies—in our eyes and in our contemplation of the beloved. Our bodies become the greatest symbol of God’s eternal love.

 

Indeed, concerning this unspoken language of the body it might also be said… “There is no speech or language where their voice [the voice of the body] is not heard. [But] their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” The body, speaking with unspoken words, is the greatest symbol that God has given to us.

Gabriel Milano has his Master’s degree in Theology in Marriage and Family at the John Paul II Institute and is a content creator and speaker for TOBET. He also writes fantasy novels for children and young adults, under the pen name G. M. Dantes.

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