Is God Naked?

December 17, 2010 09:00 AM

Father James Farfaglia, author of “Is God Naked?” is a holy priest whose writings are well known to many Catholics. As you read this, remember that the definitions of “naked” include defenseless and vulnerable. Naked is not a dirty word.

As I knelt before the Monstrance during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and began the customary use of incense, a thought came to me as my eyes were fixed upon the Eucharist: Is God naked? 

Immediately I dismissed the idea thinking that such a thought could be disrespectful. But the thought returned as we chanted “Qui vitam sine termino; Nobis donet in patria” (The “O Salutaris Hostia” is definitely one of my most favorites of all Church music). 

Can we speak of the nakedness of God? The idea kept bothering me as I remained kneeling before the exposed body of the Lord. Is Jesus naked? I remained kneeling for a few more minutes with the certainty that I was in His Presence. 

Human encounters with God have always been immersed in mystery. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8); Moses was commanded to take off his shoes as he encountered God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:5-6); and Elijah covered his face with his cloak as God appeared to him in the gentle breeze (1 Kings 19:13).

But the question remains: Is God naked? The question reminds me of the nada of Saint John of the Cross. I know that God calls me to be naked before him. “Take nothing for the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic” (Luke 9:3). 

He calls me to love all people, things and places without clinging. He calls me to love, but with detachment. Once I am freed from selfish craving, I can cry out with Saint John of the Cross: “Now that I least desire them, I have them all without desire.”

Is God naked? It is the nakedness of God that draws me into a naked relationship with Him. His nakedness frees me from my attachments to sin, to people, to places and to things. His nakedness frees me from my own selfishness. 

Perhaps the way that we can understand the nakedness of God is through the emptiness described so beautifully by Saint Paul:

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

Perhaps the notion of the nakedness of God is difficult to consider, even to write about. However, cannot we speak of the Eucharist under the prism of the Theology of the Body? Does not the Eucharist make the invisible reality of God, visible?

Is not the Eucharist the Risen Body of Jesus? Cannot we affirm that the Risen Jesus is naked in heaven? Thus, cannot the naked body of Jesus draw us out of sin and allow us to see our own body and every other body in a different way, free from lust? Although we will always struggle with concupiscence until the resurrection of the body, is it not possible for the Risen Jesus to free us from lust and allow us to love correctly? 

In other words, is it not possible that the exposed Eucharist more clearly draws us, through grace, to understand the nuptial relationship between me and God? Is it not possible that the exposed Eucharist more clearly makes the Body of the Lord a gift for me and me a gift for him? 

Theologically, there is no difference between the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle and the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Monstrance. But, we do use the word exposed. Is this not the same as saying naked? Is He not open, vulnerable and exposed for us, so that we may receive His love? 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the capital sin of lust with these words: “Lust is the disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes” (#2351). As I wrote in my book Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life, is a very powerful sin and it destroys human freedom. 

Thus, is it not possible that the Risen and naked body of Christ, solemnly exposed in the Monstrance, can free us from the darkness of lust so that we can see our body and the bodies of others with a new vision, the vision of the redeemed? 
As each of us stand before Christ on the day of His birth, may we be totally vulnerable and defenseless to His love; may His tender concern for each of us wash over us—healing us and renewing us.
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