Wednesday, May 16, 2012

His Peace She Gives Us


Dawn Eden with Yours Truly

Dawn Eden is a friend of mine and one of the most intelligent women I've ever met.  She shares with me a love for G. K. Chesterton and an adult conversion that brought her from much suffering and sin into a life of grace.  So we have some things in common, and I admire her greatly.

But Dawn is braver than I am, for in her first book, The Thrill of the Chaste , published a few years back, she quite bluntly confronts the sexual promiscuity of her past and reveals the pain it caused, exposing what we moderns are loath to admit - that such a life never brings us even natural happiness, much less supernatural joy.  It took ample courage to write that book, a courage that would be beyond most men.

Now Dawn's second book, My Peace I Give You - Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, is even more personal and even more helpful than her first - and clearly took more courage to write.  In this book, Dawn deals with the sexual abuse she suffered as a child.  She shows how, through the wounds of Christ and through the lives of saints who were healed by those wounds, even the most dreadful and darkest parts of our lives can be redeemed.

If this book does nothing more than make clear the Church's teaching that victims of sexual abuse are simply victims - that virgins who are physically violated against their will are still virgins - that chastity is a moral virtue and not just a physical condition - then it will have done much good.  For, enlightened as we are about the sex act and about the horror of abuse - we still harbor that Calvinistic judgmentalism, that insane notion that the victim somehow sinned in his or her being victimized, that the one whose innocence was stolen cooperated in the theft.

Now this is crazy, but it's one of the main things even the abuse victims themselves struggle with. 

I will point you to an illustration of this, and then show how this same illustration can be the key to the central message of Dawn's book.  I warn you that this illustration is disturbing - but no more disturbing than the sin itself.

Somewhere, somehow, in all of my readings, I had read somewhere that it may indeed be possible that Our Lord was sexually assaulted by the Roman centurions before his crucifixion.  Scripture does not make this claim, but Scripture is silent on many things, and we certainly know that the level of cruelty and mockery and violence the Romans were willing to subject Him to - nay, delighted in tormenting Him with - would not on principle have excluded sexual abuse.  Whether He did or did not endure this, the theology is not changed - for He endured all sins for our sake, whether literally during His passion or not.

But look at the response to this hypothetical by a certain Protestant blogger.  He writes, "Furthermore, it must be said that to state that Jesus was sexually abused is tantamount to insulting Christ, for that means that Jesus sinned and thus did not remain sinless till His death." 

What an utter misunderstanding. 

Yes, it is disturbing to think of Our Lord abused in this way, and it adds an element to His passion that we can hardly bear to imagine - but to be victimized in such a way is not to sin; it is to be the victim of sin

So even in this enlightened day and age, even after all the Oprahs and Dr. Phils, that basic distinction is still not clear in our minds.

And yet this disturbing image of an additional and almost unspeakable suffering of Our Lord - whether historically true or not - is quite true spiritually.  Jesus Christ suffered everything for us and with us.  And therefore when we suffer, we are suffering everything for Him and with Him.  It is this profound spiritual insight that is the core of this book (see also Col. 1:24 and elsewhere, for St. Paul writes about this at length).

Indeed, in the final chapter, Dawn tells us about Bl. Karolina Kozka, who died defending her chastity during an assault and rape.  But, Dawn writes, "to say that Karolina, or any martyr of chastity, died defending 'her' chastity is misleading.  She was not only defending her own chastity, but also mine and yours.  And she was not only defending physical chastity, but also spiritual chastity - the chastity that Thomas Aquinas linked with charity, which brings us into union with God and one another.  Because she knew what it meant to have Christ within her, she knew that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  It was in defense of the sanctity of that temple - the sanctity of all our bodies - that she resisted unto death."

This is a profound insight into the nature of the Body of Christ - the Church - of which, Dawn quotes St. Joan of Arc saying, "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."  And when we become members of this Body of Christ, (through baptism, repentance, faith, the reception of the Eucharist, and so forth) we "rejoice in our sufferings for his sake" and in our flesh "we complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions, for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church." 

By His wounds we are healed, and by our wounds we participate in Him - and He in our pain.

This is a profound and prayerful book, the fruit of much suffering, much meditation and prayer, and a great willingness on the part of the author to use her own pain to lift others out of theirs.  It is a great act of Charity.

And so in the midst of this sinful world and this crazy time, when even the President of the United States is bullying us to celebrate with the term "marriage" acts that do not express love, that can never be fruitful, and that are often examples of the most hideous things one person can force another person to do - when we call evil good and good evil, darkness light and light darkness - may be say a prayer for the courage of a woman who I'm sure would have been more comfortable keeping her pain secret, but who, in union with Christ and his saints, brings just a glimpse of it to light for His sake and ours; and may we say a prayer for all of those innocent ones now being led to an altar of brutality that only a greater altar can save us from.

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