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What Was Original before Original Sin?

Suppose we are asked to complete this phrase: “Original ——.” What do we answer? My guess is that we, and most people who have received adequate Christian education, would respond: “Original Sin.”

With St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the response is radically different. The response becomes:

  • Original Solitude;
  • Original Unity;
  • Original Nakedness;
  • Original Sin.

St. Pope John Paul II does not want to deny the truth and reality of Original Sin. That would be absurd. But he wants to take us back to “the beginning”—to what God intended. John Paul II wants to take us back before Original Sin existed. He wants to do this precisely because Jesus Christ took us back to “the beginning.” Only in this way can we see the real meaning of human life and human sexuality.

So using the first two chapters of the book of Genesis, the pope develops three original human experiences called Original Solitude, Original Unity, and Original Nakedness. These occur before Original Sin. The important point for us to remember is this: we, too, have access to these original experiences precisely because Christ grants it to us. We are already familiar with the experience of Original Sin. We have had, and will continue to have, an experience of failure and sin. But now in the Theology of the Body, St. Pope John Paul II makes it clear that we can have the positive experiences of Solitude, Unity, and Nakedness, too.

Having these positive experiences is precisely what Christ wants us to do. He wants to take us back to “the beginning” so we can discover the real meaning of the human body and human sexuality—i.e., the meaning of life. Herein lies the “theological time bomb.” Christians know the reality of Original Sin, but they have not been given a vivid awareness, through a rich and penetrating catechesis, of the experiences that occurred before Original Sin. By taking us back to “the beginning,” Christ desires to give this to us, and his desire is now expressed through St. Pope John Paul II. He desires that, like Adam and Eve, we will have the experiences of Solitude, Unity, and Nakedness. This truly can spark a revolution.

What, then, do we find happening before Original Sin? We find two chapters in the book of Genesis in which God and humanity are on intimate terms. In other words, we experienced a great peace with God, and our relationship with him was intimate and true. Furthermore, we knew ourselves intimately, and we experienced ourselves as integral people. We were not broken, but whole. Thus our relationships with each other were also peaceful and intimate. By going back to “the beginning,” we can see what God intended and had in fact established at the beginning of time.1

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This excerpt is adapted from this month’s free book, Theology of the Body Made Simple, by Anthony Percy.

  1. Percy, Anthony. Theology of the Body Made Simple. Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, 2006.
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