In perusing Facebook, today I noticed a discussion concerning “The Erotic Powers of the Holy Spirit” by Elizabeth Duffy at Patheos Catholic.
Everyone thinks they already understand the quest for transcendence, including sexual transcendence. While contraceptives may well impede it, transcendence shouldn’t be a primary aim in itself, and certainly not a point for evangelizing.
What we Catholics preach with our vans filled with kids is that more than even transcendent sex, the family is the center of the Catholic universe, and Mom and Dad don’t presume to say anything other than “Yes” when God sees fit to expand the universe. It may be potentially exciting, in some weird, crazy “I-love-our-family-and-I-love-you-and-I-would-welcome-another-you-and-me-to-this-world!”-way, but that is merely a by-product of the meaning behind it.
According to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Deus caritas est, the word eros appears only twice in the Old Testament, and not at all in the New Testament, for the writers of which there is a “…tendency to avoid the word eros,” which “clearly” points to “something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love…” Through the Enlightenment this led to the charge that Christianity had “…poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice.”
Benedict states that “purification and growth in maturity” do not “reject” or “poison” eros, but rather “heal it and restore its true grandeur.” He states that this is first due to the fact that “Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved.”
The Christian faith “…has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to new nobility. True, eros tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.”
To the extent that Benedict indicates that eros and agape (“ascending love and descending love”) “…can never be completely separated,” he states that the more the two, “…in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized.” To become, as the Lord tells us, “a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38)… one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).”
Likewise, any comparisons of “Communion with the Holy Spirit” as sexual in nature, and the “meditative art” of the “feminine climax” as “acted upon externally… by the Holy Spirit” do not properly reflect the “ascent, renunciation, purification and healing” that is described by Pope Benedict with regard to our understanding of eros.
Here we find an attempt to divinize sexual pleasure, and — more troubling still — to impute such notions upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, along with the suggestion that the Holy Spirit employed upon her “erotic powers… to inseminate and co-create“. Unfortunately, Ms. Duffy does not stop there, and invokes her own marital relationship, penetrated with what one friend termed “weird, new age sex magic concepts.”
At his General Audience of November 14, 1979, Pope St. John Paul II, as part of his series of audiences commonly known as the “Theology of the Body”, stated that the “meaning of man’s original unity, through masculinity and femininity, is expressed as an overcoming of the frontier of solitude.” Man’s solitude, JPII teaches us, is also presented as “the discovery of an adequate relationship ‘to’ the person, and therefore as an opening and expectation of a ‘communion of persons.'”
JPII suggests that if we wish to draw from the concept of “‘image of God’, we can then deduce that man became the ‘image and likeness’ of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning… Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion.”
Thus, JPII states that the “original meaning of unity” will “possess” an “…ethical dimension, as is confirmed by Christ’s answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19… [and] a sacramental dimension, a strictly theological one, as is proved by St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians… And this is so because that unity which is realized through the body indicates, right from the beginning, not only the ‘body,’ but also the ‘incarnate’ communion of persons.
Through the sacrament of marriage God lends further order to the natural appetites of men, and delivers grace to truly live out the vocation. Marital ceptive sex is pleasurable and possesses a spiritual quality. However, the “feel-good” of sex (for humans, beyond pure biological function and encompassimg emotional and spiritual elements) does not merit the suggestion that husbands “must be Christ in the flesh” for their wives when it comes to the “spiritual drama in the marriage bed.”
I’m not looking for that sort of mystical union, but thanks anyway.