The Unity of the Body and Soul
I was taught catechism by strictly disciplined German nuns. One indelible piece of information was that we were born, body and soul. Now I’m being told, not too convincingly, that we were born, body, soul and spirit. Kindly elaborate and set my troubled mind at ease.
We are created by God in his image, as the book of Genesis says. God is three persons in one divine nature, and each of us is one person in one human nature. It is of the nature of the human person to be made up of a material body and a spiritual soul.
The former is the visible and physical mortal man or woman; the latter is the invisible and spiritual immortal principle of life, self-awareness and moral freedom. These two elements make up the one person.
Now let us go from the nature of the human person to that which is above nature, namely, the supernatural influence of God in our lives. If someone tells you that we are made up of body, soul and spirit, they are mistaken.
We are made up of body and spiritual soul. Perhaps your informants could be referring to the Holy Spirit who is of the divine nature and is busily working on all of us to pray, receive the sacraments worthily and to live lives of virtue by caring for others, particularly the poor and the needy.
It’s also possible they could mean the receptivity of the soul to embrace the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is present with us but this presence is supernatural and beyond our natural life. It is a generous and free gift of our loving Father in heaven.
Pope John Paul II was very fond of talking about the theology of the body, emphasising that Jesus did not come to save souls but to save human beings.
Jesus respected the body as integral to the human person, and so he fed the hungry, healed the sick and taught that we will all rise bodily from death, as he did.
It should be clear, then, that the human person in its human nature, that is, in its very essence, is a unity of body and soul. The soul is indeed spiritual, having no physical parts that can age and decay, but it is not the supernatural spirit that comes from God.
The distinction between nature and supernature must always be remembered here.