Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Lectio: Heaven's Song
At the risk of sounding like a complete lunatic, I love talking to people about sex. Chastity talks, teaching NFP, making myself vulnerable and attempting to set an example by the joy my marriage brings me...I really do feel like there's nothing more important than letting my generation know that they deserve so much more than what the culture has to offer. If there's one good outcome amongst terrible brokenness brought on by the sexual revolution, I think it's that a lot of prudish, puritan attitudes have been shattered. There are reverent and irreverent ways to be candid about sexual matters, of course, but I really can't see a drawback to the freedom to talk about these things in a way that can heal and inform. The truth is ours to reclaim from the world.
Of all the ways to be candid, the very best way, in my opinion, comes from the Church. There is absolutely nothing more freeing, more truthful, and more oriented towards our happiness and best good than the Church's teachings on sexuality. Nearly two years ago, I was graced with attending one of Christopher West's Theology of the Body courses, a retreat involving 30 hours of lectures that dive into John Paul II's audiences on sex, marriage, and being human in relation to God, as well as extensive time for prayer, confession, and just letting yourself be healed and loved into a deeper holiness. "The longest distance," Christopher said, "is the 18 inches between your head and your heart." He's right! I came away from the week feeling much more knowledgeable, but with the realization that it's not just about intellectual knowledge--it's about letting these amazing truths sink down deep in your soul and light you up. If you ever have a chance to go, don't let any reservations stop you. I dream of going back with Andrew one day, and I can't recommend one of these courses enough!
It wasn't until this retreat that I learned something new about JPII's writing. Did you know there are ten talks in the Theology of the Body series that the Pope never delivered? They're on the Song of Songs and on the marriage of Sarah and Tobias. The subjects were so delicately beautiful that he deemed them too intimate for public delivery. Luckily for all of us, the book containing the entire series of Theology of the Body audiences, Man and Woman He Created Them, was revised and reprinted to include these stunning reflections on our earthly longings and desires and how they point us straight at the Father.
And now I will finally get to the point of this post. Maybe even more luckily, Christopher West has such a gift for comprehending and articulating the Pope's words and teaching them to the laity in a way that makes his words easy to understand and in a way that inspires beauty. This man is practically a poet, and I love his books. Heaven's Song is his discussion of these "lost talks" from Tobit and the Song of Songs, and it integrates the head and heart aspects so wonderfully. "Ultimately, only union with God can satisfy the deep 'ache' within us for love," he says. "The intimate love of spouses is actually a sign, a sacrament, of someting infinitely greater. Those who consecrate themselves entirely to God as celibates witness to this greater union with their very lives. By doing so, they do not reject their sexuality. Rather, they show us the ultimate purpose and meaning of human sexuality: to point us to union with God."
Amazing. I think this book does a fantastic job of not idolizing the intimacy between husband and wife, but emphasizing that, as beautiful as it is, it's only a little taste of something even better. It seems that it would function as an informative theological primer on married love (the head), but even more so as a great source of spiritual reflection on what you'll enter into in a new way in marriage (the heart!).
By the way, I've told you before what a struggle my engagement was when it came to chastity. The way I saw it, it was important to a limited extent to get comfortable talking about sex, but it was really hard, a lot of the time, not to fall into temptation, so Andrew and I made a lot of efforts to keep each other accountable by changing the subject when one or both of us was having a hard time. What's your take on conversations like these? Any wisdom on how to discuss sexuality in a prudent way?
And, of course, if any of you have read Heaven's Song, I'd love to hear what you think!