A) Rediscovering Conjugal Love as It Was 'In the Beginning'

A) Rediscovering Conjugal Love as It Was 'In the Beginning'
The constant reference point for married life and vocation that Pope John Paul II presented throughout his 1979-84 weekly catechesis was "marriage constituted in the beginning, in the state of original innocence, in the context of the sacrament of creation" (Theology of the Body, 338), called to be a "visible sign of God's creative love" (ibid., 379). That original human state was marked by a perfect harmony, within each one, of body and spirit.[83]
The Creator endowed the body with an objective harmony ... [which] corresponded to a similar harmony within man, the harmony of the heart. This harmony, that is precisely purity of heart, enabled man and woman in the state of original innocence to experience simply (and in a way that originally made them both happy) the uniting power of their bodies, which was, so to speak, the unsuspected substratum of their personal union or communio personarum. (Ibid., 204).
That original harmony was short-lived, however; man sinned and it was broken. With the sin of Adam and Eve concupiscence or lust made its appearance. It became present in their marriage (and is present in every subsequent marriage), posing a threat to married love and happiness.
In his "Theology of the Body" catechesis, John Paul II made a lengthy examination of the discordant presence of lust in spousal relations (ibid., 111-68). Its fundamental effect is a loss or a limitation of the full freedom of love.
"Concupiscence entails the loss of the interior freedom of the gift. The nuptial meaning of the human body is connected precisely with this freedom. Man can become a gift - that is, the man and the woman can exist in the relationship of mutual self-giving - if each of them controls himself. Manifested as a "coercion sui generis of the body," concupiscence reduces self-control and places an interior limit on it. For that reason, it makes the interior freedom of giving in a certain sense impossible. Together with that, the beauty that the human body possesses in its male and female aspect, as an expression of the spirit, is obscured. The body remains as an object of lust and, therefore, as a "field of appropriation" of the other human being. In itself, concupiscence is not capable of promoting union as the communion of persons. By itself, it does not unite, but appropriates. The relationship of the gift is changed into the relationship of appropriation" (Ibid., 127).
Insatiable desire,[84] appropriation instead of communion, taking instead of giving, possessive self-love overshadowing donative love of the other, etc.: all of these are major disruptions that concupiscence now inflicts on the lost harmony of the sexual relationship.
Is it possible for men and women to return to that original harmony and respect, or are they lost forever? They are not irreparably lost, for they can be recovered in hope and struggle. In the human person there always remains, however unconsciously, a longing for the respect inherent in a pure love, in part because of what John Paul II terms "the continuity and unity between the hereditary state of man's sin and his original innocence" which remains a key to "the redemption of the body" (ibid., 34-35). However, the recovery and maintenance of what can be repossessed of that original harmony is possible only through constant effort and with the help of prayer and grace.
A particularly striking part of John Paul II's analysis is the place he gives to sexual shame in the work of recovering that harmony. He places shame among the "fundamental anthropological experiences,"[85] but over and beyond mere anthropology, it is for him a mysterious fact, a sort of clue or pointer to the re-establishment (however tentative) of that enviable and joyous sexual harmony and peace.
In the present human condition, a certain instinct of shame acts as a guarantor of the mutual respect that is a sine qua non condition of true love between the sexes. The deeper and truer the love between a man and a woman, and especially between husband and wife, the more they will be prompted to pay heed to shame, and to seek to understand it and to respond adequately to it. The consequence is a naturally modest behavior between them - a modesty that has its place even in the relationship of husband and wife.
In this sense each married couple should turn to the Bible seeking the lessons of the divine narrative: not just imagining how the relationship of Adam and Eve must have been before the Fall, but learning from their reactions afterwards - reactions that show a desire to preserve, in new and troublesome circumstances, the purity of that original attraction which they alone had experienced and which they could still recall.
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. As John Paul II puts it, "the man of original innocence, male and female, did not even feel that discord in the body."[86] After the Fall is when shame appeared as a response to lust, as a sort of protection against the threat that lust now offered to the simple joy and appreciation they had experienced in each other's sexuality "in the beginning." The importance of this sense of shame is powerfully brought out in the papal catechesis.
On the one hand, if the man and the woman cease to be a disinterested gift for each other, as they were in the mystery of creation, then they recognize that "they are naked" (cf. Gn 3). Then the shame of that nakedness, which they had not felt in the state of original innocence, will spring up in their hearts... Only the nakedness that makes woman an object for man, or vice versa, is a source of shame. The fact that they were not ashamed means that the woman was not an "object" for the man nor he for her. (Ibid., 74-75)
In the light of the biblical narrative, sexual shame has its deep meaning. It is connected with the failure to satisfy the aspiration to realize in the conjugal union of the body the mutual communion of persons. (Ibid., 121)
The reaction of shame before the other, even of wife before husband or vice-versa, betrays an awareness that the urge to bodily intercourse is not of the same human quality as the desire for the communion of persons, and cannot give this desire full effect.
On the other, while shame reveals the moment of lust, at the same time it can protect from [its] consequences... It can even be said that man and woman, through shame, almost remain in the state of original innocence. They continually become aware of the nuptial meaning of the body and aim at preserving it from lust. (Ibid., 122)
The desire to preserve respect for the loved one is inherent in every genuine love. So, in John Paul II's analysis, the sense of shame becomes not only a guardian of mutual respect between husband and wife, but also a starting point for the recreation of a new spousal harmony between body and soul, between desire and respect, achieved on the basis of united purpose aided by prayer and grace. The pope does not suggest that this "recreation" is in any way easy; it obviously is not. But his message for married people is that it should be attempted. Their mutual love should reveal the need, and the sacramental graces of their marriage along with their personal prayer are powerful means they have to achieve it.