Friday, July 3, 2009


Have you ever had the dream where you are naked in a room full of people? I do once in a blue moon but fortunately always seem to have boxers on so the dream is not completely humiliating. And no one seems to notice so I just wait for the casual opportunity to slip out and put some pants on. People can be awfully polite.

Of course, the human body is nothing of which we need to be ashamed unless you are showing up for Mass with more skin than clothing showing. Hence Christopher West’ assertion that although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with nudity, fig leafs are an absolute necessity in a fallen world.

Symbolically nudity can have a good or bad connotation. According to George Furgeson’s book mentioned here on numerous occasions, during the Renaissance there were four distinct symbolic types of nudity.

Nuditas naturalis: “Naked I was brought into the world, naked I shall return. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Here is freedom. It is our natural state free from the stain of the desire for unbridled sexual license when we can be “naked without shame” and see the other as a person even though they be naked. This is the toddler that you can’t keep clothes on as they run through the neighborhood.

Nuditas temporalis: Here is one who has lost his shirt. In this case it is somewhat negative particularly if it is a fall after placing too much emphasis on worldly goods. They are now bereft. On the other hand there is the guy that will give you the shirt off his back. They have given all for God like St. Francis in the town square dropping off all his finery bought for him by his father so that nobody would have a claim on him but God alone. As noble as that might be, today you would be arrested so I do not recommend it.

Nuditas virtualis: No, this is not virtual nudity. This is the nudity of virtue. It is purity and innocence. Though in the world we are detached from it, not overcome by temptation or the evil of the world. It is the virtuous life.

Nuditas criminalis: Here is lust and vanity. Here is Bacchus. Here is overindulgence, self absorption, and the loss of all virtue. Here are also the images that are to be avoided on your computer screen.

The courts of the United States have tried in vain to find the exact dividing line between art and porn. “You know it when you see it,” does not work well for law. Symbolically it is a bit easier to discern that nudity which is to be good and that which is to show something evil. A nude who still had dignity and modesty in stance, whose gaze may be heavenward, whose expression is that of virtue, whose purpose is to illicit ideas of truth, beauty, and good is not something about which we should be ashamed to look upon if we can do so without our minds distorting the artist’s intent.

A nude with much jewelry, is in luxurious or licentious surroundings, has a direct and daring gaze or stance or expresses shame or horror is nudity used either to show the depths of man’s fall or evil intent. Here is not the joy of beauty and truth but the crassness of base desires.


Anonymous said...

There is too much nudity today, and some of it is by people with their clothes on! Can such tight clothing be comfortable? It's so tight I can see their tattoos through the cloth. I'm as tempted as the next guy- do me a favor and have mercy on me and my fallen concupiscent nature. Cover up your chest and pelvic bones!

Anonymous said...

If the truth be told, the vast majority of us look better with our clothes on. The desire to look at the "perfect" unclothed body may stem from the fact that, in real life, beauty and goodness are attractive. Since we don't see it in our imperfect selves, we look at images instead.