Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Climax of Theology of the Body is ... Virginity!

Here's a sample of an online discussion concerning Christopher West's appearance several years ago on Nightline, when he said Hugh Hefner was his hero (my emphasis).


... Of course we know that husband and wife is a symbol of Christ and the Church. Christ Himself gave us the allegory of the Bridegroom and Bride. The marital bond is the closest we have on this earth to describing the union of God and the soul.

But West is saying more.. I think.. as if the sexual act itself is mystical and heaven is some kind of cosmic eternal orgasm. Pardon my bluntness. But the physical union of man and wife is only one aspect of marriage. It is not the entire marriage. Jesus says very clearly that in the new creation we will live as angels - and St. Paul tells us that LOVE is the only things that lasts. After the final resurrection of the body.. our love - that is our true identity in Christ - will be complete. We will see Him face to face and we will know Him and in knowing Him we will know ourselves. Isn't this the heart of the message of TOB?

At our store we have JPII's original TOB and Christopher West's "explanation."  I wish I could read TOB for myself - but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it's a bit over my head.

- Lisa

While we're on the subject, if orgasm is the most pleasant experience the body can physically experience (at least that's my understanding from hearing psychologists), and if all good things come from God and are a reflection of Him, how can there not be this feeling in Paradise somehow?


... The new paradise isn't just about "feeling pleasant experiences." It's about LOVE. St. Paul said "eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. ....."

If there could be such a feeling in paradise as an eternal orgasm or overdosing on Prozac, then for me heaven might be a perpetually reserved table at an Italian restaurant. See, it's ridiculous. It's fleshy and materialistic and as kindergartenish as angels on clouds playing harps.

Charity is the only thing that lasts. 

- Lisa

Well, Lisa, you may not have read the original Theology of the Body (TOB) by John Paul II, but you've nailed it.  Not only is heaven an expression of and an experience of God's love, heaven also reveals the purpose of the Body, which is something greater than sexual union.  Speaking of heaven, soon-to-be St. John Paul says  (my emphasis) ...

The reciprocal gift of oneself to God—a gift in which man will concentrate and express all the energies of his own personal and at the same time psychosomatic subjectivity—will be the response to God's gift of himself to man. In this mutual gift of himself by man, a gift which will become completely and definitively beatifying, as a response worthy of a personal subject to God's gift of Himself, virginity, or rather the virginal state of the body, will be totally manifested as the eschatological fulfillment of the nuptial meaning of the body, as the specific sign and the authentic expression of all personal subjectivity. In this way, therefore, that eschatological situation in which "They neither marry nor are given in marriage" has its solid foundation in the future state of the personal subject. This will happen when, as a result of the vision of God face to face, there will be born in him a love of such depth and power of concentration on God himself, as to completely absorb his whole psychosomatic subjectivity. 

This is why I say the Westian vision of man and JP2's vision of man are entirely at odds.  For the Westians, heaven is an all-you-can eat dessert buffet, where the fulfillment of our essence is (in Lisa's words) "fleshy and materialistic" and "kindergartenish".

However, according to JP2, and more importantly according to Scripture and Tradition, our "psychosomatic subjectivity" - meaning our existence as individual persons with a body and a soul combined - will be "divinized" - focused on God and permeated by His love - to such a degree that all internal conflicts or tendencies to sin (including lust and concupiscence) will be a thing of the past, Love itself making of our bodies not sexual objects, but virginally pure incarnations of incomplete beings made complete by union with the Love of God and of one another.

That may not be a better way of saying what John Paul said, but it's a shocking climax to something that the Westians would have us think is all about sex.  Certainly, sex plays a role in this, but the capstone of sexual difference and even of sexual desire is somehow virginity.  This is a great paradox that takes thought and prayer and - believe it or not - reading the original Wednesday Audiences.


bbmoe said...

This reminds me of what Carryl Houselander said about Mary's virginity and how modern society regards virginity as an emptiness, a lack of fulfillment, whereas in truth, virginity is hopeful expectancy and readiness to be filled with God.

jvc said...

"This is a great paradox that takes thought and prayer and - believe it or not - reading the original Wednesday Audiences."

I've mentioned this privately, but when I was in college and wondering about this stuff I asked a young priest who offered me some Christopher West material whether I should just read JPII's audiences themselves. He told me not to. Pretty incredible.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Well, he probably hadn't read them himself.

And, in fairness, they are difficult. Just look at the paragraph above that I quoted. It's not easy reading, which is why a "compendium" or an "explanation" or even a "Readers' Digest" version is a good idea.

The problem is, the version promulgated by West had as little to do with the original Audiences as the 1970's spin on Vatican II had to do with Vatican II. This is because West's "explanation" of TOB is based upon a fundamentally different conception of man - of who man is and what his destiny is - that than of JP2. The split is deep and indeed fundamental.

And, beyond that, a Gnostic celebration of sin-as-a-form-of-esoteric-knowledge has become the underlying message the Westians are conveying. I'll write more on that later, after Kevin Tierney publishes additional installments at Catholic Exchange on this subject.

At the very least, to realize that Lisa is right and "Credo" wrong in the exchange above, to realize that Virginity is an expression of completion in God's love - and is indeed an expression of the purity that allows for the solution to the riddle of physical complementarity - to realize this is, in your words, "pretty incredible".

Anonymous said...

West's version of Heaven almost seems more like Islam's version.

Dr. Eric