|Did John Paul II make sex the eighth sacrament? Read on ...|
Real Theology of the Body (as opposed to the spurious version being sold to us by Christopher West and the Westians) is, though you'd never guess this, not really about sex.
It's about the mutual gift of one person to another - which we understand most concretely in the form of marriage. Far from focusing on sex, or nudity, or orgasms, John Paul's insights in these "meditations" occasionally reach dizzying heights and profound depths. For instance ...
The analogy of spousal love seems to emphasize especially the aspect of the gift of self on the part of God to man, "for ages" chosen in Christ (literally: to "Israel," to the "Church")—a total (or rather radical) and irrevocable gift in its essential character, that is, as a gift. This gift is certainly radical and therefore total. We cannot speak of that totality in a metaphysical sense. Indeed, as a creature man is not capable of receiving the gift of God in the transcendental fullness of his divinity. Such a total gift (uncreated) is shared only by God himself in the triune communion of the Persons. On the contrary, God's gift of himself to man, which the analogy of spousal love speaks of, can only have the form of a participation in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pt 1:4), as theology makes clear with very great precision. Nevertheless, according to this measure, the gift made to man on the part of God in Christ is a total, that is, a radical gift, as the analogy of spousal love indicates. In a certain sense, it is all that God could give of himself to man, considering the limited faculties of man, a creature. In this way, the analogy of spousal love indicates the radical character of grace, of the whole order of created grace.
What JP2 is saying here is that spousal love is an analogy for a radical gift of God to man: the unconditional gift of spouse to spouse in Matrimony is a sign that points to the unconditional gift of God to man in redeeming him, as "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). Earlier, John Paul speaks of how this image of mutual and total gift of self is written into the very body and soul of man, even before the Fall, from the beginning, in the complemenarity of the sexes and in the completion of self that Adam finds in Eve. He also explains why this informs the words of Jesus when Our Lord forbids divorce and remarriage and condemns even adultery in the heart.
But, more than that, this spousal love, this complete gift of God to man, a gift even unto suffering and ignominious death "indicates the radical character of grace, of the whole order of created grace."
All grace - in other words, all gratuitously given help from God - has this radical character. All grace, even actual grace - the little insights God gives you throughout the day, the gifts of patience and endurance when dealing with difficult situations, healing from a headache, the calming of anxiety, the ability to avoid a temptation - every single gift of God that dwells in us, even for passing moments and even when we ignore them: every one of these small and passing gifts have the character of the Coming of Jesus the Groom to His bride the Church (see Rev. 22:17), of an eternal love that gives itself fully and without constraint.
That is profound.
And that is much much different from the pop notion of Theology of the Body that is constantly being shoved down our throats.
For instance, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today lauds JP2 as the world's greatest "sex educator". The reporter writes ...
While his teachings are thick with the vocabulary of philosophy, anthropology and biblical scholarship, John Paul talked candidly about marital sex as an icon of divine love -- akin to the way Catholics believe that the physical stuff of bread, wine and water convey a spiritual power in the sacraments.
Sex is a sacrament - such is the message that Christopher West has communicated to his audiences.
"Marital sex" is "an icon of divine love"? No, the icon of divine love is human love in its fullness, especially in the total gift of self to self in marriage and in the total gift of self to God in lives of continence. If there's an icon of divine love, it's marriage. Or better yet, it's virginity (the priesthood, religious life, consecrated virgins) - for expressing love in a virginal way is closer to how we will love in our redeemed bodies in the world to come (see Mat. 22:30). The icon of divine love is either marriage (which includes "marital sex") or virginity (which does not); the icon is not sex itself, nor is sex the eighth "sacrament".
To turn the philosophy, theology and the depth of prayer and meditation that went into John Paul's Wednesday Audiences into a weird deification of the sex act is shameful.
But, then again, West and his popularized version of the Theology of the Body, though strutting about like the Emperor in his New Clothes, are Naked without Shame.