Monday, February 20, 2012

Total Vision of Man

George Weigel, author of Witness to Hope, a biography of Pope John Paul II, calls Theology of the Body a "theological time bomb waiting to go off." Perhaps this is the time. Yesterday, in the Hartford Courant, two women gave differing views on the HHS mandate and contraception. They were both Catholic and the presentations were worlds apart. This shows us the state of the world today. However, it is a wonderful opportunity to show the richness, the beauty, and the depth of Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

There is a lot of anger out there. Patrick Madrid in his book Search and Rescue-how to bring family and friends into-or back into-the Catholic Church. Pat relates a story of being on a plane and proudly showing his family to a woman seated next to him. The picture was of his wife and eight children ( Pat now has 11). As he notes, he may as well have given the woman a rattlesnake. She went on to share her anger at church teaching on abortion (she had three) and behind pointed fingers told him of the pain of the last one being the result of a date rape. He expressed his condolences and the conversation soon ended. When I announced my decision to study to be a priest, I quickly found out how much I was going to have to suffer for the truth. A young lady I had dated in New York gave me a litany of things she found wrong with the church, including treatment of women. A young man castigated me for Church teaching on birth control. I remember sharing this with the vocation director for the Diocese of Bridgeport (my diocese at the time), surprised as I was at the ferocity of the attacks. He assured me at the time that it was not necessary to have all the answers. I had yet to take a class on theology and felt so inadequate to give a reasoned response.

I have since learned that Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body is the reasoned response to the anger that is still out there. Maybe it is time for the Theological Time bomb to go off. The title of this blog is "Total Vision of Man." This is the phrase Pope Paul VI used in Humanae Vitae. Perhaps Anglican author and theologian CS Lewis says it best: "There are no mere mortals..everyone you and I encounter has an immortal destiny." In his catechesis on April 2 1980, Pope John Paul taught: "I think that the answers Christ would give to the people of our time and to their questions, often so impatient, the one he give to the Pharisees would still be fundamental. Answering those questions, Christ would refer above all to the 'beginning.' Perhaps he would do so all the more resolutely and essentially in that the interior and at the same time the cultural situation of modern man seems to be moving away from that beginning. It is assuming forms and dimensions which diverge from the bibilical image of the beginning into points that are clearly more distant." The text in question is: Mt 19:3 "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. Whaat, therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.'" Later in Mark 12:2 Christ also refers to the "beginning". To understand the "total vision of man" we need to know who he were in the beginning. Jesus would say the same thing today. Unfortunately we are looking at the issues of birth control or contraception through the eyes of original sin. For man and woman to "rediscover" themselves in the original man and woman is to rediscover what our relationship should be with the Lord.

This is where it gets exciting. We are invited to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The Mass is the Book of Revelation. If "in the beginning" means that all of creation is nuptial and that Jesus Christ has married the human race as the Bridegroom to the Bride, then the mass takes on a whole new meaning. We can actually state unequivocally that there is a close parallel between the mass and the marriage bed. What? I said it. So did Pope John Paul. He states in Theology of the Body 116.5 that spouses experience language of the body "as the language of the liturgy." As Christopher West notes in his book Heaven's Song, "by the very fact that Marriage takes place in the context of the Eucharist, we see how the liturgy itself brings 'these two signs together (marital union and Eucharist), making of them the single great sign, that is a great sacrament (TOB 95b:7) As we said earlier, this means not only that spousal love and union are modeled after the liturgy, but the Church's whole liturgical ritual is modeled after spousal love and union (TOB 117:6). Consider the following words from Fulton Sheen:" Now we've always thought, and rightly so, of Christ the Son on the Cross and the mother beneath him. But that's not the complete picture. That's not the deep understanding. Who is Our Lord on the Cross? He's the new Adam. Where's the new Eve? At the foot of the Cross...How did the old humanity begin? With the nuptials. If Eve became the mother of the living in the natural order, is not this woman at the foot of the cross to become another mother? And so the bridegroom looks down at the bride. He looks at his beloved. Christ looks at his church. There is here the birth of the Church. As St. Augustine puts it, and here I am quoting him verbatim,'The heavenly bridegroom left the heavenly chambers, with the presage of the nuptials before him. He came to the marriage bed of the Cross, a bed not of pleasure, but of pain, united himself with the woman, and consummated the union forever. As it were, the blood and water that came from the side of Chirst was the spiritual seminal fluid.' And so from these nuptials, 'Woman, there's your son' this is the beginning of the Church."

The CCC states that "Alreday a nuptial mystery." Pope John Paul II asserts that the visible sign of marriage is "the foundation of the whole sacramental order" (TOB 95 b:7) What are we saying in all this? The Catholic Church realizes that sex and marriage is an incredible good. This good comes from the fundamental "in the beginning" of our human existence which is nuptial (two becoming one flesh). This nuptial mystery existed "before the foundation of the world" but became a reality with Jesus Christ and was consummated with his death on the Cross. Not just was the Church born with his death, but he was consummating what was at the heart of existence and the heart of the Father: a nuptial mystery. This nuptial mystery gets "re-presented" at every liturgical celebration where Catholics partake in the marriage of the Bridegroom (Christ) and His Bride (the Church). I will steal a passage from Christopher West's book The Good News about Sex and Marriage: " Where do we become 'one flesh' with Christ? Most specifically in the Eucharist. Again, we use sexual love only as an analogy of God's love. The eucharist is obviously not a sexual encounter. But, applying the analogy, the Eucharist is the sacramental consummation of the mystical marriage between Christ and the Church. And, continuing with the analogy, when we receive the body of our heavenly Bridegroom into our own, like a bride we conceive new life in us-God's very own life. As Christ said, 'unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you.'"

This is great news! Through the sacraments we receive healing and hope. Through reconciliation we can win the struggle against Adam and original Sin. Through frequent reception of the Eucharist married couples can participate in what Pope John Paul II called the "primordial sacrament." If St. Augustine can be converted from "Lord, give me chastity, but not yet" to a life of sacrificial love, then the same can be true of us. As Aslan invited Lucy, Peter, and Edmund to come "further up and further in", Christ is inviting all of us to come to a deeper, richer appreciation for the beauty of church teaching on sexuality and marriage.

I think I here a Theological Time Bomb beginning to go off.

All you saints, Pray for us!

Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco Marto, pray for us!

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