A parallel between man and animal might be illuminating. In the animal world the distinction between “nudity” and “nakedness” is meaningless. Why is it that animals do not wear clothes? There is a deep reason for it. I recall my amazement when aged four or five, my mother took me to the circus and I saw a monkey dressed up as a soldier. I thought it was terribly funny. Mammals know neither impurity nor intimacy. Their instincts regulate their relationship to the other sex, totally dominated by their biological clock; the female attracts the male only when she is in heat, which is when she is open to reproduction.
Not being affected by original sin (even though theologians will rightly tell us that man being the king of creation, his revolt against God had repercussions in the whole of nature) - they are not “guilty.” It is not by accident that a famous Greek cynic, Diogenes of Sinope, called himself “a dog”, (from which the Greek word “cynic” derives). He prided himself to imitate dogs, by doing in public what is not meant to be a show.
A confusion between nude and naked easily arises because we cover both what is intimate and what is disgusting, but for radically different reasons. Dogs and cats reproduce themselves on streets. The husband who wishes to embrace his legitimate spouse, knows that the mutual embrace - an exchange of secrets - calls for veiling. People poisoned by Puritanism will interpret this “secrecy” as a proof that the sexual sphere is “dirty”, failing to make a crucial distinction between what is hidden because “it is repulsive and disgusting” or what is hidden because it is precious and intimate.
Animals need no clothes because they have neither a mystery to veil, nor filth to hide. To speak of the virtue of purity, (the key of which is reverence toward this sphere) is meaningless when referring to animals. The concept of nakedness I tried to sketch above is linked to a perverse attitude toward one’s body.
The Bible often refers to this moral sickness. More than once, God promises that He will “cover our nakedness”, clearly referring to something shameful that should therefore be hidden and covered.
Those conscious of the mystery of the intimate sphere know intuitively feel that “nudity” expresses a mystery, refers to a “secret” and that by their very essence, “mysteries” call for veiling.
The same reverent awareness makes the pure person realize that “nakedness” (shameless advertising so popular in our anti-culture) is an offense to the dignity of a child of God, referring as it does to a provocative display of the human body, wounded by original sin. Today wherever we go, we are greeted by pictures of women paid for adopting positions that inevitably will trigger animal sensuality in the male viewer. Men are experts at knowing what will best trigger in them illegitimate cravings. It is not by accident that the most famous fashion designers are men. It is purposely that on many television shows women’s legs are prominently displayed, often making it difficult for male viewers fascinated by what they perceive, to concentrate on the message of the female anchor. It is worth mentioned that beautiful male legs (for legs have no sex) are not displayed. My French sense of humor tempts me to picture the amazement of viewers if, one day, without any warning, a male anchor’s legs were prominently displayed, while women’s legs were hidden under the table.
Lewd and salacious pictures do not exist in the animal kingdom. Animals having no free will cannot be immoral. To create moral filth is the sad “privilege” of revolted creatures inspired by the Evil one who not only wallows in filth, but delights in it insofar as demons can delight in anything.
Nudity calls for covering because of its mystery, and this mystery should be unveiled only in the privileged moments when God allows the spouses to reveal themselves to each other in the sacrament of matrimony. This “unveiling” should remain “extraordinary” to guarantee that mysteries do not lose their “patina.” Let us think of the attitude of a St. Elizabeth of Hungary who tenderly and passionately loved her husband, when she gave herself to him: what trembling reverence, what “holy shyness”, what sweet blushing tenderness! In order for this attitude to become “super actual”, it is crucial not to lose sight of the fact that such great moments are short-lived and are meant to be so. To artificially prolong them is to poison them (alas, this modern perversion is also gaining currency by means of drugs). One of the great dangers in human life - to use a comparison - is to want to celebrate Christmas every day of the year. To try to do so is to strip it of its mystery. A gift should be gratefully received, and then reverently kept in the secret of our heart. We can only hope , that every time a priest, truly worthy of his vocation, enters the sanctuary, he feels the same trembling awe that he felt when he first celebrates mass on the blessed day of his ordination. How I wish and hope that every single one of them never forgets for a single moment that when he utters the sacred words of consecration, he is acting in persona Christi. This trembling reverence was characteristic of a St. Cure d’Ars. It is told that when he was carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a procession, he was given the grace of being so keenly aware that He was carrying The Savior of the world that he seemed to be collapsing under this Holy Burden.
Let us pray for the grace of never getting used to unveiling what is sacred. It is my firm conviction that when spouses striving for holiness, give themselves to each other, their trembling reverence duplicates what they felt on their wedding day. “Domine, non sum dignus.” It should always remain “extraordinary”, and never a matter of “routine”, for it is meant to be “so ancient and ever so new”, to mention St. Augustine.