Theology of the Body

Secrets, Sex, & Spirituality

As with so many things, I learnt this the hard way. Some things, even (and especially) beautiful things, are meant to be kept secret. Some blessings can’t be shared without being corrupted, and sometimes exclusion is necessary for a deeper inclusion.

The obvious natural example of this is sex. I hardly need to explain that the less exclusive it is, the more it becomes “cheap” and the more it is objectified. What you have received is given to you alone, for you alone, and no one else matters in it. Within such intimate gift, a whole microcosm is built, in which there is no one but lover and beloved, and therefore love can become all.

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But I didn’t intend to write about sexuality. As per usual, this is even more true on the supernatural level. Sometimes God gives us certain insights, experiences, blessings, or gifts, and it’s not about anyone else– it’s just Lover and beloved, together in their own microcosm. To try to share these things, is to try to make them about others, and it only does violence to the gift given. Others won’t properly understand and appreciate them, because they’re not meant for them. Instead, we ought to harbour these secret gifts, treasure them, and savour them ourselves, regularly reentering our hidden world and praying to our Father “who is in secret” [Mt 6:6].

If you feel concerned about the seeming exclusivity, and perhaps selfishness, of this, don’t. Just as sexuality naturally overflows into new life and deeper love for all, so this hidden intimacy with God supernaturally overflows into spiritual children and deeper love for all. These loves, like every authentic love, reach out to all, but only by moving through us, transforming us into love.

God bless you!

P.S. I honestly had no intention of writing about sex, but then I never know what I’m going to find when I write. You can probably guess I’m reading Theology of the Body for Beginners at the moment, and am honestly blown away. I can’t recommend it enough.

God bless you again!
P.P.S. This was originally published as ‘Intimate secrets with God’, but honestly, that title was boring, and it didn’t fit as well as the new title.

God bless you!

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Chastity: The Way of Love

God speaks to us in unexpected ways. I was scrolling through Yik Yak (a seriously addictive app to waste your time on), and came across a post that said,

The first sentence of page 45 of the book closest to you describes your sex life.

I somehow missed the word sex, and thought it could be funny to see what it says. So I reached for the closest book to me, a small book of quotes called, Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Dorothy Day`, and turning to page 45, found written no sentences at all, but only the chapter title, ‘The Way of Love’. The description of my sex life is at once, nothing at all and ‘The Way of Love’. When I saw that the post was talking about sex life rather than just life, I realised it was God telling me, chastity is the Way of Love.

So, what is chastity?

Chastity is when sexuality expresses, serves and strengthens love. It views people as people, and not as opportunities for our own pleasure. People are not considered for what they can do for us, but for what we can do for them, and what we can do together. Sex is exalted as something holy, in which both individuals go out from themselves, belonging to each other, placing their centre outside of themselves.

It further demands, that the couple go out of the couple, in openness to welcoming humanity in, in the form of a brand new human being. Sex doesn’t concern only the two people engaged, but humanity itself. Sexuality doesn’t only desire union with one other person, but union with all of humanity. Contraception, then, introduces division to what is an act of union. It refuses the life inherent in sexuality, and so separates from the rest of humanity, and in refusing each other’s power to give life, the partners too are rejected, and cut off from each other.

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How are we meant to chastely not have sex?

That’s what chastity makes of sex. But another important part of our life of sexuality, is the way we don’t have sex. Biology tells us, sex is for life, and, in a manner, life is for sex (sex being considered in a wider sense). When sex is not for life, it becomes meaningless and destructive. When we pretend life is above sex, we reject humanity, we reject the flesh, and ultimately we reject life.

So how are we meant to chastely not have sex? Is it by completely desexualising everything but sex? No. It is by living in the awareness that each body, each person, is for love and not consumption. So when I notice how attractive a woman is, rather than trying to close my mind off from her, I am to centre my mind not on my desires, but on her beauty and loveliness as a living human being. Rather than desiring possession of her, I am to desire her fullness of life and love.

What about celibacy?

If “life is for sex” as I wrote, in any way, what are we to make of celibacy? Celibacy is not about merely removing intimacy, children and sex from a person’s life. Celibacy means, in giving up having children, loving all humanity as children. It means a non-particular love and intimacy with all the world, in order to help bring forth life for any and all. The bodily life and love of celibate people is put entirely at the service of all humanity, creation, and God.

My sex life: The Way of Love

Like most people today, chastity isn’t easy for me. I have to stay aware of myself, and keep myself in love. But honestly, chastity is much better than lust. When I’m being chaste, I can truly appreciate beauty, but when I’m lustful, I can only feel my own desire for what I don’t have, and that causes nothing but turmoil. Do I want to see bodies as alive or lifeless?

What helps me with chastity? Practising awareness/mindfulness is very helpful for learning self-control and understanding; meditating on the Body of Christ reveals to us how bodies are things of love and dignity; and the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us a perfect image of true beauty, love, and submission to God’s will.

 

It is when we are emptied that we are truly fulfilled.

 

God bless you!

My Best Valentine’s Day Yet- and I’m (still) single

Today has been an incredible, beautiful day, filled with wonder and love. Yes, I’m (still) single. But surprisingly (for me), there’s no bitterness or fear in that fact. There’s no fear of ending up sad and alone.

I know that love is far bigger than all this. It’s far more than “finding the one”. It’s more than having loyal companions in life. It’s even more than all the people in your life. Love is bigger than everything.

And today, listening to the rain and not my iPod as I walked to mass, hearing God’s word and Father’s homily, receiving Jesus in his Eucharist, eating and laughing with friends, reading about St. John of the Cross, doing dissertation work, listening to Radio 1’s live lounge and dancing, and going for a night run, I was thoroughly immersed in God’s love, present in His whole creation, in me, and in my very existence. All the universe is made in love, for love!

And I also joyfully contemplated how God reveals Himself in the love between couples. How we cannot completely commit ourselves to everyone, because we (most of us, at least) cannot be in two places at once; but, so that we can show God’s absolute, undivided loving commitment, we do so for just one individual, giving our entirety to them alone, as God gives His entirety to each of us. (Meanwhile, celibate people reveal God’s love by giving themselves entirely to all humanity, perhaps unable to be all for any one, but demanding nothing in return.)

I was also caught by how the phrase ‘To be together as though still alone’, captures both the fullness and emptiness of love. Fullness, because if when together you feel no judgment, and perfectly happy to be yourself as though alone, then you are loved, and by their love, they give you your being. Emptiness, because if when together, their lack of acceptance isolates you, so you can’t share yourself, they are not loving.

Also, the song ‘Mirrors’ by Justin Timberlake. Such an incredible expression of love, to the point that it begins expressing Divine love.

As far as I’m aware, it’s the Bible that first suggests that love makes us a reflection:

‘Love never ends… For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.’
1 Corinthians 13:8…12,13

And St. Clare saw,

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How did Justin figure this out??? God bless him.

 

So if being in a couple is so wonderful, why am I fine with being single, at least for now? Because I could not be loved any more than I already am, and I know I am called to love absolutely at each and every moment of my life. I have Jesus, no one can take him from me, and with him I am to bring him to the world. By his cross and resurrection, I know that love never fails. I know that the fulness of love and life are already mine for the taking.

 

God bless you!

…male and female he created them

I will begin by admitting that I myself am male, and in the standard ways. To me, women are incredible. I don’t mean they confuse me by their differences from men, or how attractive I find them, or how impressive their skill sets are. I mean that the idea of woman, much as it eludes me, takes my breath away. I really don’t know what woman is, though I feel the biological role of motherhood expresses it beautifully, almost as an analogy (in a similar way, I suspect biological fatherhood is a beautiful analogy of man, though I (as a man) have almost no idea of man at all).

In the Genesis story, Woman is created after Man, from his rib. Perhaps I spent too long accepting this literally, but I believe there is deep truth in this account. I can’t escape the feeling, that there is something primordial about man, relative to woman. Perhaps this is just because, being a man, woman is something special. But I suspect it is more than this.

Woman is created after Adam. In the creation account, perhaps the first thing to notice, is that each day creation is getting better. From just light, we get stars and suns, from just plant life, we get birds, fish, and mammals. Much as you can argue about it being “better”, creation is expanding into new dimensions of its existence, with incredible new possibilities. At the end of this upward progression, God finally creates woman. Yes; I’m suggesting that Woman is God’s finest creation.

And yet, Eve is also from Adam. Man seems to make sense on his own, in a way that woman does not (hmmm… I thought I had “almost no idea of man”…). To use my earlier “analogy”, fatherhood is conceivable without motherhood, but motherhood is inconceivable without fatherhood (pardon the pun), and in a certain way, I feel the same may be true for man and woman. That being said however, it was looking at man sitting on his own, that God said for the very first time, “It is not good…”

With trepidation, here is my suggestion: Man is the ‘wholeness’ of humanity, but woman is the ‘perfection’, though in such a way that men aren’t comparatively imperfect or women comparatively incomplete. The seed contains the wholeness of the tree, but the fruit is its perfection; yet it is ridiculous to claim one is more wholly or perfectly the tree, or that one is greater than the other. Having said that, I prefer ‘perfection’, and I prefer fruit.

Jesus, Mary, and the Church

I will further suggest, that this is why it was fitting that Jesus be male (and consequently both priesthoods, old and new covenant), so that the wholeness of humanity is embraced in him. By his life, death and resurrection, Jesus taught us what it is to be human, and is truly the most wholly human of all.

With regards to Mary, she is the most perfect creature of all, and the one most perfectly redeemed. In her, we see the perfection of humanity, yet not in such a way that she is “more perfect” than Jesus.

With regards to the Church, the Bride of Christ and our mother, its role is to bring to completion and perfection the work of our Lord Jesus. It is, after the example of our other mother, Mary, to bring Christ forth, to the end of the earth. I think it’s for this reason that Mark titled his gospel, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”, as the good news is still happening in the work of the Church, “the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.”

I hope you’ve found these thoughts insightful at all. Pope Francis said, “We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman”, and I hope I’ve helped, however little. I ask for your honest criticisms and corrections, because I know how incomplete my thinking here is, and how important the subject is.

Thank you for reading, and God bless you