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Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Too many thoughts have been dancing through (and colliding within) my mind, and at this point its fair to say the pinball machine is ready to break down.

My friends, mercy. Mercy, mercy, mercy! Divine mercy, real mercy, living and generous, form-taking mercy. Mercy alive and breathing. Mercy as a child. Mercy as a man. Mercy on a cross. Mercy as King.

I was reflecting on what true charity is. On the mountain that we all have to ascend to reach that unbelievable challenge uttered by Christ, "Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect." That journey is uphill. That journey is full of sharp rocks and steep ascents. That journey is also filled with beautiful landscapes and invigorating experiences! Oh! The colors. The breaths of air that seem to have been saved for your lungs alone. The intoxicating scents of mountain air that teach you about a way of living that our little world has forgotten. You pant for more. Nothing ever tastes as sweet again. You are lost to it. These are woods you will happily wander into, map left behind, rejoicing at the idea of being lost. This is a trail your feet know without being told. This is a way that is clearly marked, simply by the desire in your heart. Follow the love inside of you! Run when you cannot bear to walk, and you will gain ground. Sing when you are stirred within, laugh at everything. Smile because it is too ridiculous not to.

Do not allow yourself to get over it. Never get over it. There is never room enough in you to exhaust all that you can take it! There will always be more beauties, more glories! Hans Urs von Balthasar says that glory is the fullness of beauty revealed. That means that glory is what you experience when your heart is too captivated to do anything else but adore what you have been captured by. And the mountain, the ascent to charity... it captivates. Not only the mountain, but the journey itself. Every step! Every breath. Every stone that digs into our feet. Every inch of dirt we move through. Every drop of rain or dancing stream or fierce wind or starry night or great oak. Not just these things in and of themselves, but our participation in them. Our encounter with them. Our harmonies to their symphonies. It is the moments of "them being" and "us coming to them" and "together, it being better." And forgive me for all the mountain imagery because this is just as applicable to the eyes of one meeting the eyes of another, or a still moment shared between old friends, or the explosion of a family reunited with one another (at least, that's the caliber of sound when my family is together), or the smile of teammates when the goal has been accomplished or the pride in a professor's eyes at the student who has excelled. All of this is what is part of our climb into the heights and depths of charity.

Today at mass the priest said, "Humility is not putting yourself down or thinking less of yourself, it is simply the truth." This is the epitome of true charity - mercy. The truth is our littleness, and the truth is also God's benevolence. The truth is our pitiful infidelity and the truth is his UNFAILING CONSTANCY. He is always there. Always. Never leaves us. Never gives up. Never ceases to love. Gosh! Do we have ANY idea of what the words "never" and "always" really mean? How could we? Look at our society, at our culture, at our world! Everything is so quick, so instantaneous, and sadly, so inconsistent. If there is any quality that is most endearing and most healing to me in the merciful love of God it is certainly his perfection made manifest in his unstobbable and eternal and infinite and constant being. Never means, never. There is simply no time, no space and no place that you could be that he will not already be there and will not follow you to. Just waiting to pick you up again, waiting carry you back home. "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, 'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep" (Lk. 15:4-6). And this is Mercy.

Who among us can turn to our brother after he has insulted us and genuinely love him, forgive him, even get up and make him something to eat because he is hungry? Who among us wouldn't consider this complete foolishness!? He didn't even apologize! He might do it again! Will he learn nothing? Are we to be so poorly treated? Oh, but was this not exactly the life of our Lord? Is this not the entire love story of the Scriptures, of the Hebrew people and God, of the Bride (the Church) and the Bridegroom? When have we ever given him true cause to lavish the grace upon us that he does? The justification that we could never earn for ourselves has been generously supplied by the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God. This is mercy. The truth is mercy. Humility is acknowledging the truth of the mercy of God.

Everything is mercy. The grace to have our hearts stirred by the beauty of the ascent to charity throughout our lives, even the sorrows and the darknesses and the freezing cold nights... that is mercy! The grace to see, that is mercy. Just to open our eyes is mercy; to have ears to hear, that too is mercy. He is embodied Mercy. Love made flesh is mercy. The Eucharist is Mercy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This is a Great Mystery

I'm going to be honest here (not that I am ever not "pointedly honest" with this blog) -
this semester has been, without a doubt, my least productive. I have managed to work 20 hours nearly every week, write and present the "God's Vision of Love" talk series and organize and fundraise for a mission to Haiti this December... but despite my deep gratitude to the Lord for all of these good works, the truth is that I have certainly slacked on my actual school work, which really should be my priority.

So, my firm resolve is to dive back into my wonderfully nerdy self as soon as is physically possible (and that is probably not until Christmas break). Until then, seeing as how I am already behind in all of my reading, I might as well go ahead a write a blog post :)

I wanted to talk about touch.

Touch, I feel (haha), is one of the more neglected senses.
Certainly not in all areas of life, but I'm speaking in a universal way. Sight is often harped on, or spoken highly of, or at least observed, whether it is the way we look at some one, or the way we are perceived, or more obviously the things to be observed such as color and shape. Our ability to hear is possibly even more practiced (if your ipod isn't playing, music from the computer will be, let's not deny it.) Smell... well, ok, smell gets the shaft. Taste is certainly appreciated in our culture, I don't think that needs explanation (although many settle for tastes that are mediocre).
But touch.

Much of my thought is coming from all that has been discussed on this blog from the "Adequate Anthropology" series and the "God's Vision of Love" series, and those points are basically drawing on John Paul II's understanding of anthropology, of the human person. This anthropology is necessarily a theological one. You cannot have the gift without the giver.

But before Christ, the encounter with the Lord was very typically a spiritual one only. Of course, the prophets and those who were chosen to establish covenants with the Lord such as Abraham and David certainly encountered him while being in-body, or embodied, and so they heard him with their ears even if he was not physically before them (and I am not going to go further into that although there is much to be thought about). But with Christ came an entirely new revelation of God, and entirely new encounter...most importantly, an entirely new meeting place.

Christ is the place for encounter God, for seeing him face to face. And this is in a body, through a body. In the spiritual sense, this Body is the Church. In a physical sense, this Body is the Eucharist, given as the source and summit of the very life of the Church. But this Body was also a man who walked this earth for thirty-three years and spoke to people, was heard by people, was seen and was touched.
(Maybe you had forgotten I was writing about touch... I almost did.)

No, Christ brings this element of God's love to us in a new and dynamic way that we could not have comprehended before. The imagery of nuptiality that St. Paul uses to draw the analogy of God's love for man and the love between a husband and wife summarizes this. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word..." (Eph. 5:25-26, emphasis added). And, "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22, emphasis added). He says, "This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church" (Eph. 5:32).

Again, books have already been written on this mystery (many beautiful ones, by people much wiser and more learned than myself) and my point is not to enter into them here. Rather, I want us to reflect on the beauty and mystery of touch.

Touch is an encounter. It occurs at a place, on a body, that a person experiences. Whether it is a hand on your shoulder to encourage you before you face a crowd, or a quick hug to say goodbye, or a sure kiss from the one you love, touch says something, it signifies something. If nothing else, it is a more comforting promise of the meaning revealed in the touch, a deeper communication of what was meant to be made known. I can smile at you and you will understand my pleasure, but I can hug you and leave no doubt. The intensity behind our touch, positive as well as negative, communicates a level of our whole self that is embedded in the action.

To be perhaps less-than-tactful, if I have someone shake my hand at the sign of peace during mass who barely wraps their fingers around my hand and leaves enough space for all those germs that are inevitably jumping from my palm to theirs... well, let's be honest here, I don't feel like the touch they gave truly signified much wishing-of-peace to me. And I feel even less that someone wanted me to know the Lord's peace if I just get the head-nod of acknowledgement. Does this make the point? The firm grip of someone who says, "Peace be with you," or, "Christ's Peace," leaves me assured that they truly desire me to know that peace.

Perhaps a different analogy? When you meet someone you haven't seen for many months (or years) and embrace as if old friends, but you are given the "burp-the-baby" pat on the back rather than a friendly embrace... what is the encounter? One that communicates a less-than-comfortable knowledge of the other person. It says that there is not the same understanding that once existed. And if you were hugging someone you just met for the first time that day, you probably wouldn't be embracing them as you would a friend of five or ten years.

Interestingly enough, a point that is made by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, albeit indirectly, and also a point that is then taken up by John Paul II in The Theology of the Body, this time directly, is the way that condoms and contraception also make a drastic change to the communication behind a touch. In the most intimate of human touch, within the bond of sexual union, the communication of the full love and desire of both lovers for one another is necessary and apparent. Much like the "not-quite-peace" or the "not-sure-hug," contraception is the barrier between the two that signifies a "not-quite-total-love." Again, this is not the point of this post so we'll have to return to this later, but I wanted to make that analogy. Touch, what you say through it and signify with it, means something!

Christ comes to us in the Eucharist as his very body. He allows us to approach him and touch him and to receive him into us. I think it is fair to say that if the source and summit of our faith revolves around the body of God, touch matters.

We therefore have a responsibility as people of faith to consider more deeply the touch we give and receive, and to recognize what we mean and signify with our actions, in hopes that we will come to better reflect the "glory of God [that] is man fully alive" (St. Irenaeus).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Poetic Last Days, November

Out he trod, in misty vale
Cold wind following at his tail
Damp his feet and slick his blade
Firm his steps, despite the rain

Set his jaw, pursed his mouth
Purpose written without doubt
His steed unwavering in the gloom
His latern lit, though high noon

Raindrops coursing over his mail
Water clinging in his hair
Blood coursing through his veins
Demanding he not be afraid

The path unplotable in the muck
The earth as if to swallow him up
The forest too dense to go on his way
The horse trembling now, unwilling to stay

On foot carries on our brave lad
Unabashed at the sound of one so sad
The call of a maid fair and lost
Sinking within an undying frost

Her name he knows, more sure than his own
Her face his only guide to home
His heart beating only those syllables now
Her name, the drum of his pulse so loud

What monster awaits his sweet brow
What creature ready to welcome him down
What mystery has stolen his love away
What strength hath a man to ner be slayed

From within the fight begins
First of doubt and then lies dim
Hope the first to be laid to rest
Then to follow, all his best

The beast it seems to be his mind
Crying falsehoods all the time
Whispering darkness that slips on by
The sentinel at his heart's supply

Yet, love be stronger than death
If love be true lies cannot pass
His light gone out but his heart still sure
Each footstep nearer his lady pure

Abandoned is his sword that bled
The villians of the past be dead
None but her face the star he sees
Whispers try but cannot reach

The barrier of love, the moat of truth
Too high, too deep, too bright to lose
No inner darkness can succeed
In bringing his courage to its knees

For he knows, even should she prefer to stay
Out in the cold on this highland day
And should his love be all denied
Still, no man is man who hath not tried

His love be unable to stand still
His heart too full to stop or kill
Those feet march on, though the eyes barely see
The star of her face guides his way clearly

Her voice drawing nearer, the call more strong
He pauses in awe as he recognizes their song
Sad but sure the melody she sings
Awaiting the one it is sure to bring

Mired, it seems she's sunk in the mud
Frost round the edges and dirt and scum
Her fair locks matted and knotted
Her beautiful face darkened and clouted

The fiend! His rage boiling within
A frenzy of wrath nearly overtook him
But every moment she sunk further still
To hunt him now would secure her ill

Taking deep breaths and willing only she
Fastening a rope and taking a knee
Deep into the mire he waded with care
Nearly blind in the dense foggy air

Her song never fading, rather now stronger
Her tears tracing lines making clear her hunger
Her hands trapt too deep to ever reach out
Only her voice left to fight off the doubt

But behold, there, her lover! Could this be?
His warm breath embraced her 'fore she could see
Arms like the tree roots holding her feet
Embraced her small body and lifted her free

Her hands numb and broken, unable to hold
Yet her face buried deep in his soft cloak folds
'Fore even a step could be made for the land
His lips gently kiss her poor little hands

Their eyes finally meet in solitary light
She knows of his struggle, she sees all the fight
He reads in her face all the trust and the hope
He knows she ner waivered, he knows that she knows

Curled in his arms like a babe in the night
He carried her safely through that forest of fright
No monster nor sprite's arrow could pierce
The light of their love a barrier too fierce

His path he now sees as if never before
His steps unfaltering, his direction sure
Her heartbeat peaceful as she gently sleeps
Love has rescued her, he is all that she needs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God's Vision of Love VI, Living in Freedom

Last part of the four-part series covering some of the major themes of the Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II. Again, please see the previous presentations for a full context of this post. All of the information is drawn from the Theology of the Body, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Scripture (RSV) and other Church documents.

Recap: Context from the past three weeks –
o Original states of innocence, solitude, unity and nakedness, how God sees us and invites us into a relationship/knows us personally
o Being created in the Image of the Son means this new covenant, a new call to us
o Christ reveals to us what true freedom is, Christ reveals to us our gifted-nature, how God is Father and we receive all from him
o Christ gives us the Beatitudes as guides for how to participate in this new life, specifically purity of heart that enables us to understand the interior gaze of man and what it is meant to be between man and woman
o To return to our original innocence and purity but in a “new way” in light of Christ, we must learn to practice virtues and build habits of virtue (these are our remedies for concupiscence and sin)
o We want to learn to know ourselves and one another in the same authentic freedom and gift that Christ reveals to us
o The interior gaze and the language of the body are tied together, as we see how what we do and say expresses the inner parts of our hearts and what we desire and will are made real in our actions – the embodied soul – is understood here
o Christ’s whole life is a testament of love, laying down of his body and soul for the sake of the “other,” for his bride the Church and for each of us – this is authentic freedom and the nature of “gift” – being for another.
o Virginity or continence for the Kingdom is a revelation for us of the very special nature of God’s invitation to be in this personal relationship – a way of witnessing to us of what it will be like to be wholly God’s, in heaven, to know him fully
o Today we want to talk about marriage, family and the Church

"Living in Freedom"

Ephesians 5:21-33

o This call is very specific to real life and has practical applications and implications for us no matter what our state of life. The context Paul gives us in Ephesians is the perfect analogy that sheds light on all that Christ reveals to us about the truth and dignity of our personhood and especially our sexuality.


 o A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality – the body itself is a sacrament (small “s”) for it reveals the interior truth of the whole person, as we have discussed

 o The Sacrament in the Church (big “S”) is a sign of grace, efficacious grace, transforming grace. They truly conform us more into the image of Christ and are specific gifts for our path to salvation

 o As Gaudium et Spes (joy and hope) says, not only does Christ reveal “man” to himself, what we are called to be, our most perfect hope and fulfillment, but in that he makes clear his supreme vocation (this life of holiness)

o We are learning about the eternal plan of man’s salvation in Jesus, from our Creation in His image to our final hope through his passion, death and resurrection. We are invited into his Body, as members of the Church. (This is the historical context of the whole mystery of the plan of salvation initiated in our creation in Christ and revealed in the Incarnation)

o What St. Paul says in Ephesians and John Paul wants to emphasize is that the mystery of Christ realized in the Church is the expression of the divine plan for man’s salvation, and that the Christian vocation is thus a life baptized and part of this Church

o Our humanity, our anthropology (and therefore, our sexuality) will only be brought to fulfillment in this context

o Remember at the beginning we said this is theology/anthropology/theology of the body – this is the context – Christ, and the Church.

o The two great goods of human sexuality expressed in its proper context are fidelity and fruitfulness or fecundity. The gift of self to another in sexual or conjugal union is meant to be free, total and fruitful. The beauty of such total trust, vulnerability and commitment is vital. The grace of the sacrament supports the husband and wife in their promise for fidelity throughout their lives and for the total love for the other, especially as it bears fruit in the gift of a new life.

Husband and Wife

o Proper context for man and woman bound together in love (and sexual union) is a lifelong commitment before God in the Church in the Sacrament of matrimony

o It is therefore their common relation with Christ that should unite them

o We are first and foremost brothers and sisters, adopted children of God, and in light of this we approach a holy love for one another knowing our respective value and dignity comes from God as a gift and that we belong to God first and foremost

o St. Paul speaks about subordination to one another – this is in love of Christ – just as virginity makes sense for the Kingdom, so mutual sacrifice, service and surrender to one another makes sense only in the context of Christ. It is a pious and holy call, to live a life of service, love and fidelity.

o We need to draw our energy, mercy and love from the only inexhaustible source of love, God himself. Our love for one another must be fed from his eternal and perfect love poured out into our hearts. Only then can we see one another with a purity and holy interior gaze, and love authentically. The efficacious graces of the Sacraments fundamentally make this possible, both the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and then the continual graces of Eucharist and Confession.

o Marriage is this vocation for Christians to holiness directly as it corresponds to Christ’s love for the Church, the Bridegroom with his Bride, who laid down his life for her. St. Paul says that husbands are to love their wives even as Christ loved the Church, and that wives are to be subordinate as the Church is to Christ. It is the entrustment of the whole self to God in the context of the full, free and total giving of oneself over to the other in marriage.

o Reveals that the deepest essence of marriage emerges from the mystery of God’s eternal love for mankind, from the salvific mystery of Christ’s spousal love for the Church!!!

o Tobit 8:4-9

o The purposeful fruitfulness of marriage, the gift of self being so total that it brings about another total gift, a new human life, is also founded in this mystery, for as Christ is head of the body, so the body (the Church) bears fruit of his love in the salvation of souls won by his sacrifice on the cross.

o The spousal meaning of the body is inscribed in our sexuality, in manhood and womanhood, masculinity and femininity, the beautiful unity formed through two mutual self-gifts, receiving the other person in love.

o The unity of Adam and Eve at the very beginning of our history where “this one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” is now made more clear in the context of the unity of Christ and the Church – esp. in light of the Eucharist.

o The new creation that is made in the sacrament of marriage for man and woman is indissoluble precisely in this unity and therefore the covenant they enter into is both a grace and an ethos, a directive for a holy life.

o St. John Chrysostom – CCC 2365 - St. John Chrysostom suggests that young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.

Fatherhood and Motherhood

o Fatherhood and Motherhood are also inscribed into the person and into our bodies in our masculinity and femininity, within the spousal meaning of the body. Man and woman assist one another in becoming more fully themselves in seeing the other in light of fatherhood and motherhood, in willing the other to be in some way even more alive in the gift of a child. There is a fulfillment of what it means to be a man and to be a woman in being a father and mother.

o Masculinity has within its nature the gift that, imaged after Christ, is an initiator and protector, the Bridegroom who seeks to see his Bride pure and holy. Femininity has within its nature the gift, imaged after Christ’s body, seen in the Church, of receiving the goodness and love of the Bridegroom and welcoming his assistance is her holiness even as she is the one for whom he will lay down his life. It is a beautiful interplay of giving and receiving, and together they form an unity that is the foundation for new life to come forth and thrive within.


o Therefore, the family can never be removed from the Church, and should always be intimately connected with her, esp. in the Sacramental life.

o The goal of Christ’s love for the Church is her sanctification – so the goal is for the family, for the mutual love of husband and wife and thus for their children too (which begins with Baptism and continues throughout life formed in Christ)

o Husband and wife are called to live in a holy unity of love, and therefore to raise their children with this understanding. As St. Paul directs us, husband and wife are to love one another as their own body, as Christ loves the Church, and to therefore seek the highest good for the other person and aid them on their journey to heaven. John Paul says, “The bridegroom (meaning Christ) examines his bride (Church) attentively, as though in a creative loving restlessness, whether he will find the good and the beauty he desires in her and for her.” This kind of moral and holy scrutiny needs to be present in our family life!

o Prayer must permeate the life of man and woman in the Sacrament of Marriage and their families. The Christian life is one of constant communication, constant dialogue with the Father, Son and Spirit, seeking to be made anew in the image of perfect love.

o Prayer together as a family is vital. Reading from Scripture, reading from the Catechism, reflecting on the teachings of the Church especially in the encyclicals and writings of recent Church history, as well as the many various devotions such as the Rosary and novenas are essential. Cultural Challenges/Issues to Faceo Concupiscence unfortunately does not disappear with the Sacrament of marriage (nor with religious vows or Ordination) – therefore it is so vital for us to be sensitive to the temptations and trials we face and to rely on Christ in his mercy and frequent the sacraments of Eucharist and Confession, and to pray daily.

o As we have said, the prayer for purity of heart and chastity aids us in seeing ourselves and one another with God’s vision, and assists us in healing the wounds inflicted by our sins.

o Chastity is not only a virtue for religious or priests but for married couples as well, for there are times when it is good for couples to abstain and a life of prayer and sacraments deeply aids couples in understanding this and living it out.

o A life of prayer and “in the Holy Spirit” enables couples to best understand their temptations and when they are truly loving one another in purity and wholeness and when they are falling short of this goal.

o There are many temptations outside of the inner self that are presented in our culture, everything from magazine covers to casual sex in TV and movies to the common acceptance of pornography, masturbation, contraception, cheating, hook ups, even just immodest dress – the world is not friendly to our desire for holiness so it is important for us to continually pray and seek purity and truth so that we do not fall into these sins, and if we do, to seek the healing and grace of confession.

o We want to always “speak the truth” with our bodies – concerning our own dignity, the dignity of another

* So once again, the entire context from beginning to end is that God has created us His Image, and we are invited into this personal relationship, the interior life, into a love and service of the Holy Trinity. In Christ we have the perfect Image of our humanity-as-holy. Without sin, He is perfect beyond our capabilities. But by the efficacious grace of the Sacraments of the Church and by his continual Mercy and Love, we are given the assistance to be transformed and "divinized" and to learn to live virtues of purity and chastity. We have a hope that cannot be disappointed, because of the promise of the eternally faithful God, who is all Truth and Love. We strive to deepen our understanding of the goodness that God has given us, the depth and breadth of his Gift, and we pray daily to allow this knowledge to fill us and transform our lives.

Once again, let us end with Guadiem et Spes,
“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.” – G et S, 22

God's Vision of Love III, Purity of Heart

This was the third part of the lecture series. Of course, things are missing from what was presented, including some visuals that I drew to help make things more clear. Again, I do not have time to put this into paragraph format, so you'll have to make due with the bullets. Also, please see God's Vision of Love 1 and 2 for the complete context of these talks.

"Purity of Heart"

The Beatitudeso Matthew 5:1-17 (Read)

o Christ Fulfills the law by revealing True Love – Remember at the beginning of this class as we spoke about the beautiful original state of man and God’s intention in creating him, the “originals” before the fall? We also said that Christ, being the apex of history, the climax of the love story between God and mankind, the ultimate covenant where original sin and death are finally destroyed, brings something new. When we live the holy life we are invited to by Christ there is in some sense a return to that original state, but there is something even more dynamic occurring. This is what we hear in the Beatitudes. This is exactly what Jesus means when he says he “fulfills” the law. He has brought love, in all of its power and glory, into the law. Now mercy and compassion and love in its passion are the crowning jewels of a holy life.

o Each of the Beatitudes is a necessary guide, a light for us as Christians to find our way on the path to holiness – but we want to focus in a special way on “blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.”

Readjusting our Glasses – the Interior Gaze

o Genesis 3:1-10 (Read)

o If we go back to the first class once more and remember the beauty of original innocence and nakedness, what was the dramatic difference between Adam and Eve’s knowledge of one another and their knowledge after the first sin? It is the event of concupiscence, the staining of their vision by sin with lust and selfishness.

o We all understand that sin has a hold on us personally and as a whole in society. It is especially clear that concupiscence strangles the life out of human sexuality, as tv/movies/music, etc… reveal to us all the time. People are not integrated wholes, but pretty faces or toned bodies or skimpy clothes or only certain parts of the body…this is accepted and even expected.

o We may also be sensitive to shame. Shame is our natural response to the awareness of the effects of concupiscence on human sexuality. Even in Genesis, immediately after Adam and Eve’s “eyes are opened” and they understand their nakedness in the darkened state of sin, they cover themselves and hid themselves precisely because of this nakedness.

o There is much going on here, to say that “there eyes were opened” and that they understood that they were naked – where before they could freely look at one another in their naked bodies and see an integrated person, the whole other person, in no way without fear or any lust (as we said with original nakedness and innocence), now they were unable to see one another in this pure light, and were looking with eyes of sinful man rather than with the sight of God.

o So when Jesus says so specifically that the “pure of heart” will “see God,” the parallel seems easy to understand. Of course, this is just one context of Christ’s words, but there is an invitation here for us to seek to be “pure of heart” so that our vision will be cleansed and so that we can see with God’s vision, with his love.

o The Pope refers to the “interior gaze” of man, a sense in which Adam and Eve are able to see into one another, to know the person in the naked body as male and female, but as the whole person, with purity and love. Christ points us back to this peaceful gaze and also points us to how we learn to love and see one another in this holy light once more. The Beatitudes teach us to live in virtue, and to allow this virtue to build into our habitual way of life, so that we can be truly “pure of heart.”

Virtues – Purity, Chastity

o This call is very specific to real life and has practical applications and implications for us no matter what our state of life.

o As we have said, Christ calls us specifically to look at our lives honestly before God. We must consistently pray for the grace to be pure of heart. Purity of heart will always lead to a purity of the body. And we need to pray for the virtue of chastity, that we will also aid our interior purity through our physical modesty and holiness. We need to frequent the sacraments, especially Reconciliation, and we need to honestly examine our consciences to be aware of the ways we do lust after or degrade others or fail to see them in truth and love.

o These virtues act as a healing for our concupiscence…for every weakness and temptation we endure in purity of heart and body, we regain and strengthen our defenses by praying for and practicing chastity and purity.

Continence for the Kingdom

o We will talk in detail next week about the marriage, and so today I want to say a few things about virginity and consecration of self for the Kingdom, for Christ.

o There are so many things that could be said and feel free to ask questions if I don’t cover something, but I think there are two vital things to be pointed out concerning this call.

o One – Consecration of yourself through priesthood, religious or consecrated life, and therefore, a life of celibacy/virginity, is for the Kingdom. It is of the utmost importance that this end is understood. We’ll talk more about this is a moment.

o Second – This call to celibacy does not negate or exist in competition with the good of marriage – in fact, it sheds light on the good present in marriage while at the same time being its own good.

o St. Paul tells us that the life of virginity is the highest good for us to aspire to here on earth, but that there are many qualifications and that this does not injure marriage.

o It is such a good because-
a.) You are living in your physical body now what you will one day life in heaven – a life wholly and totally devoted to the worship of God. You are making present for others the hope and reality of Christ’s promise for all who believe, that in the Beatific Vision there will be a unique fulfillment of the person, a deep and perfect understanding of self-in-relation-to-God. We can only imagine what such a union will be like in its glory, but priests and religious witness to us each day of this hope that we should all share in.

b.) Part of the power of such a witness is the sacrifice of the world for the Kingdom – the “better life” – this means that what is being sacrificed is a good, because it isn’t a sacrifice if there is no effort in letting go. So very strongly the vocation to celibacy for the Kingdom at the same time affirms the beauty and good of marriage as it is the good that must be sacrificed.

c.) Being for the Kingdom means not only this witness of our hope of the future, but also accepting that there is a different form of Motherhood and Fatherhood (spiritual) brought to anyone who is called to be a “Bride of Christ” or to be in the image of the “Bridegroom for the Church.” Priests become “fathers” for us all – there is a specific spiritual fatherhood that is part of the grace and charism of the Sacrament of Holy Orders just as there is a special grace of for men who are physical fathers in the Sacrament of Marriage. Religious sisters are examples of the wise virgins who are awaiting the only true bridegroom, Christ, and who aid the lay faithful in preparing themselves for his coming in their witness and their prayers for us all.

d.) Lastly, it is important to note that St. Paul, and the Church, teach us that this is a specific call and a specific grace to live in celibacy for the Kingdom. It is a mystery for all of us that each Christian has a call to a life of holiness that is specific to their unique person, but that is another gift of God. Some are called to sanctify a mini-church, a family, through husband and wife and their children, and others are called to work for the sanctity of the greater Church, for all of us as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Modesty and Purity

o It is easy to understand how what we have said about Christ’s invitation to us and challenge to us to be “pure of heart” so that we can one day “see God” and also gain the purity of heart and sight now to see one another with a holy interior gaze, also leads to our living out a similar chastity and continence for the Kingdom depending on our state in life

o Even though we may not be a religious, consecrated or a priest, all of the lay faithful share in the invitation to be examples in our world of the beauty of living for the Kingdom as much as possible.

o The most specific way this applies to our conversation is modesty in our dress and behavior, and purity in our physical actions (appropriate to our state in life.) If we are married this means being faithful to the vows we have made, faithful to our spouse, being open and honest with them, seeking to see and love them in wholeness and purity of vision. If we are single or dating this means dressing to reveal our true value and beauty, which would not be dressing to assist another in reducing us or failing to see us as a whole person. It would also mean not speaking, dancing, etc.. that would make it difficult for someone to love you in purity.
As always, we keep in mind that the entire context of Creation, Humanity and Salvation History, the whole story of love between God and man, is summed up in the life and Person of Christ, the Son of God. From Guadiem et Spes we read -
“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.” – G et S, 22

God's Vision of Love II, Called to Be Holy

My disclaimer from the first part of this series stands. Please see God's Vision of Love I for the context of these talks. They flow into one another and draw on the previous material, so it is important to read them in succession for the full context.

Also, I have little time right now, so I'm only posting the bulleted version of the talk, rather than the more filled-in style of the first lecture. Hopefully I'll have time to come back to it at another date.

"Called to Be Holy"

The Invitation

o As we have pointed out, Christ is the key to man coming to know his true value and dignity. As we read last week from Gaudiem et Spes (Joy and Hope), Jesus “reveals man to himself.” Only in the one whose image we have been fashioned will we come to really understand our own selves!

o Because of this goodness that constitutes us, we are given a very specific invitation. As we said last week, God desires an intimate relationship with us (he breathed life into man).

o By virtue of our Creator and our human nature, which is essentially good, though damaged by sin, we are invited to share in a new life, a life with God, a life in the Spirit, a life in Christ.

The Gift

o We know that God has “given” us life. But he has also given us everything else. The world has been created for man (remember in Genesis when God brings every creature before man to be named? And then later in Genesis God tells man to have dominion over all the created world). This is amazing!

o Not only has God given us the world and ourselves, but he’s given us himself. So we have everything by his generous goodness.

o We have to realize the beauty of this gift. God gives freely. As we said last week, he has no need of us as we do him. He did not create because he wanted little servants to fan him! He created in love.

o This is a kind of love we must take our whole lives to learn. It is the love that constitutes the Theology of the Body! The love that gave us our original dignity. The love that fashioned us in the likeness of the one, true and perfect Lover.

o The gift of our existence is free, even as this love is free. If what is given is free as it is given, it will remain free.

What is this Freedom?

o Our culture will tell us that “freedom” is one of two things – either it is a freedom from something (as in, you are free to skip work because you feel like it) or a freedom of choice (as in, you are not required to do anything. You have the choice to be here this morning or not to be here next week, essentially.

o It is not that these “ideas” or “senses” of freedom are not accurate to some extent, but that they are inadequate, not enough, not the whole truth. They are cheaper versions of what freedom is, as given by God.

o Much like our misunderstanding of the truth of love, the truth of our sexuality, etc… our idea of what freedom is has been sold short because we have not come to know it in light of the love of our Creator.

o Freedom is therefore not a freedom from, but a freedom for. This is what is revealed to us by God, that he exists totally and wholly for an other – that is the Trinitarian divine life! Father, Son and Spirit, all fully and freely giving themselves to one another, completely and eternally.

Gift and Freedom

o Consider this: if you give a gift to someone at Christmas, typically you give it to him or her totally. Most of the time they understand that you mean it to be theirs. They do not have to consult you on whether or not they can wear the sweater or ride the bike, etc..

o Likewise, if you give them something that comes from the heart – perhaps you knew they were hoping to get a certain set of dvds, or you knit them a scarf, etc… - the gift retains some of the giver within it. For example, my friend Matthew gave me and our other close friends mugs for Christmas one year – now we cannot drink our coffee without thinking of him.

o So God gives ourselves, fully and freely. We have free will, and can accept or reject all of his goodness. Yet, we are so personally formed by Him, that we can say what remains in the gift of the giver is very good, the image and likeness of God.

The Response to the Invitation

o So understanding that we are so good, as we learned last week about the original states of human nature, and also knowing that Christ has come to offer us something even greater, this new life in him, and understanding that we are given everything as a free and total gift…we come to the point where we decide how to answer that invitation

o What is amazing is that the Theology of the Body teaches us that since this gift of freedom for another is so inscribed in the very nature of man, it is expressed in his body in a very specific way.

o This is where John Paul II teaches about a “language of the body.” Recall last week when we said that we are embodied souls, and that our internal and external selves are intrinsically connected and cannot be separated? We also said that we then expressed what was taking place internally specifically through the body – our facial expressions, our words, our actions.

o So when the Pope speaks of a language, he means that our intentions, desires, hopes, etc… are expressed through our body, and in the context of our sexuality, our freedom and our love are also expressed.

o Two main points are thus: to live in freedom for the other IN the body, and to speak in TRUTH in the body.

o What takes place in the intimacy of the unity of a man and woman in sexual union or conjugal union is a communion and a communication. Each speaks to the other, by their bodies. The trust that must be present. The openness. The faith in the other person to be acting in love and truth. The genuine love that exists between them, not only in an appreciation for the others’ body (which is good) but for the other as a whole, for his or her person – this all communicates an authentic gift. It communicates that “I give myself to you”.

o The opposite of this gift of self in freedom and authentic love would be what we sadly see promoted all over our culture today – lying with the body. There are so many ways that men and women communicate that does not include the whole person, but reduces the other to an object of pleasure or to only certain aspects of the person that are appealing. Whether a certain aspect of the body or an intellect or humor, we still often refuse to see others as integrated wholes. Therefore, when we give ourselves to them, we often withhold something. We often do not understand ourselves as wholes either. And we often expect that to be alright. The worst is when the communication of a lie is mutually agreed upon. Both parties are ok with this usury mentality. Whether it is too much work or commitment to know the other more fully, or whether they are not free to really be giving themselves totally in such an act, or whether it is selfishness that is driving them to keep back parts of themselves from the other, couples very often will not communicate in freedom and truth.

Once again, to close with the Quote from Guadiem et Spes -
“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.” – G et S, 22

If you have any questions/comments, please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Most Holy Spirit, Enflame Us

I want to be where the light is. 

"Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach. Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" -- Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one." Psalm 139:5-12

"What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Jn 1:3-5

"I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" Lk 12:49

There are perhaps too many things to say about love. About zeal. About passion. About what the truth should mean to us and for us. There are so many aspects of what it means to be consumed by the Holy Fire. 

Saints upon saints have found all that they need to lay down their very lives for the sake of Christ the King within the sweetness of the Holy Spirit's intoxication. All the courage and zeal that could be found within a heart are necessarily enflamed when the soul seeks to be so filled and so consumed with Him. 

There should always be a two-fold aspect to this burning, similar to what we hear about in the story of the widow with seven sons who all die rather than forsake their faith. It is about humility and purgation, and then it is about faith and trust. This is the process of a life entrusted to Our Lord in the Spirit, and especially if we are also dedicated and consecrated to his holy Mother, Mary. She who had no sin and who was the most humble was able to live in the greatest faith and deepest trust any human has ever known. She is our perfect model, for she is the most perfect imitator of her Son, and she is truly Spouse of the Spirit. Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God! Gifts completely unasked for, unmerited, simply given and accepted and loved and cared for and cherished in this pure Virgin's Heart. 

Sorry, getting on a bit of a tangent (which is nearly unavoidable for me when I think about Our Lady), but back to the consuming fire! I am reading through the preparation for Consecration to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, and yesterday's reflection spoke of the willingness to see ourselves as dust. Do we really want to know how sinful we are? Could we even handle it? I often fear I can't. If you love someone you want to make them happy, and to know that you are constantly failing to do this - it's a little disheartening. But only when it is conceived in that fashion. The TRUTH is that we are loved, infinitely, undeservingly, unconditionally, passionately, powerfully, purely, freely, consistently, faithfully, enduringly, perfectly. Yes, we will always fall short of this love. Yes, we will continue to sin. No, that will never separate us from his love if we are always seeking his mercy and striving to do better! He does not lose his children. We may wander off, but he always knows where we are, and he comes for us himself when we need him. 

So to address our sinfulness, to acknowledge it, to look at ourselves... this is important. And ick! It is never fun. But we cannot fear what is brought to our souls by Perfect Love. If we invite Him in, ask to be cleansed, seek forgiveness, admit our failure and are truly contrite - how quickly he will heal us! And this is something we should do often, daily. Of course, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is absolutely necessary and should be frequented often, especially (and immediately) if there is any danger of mortal sin. But even outside of the beauty and gift of efficacious grace that comes to us through the Sacrament, we should daily be willing to acknowledge our weakness and seek the grace to be made whole once more. 

This is what is so wonderful about the simple prayer of "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love..." To be warmed. To allow the fingers hot with the heat of holy love to melt away the ice from our hearts, to heal the aching wounds of our soul, to purge the darkness that clings to our mind, to burn within us so that there is no room for what is not of Him. 

What would this world be like if we were all little St. Thereses or St. Francises or St. Pauls? What if "zeal for His house" truly consumed us? What if we could not stand still! What if all of our energies were constantly burning up for the sake of his Kingdom here on earth! If every breath was a prayer. Every struggle made a sacrifice. Every long day of work made an offering. Every tedious task made on behalf of those in need. Every boring conversation, every disservice done to us, every rude driver or unkind coworker or terrible day of traffic given up in love for another. What if every thought that was tempted to hate or jealousy was caught in time and turned to mercy and love? What if every darkness that invaded, every lie that tried to take us hostage, every temptation to self-love over self-gift was conquered at the door by the blaze of Love within our hearts!? We would not recognize our world. 

How empty our lives often are. How hallow they become. Day in and out we fall away from community and family. Day by day we walk more on the path of solitude hoping to escape all the demands that threaten our meager existence, threaten to shatter our already-broken peace. Moment by moment we become more self-satisfied, more complacent, more accepting of our pitiful state. No longer does the realization of our humble presence make us weep! No longer do we lower our heads in shame. More often it is the safety of disinterestedness or indifference that blankets our ugliness. We do not grasp at crowns, but we do not balk at the image in the mirror. We are what we are, let it be. 

World! Brothers and sisters, my friends, myself - Christ wept over us. He wept because we were not on fire. He wept because we were lukewarm, and were to be spit out of the mouth rather than ingested into the Fire of the Trinity. We cannot accept this! Why should we? Why would we prefer chains to freedom? Why would we like our putrid pens when we have the open door staring us in the face? "And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." Jn 3:19-21 We cannot remain still! We cannot be at home in the dark. We were not created for it. We were meant to see. We cannot be satisfied with blindness. Right before the verses I just shared from John Christ says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Jn 3:16-17 This is the hope, the victory, the mercy, the truth, the delight, the joy, the life that is offered to us all! Oh, that we would not hesitate to take it.

Let us pray to be burned up. To have the grace to look at ourselves in truth, the grace to ask for the grace to look at ourselves in truth. Let us pray that we can be truly contrite, and be healed of our infirmary. Let us pray that we can learn to build up habits of virtue in our lives, and habits of prayer, so that when the enemy comes for us we shall stand in the light. Let us be thankful, always and in everything, even in our trials and failures, because they too lead us back to his Heart, back into the Fire of the Holy Spirit. Let us never lose faith. 

Thomas a Kempis said,
“Love flies, runs, and rejoices; it is free and nothing can hold it back.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

O Burden, Why art thou?

Silly weight of the world, get off my shoulder!

You know, between the readings of mass emphasizing things such as persistence and humility and obedience and conversion and all of the personal aspects of my crazy life, I felt it was a good time to reflect on how to handle the weight of the world.
I think I'll call it a spiritual irony that I read "The Diary of a Country Priest" this semester as part of a book forum for my graduate studies. I will post an entire reflection on this book because it may be in my top five favorite of all time. However, as usual, I have no time and should be working on a 20 page paper. Yippee.  

I truly think that most people will find when reading this book (which I implore you to do) that they read their own hearts within the priest's story. His miserable littleness, and often thwarted works made him so severely aware of his failings. He simply seems to not possess any of the needed talents for being good at what he has set his life to do (serving his little community). 

Yet, they did not cause him to despair. In fact, he seems to become more reckless than ever as he realizes how little any good fruit that came was of him. 

Huh? You might ask. 

We need to be like this. Our hearts have to look at this (very sick) amount of work we have to do and just smile. For me it's the laundry list of reading and writing, along with all those pesky chores like feeding myself that never seem to go away. The thing is, it is not us who accomplish things. We try, we give our effort, even when our effort is minimal... but the Lord is the one who accomplishes. 

Some of my favorite Scripture passages that have been dancing around in my head concerning this are as follows:
"O LORD, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done." - Isaiah 26:12

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where (I) am going you know the way." - Jn. 14:1-4

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down And do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." - Isaiah 55:8-11

The Gospel today was about the servants who were given certain gold coins and then who gave the master more on his return or the unfortunate one who buried the coin. It isn't really "suggested" or even "highly recommended" that we open our hands and trust that the Lord will fill them. That is the only way we can be a healthy part of the Body of Christ. I'm renewing the Consecration to Mary through the preparation of St. Louis de Montfort and today the reflection covered the apostles going to Jesus and saying, "Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples." The humility present here, or perhaps more specifically, the child-like virtue, struck me deeply. I mean, really, how often do I think "I wish I knew how to pray"? Not too often, to be honest. But in response to such simple honesty, Christ gives such a gift! He tells them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test" (Lk 11:1-4). 

Please be struck with me! 'Hey, Jesus, how do you pray? What are we supposed to say? You tell us that the pharisees are being hypocritical, but that is all we've ever seen. What is the right way? How do we approach God?' And Christ says, 'Call him your Father. Honor and worship him. Be humble. Be his children. Yearn for the coming of his kingdom. Trust that he will give you all you need. Be contrite and ask forgiveness and forgive each other. Ask him to spare you and protect you from evil.' Seriously? 

Between God giving us graces/gifts/virtues/talents that we are meant to share and serve with (but not that we earn or merit - they are gifts!) and being taught to pray in a way that is an intimate and daily journey through life with God as Father, how could we ever get so wrapped up that we think things depend on us?? Oh, but we do! We do so very often. I know I do. And then the stress, the anxiety, the fear.. it eats us alive. I can't sleep on Sunday nights because every Monday there's that worry about all that must be accomplished. Really? I mean, we DO have to use what we are given and put our whole energies into things, I'm certainly not advocating laziness! But the difference is the peace in our hearts, and the peace in our hearts is regulated by our self awareness of God's perfect Love and mercy or our failure to acknowledge his power and goodness. He's either perfect love or he isn't. He's either all powerful or he isn't. He either humbled himself to shed his blood on a cross in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago so that we could live one day forever with him, or he didn't. Since I'm holding here that he DID, I think it's fair to say that it isn't up to us. The Lord will always provide, we need to go before him in faith. We need to humbly trust. We need to never lose hope.

One last word of Scripture for encouragement - 
"The eyes of the LORD are upon those who love him; he is their mighty shield and strong support, A shelter from the heat, a shade from the noonday sun, a guard against stumbling, a help against falling. He buoys up the spirits, brings a sparkle to the eyes, gives health and life and blessing." - Sirach 34:16-17

So get that dirt off your shoulder and keep your eyes fixed on Him.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

God's Vision of Love I, Created in His Image

I realize that my blogging has become far more infrequent. Forgive me. I'm a grad student who is going crazy. But on the bright side, I will be posting a series of talks I'm giving on Theology of the Body. They are not part of my "Adequate Anthropology" series, because that is a thing of its own.  They will cover some similar topics, however. They are meant to be addressed to an adult audience, and give a general overview of the principles taught in John Paul II's great work. I realize that reading the content is very different from hearing the presentation. We have been recording the talks, so I may be able to post them some day as mp3 or a podcast, but for now you'll have to be satisfied with text. I would also ask that if you would want to use this material/replicate it in some way, that you ask me first

So the series was titled "God's Vision of Love" as a way to communicate the idea behind the teaching - to come to know God as love and how human love is in his image. 

The first talk focused mainly on the groundwork - the story of creation and the fall, and how God made man in his original state, in His likeness. To be fair, I'm basically taking my talk outline and trying to embellish it a little, so bear with the poor structure of the paragraphs. The ideas are well ordered, but the reading might be challenging. So here is Lecture 1, "Created in His Image": 

 Scripture – New Wineskins (Lk. 5:37) + New Hearts (Ez 36:25-27)
These two passages speak about the Lord doing something new in us. To receive the truth in a new way, as Christ reveals it, we must be made into new vessels, purified and holy, to be able to hold the "new wine." Likewise, in the Old Testament the words of the prophet Ezekiel speak to this same message - that God desires us to be undone and remade, able to receive the good that he has to give us. 

So we want to approach this teaching with open hearts and open minds. This is not a new teaching in that the Holy Father only builds off of the Tradition of our faith throughout history, but it is a new approach, a new way of seeing. We want to be able to enter into this vision, to have our eyes opened. The program is going to be in the same context of Scripture and Creation, which is Jesus, the Word. Christ is our principle model and the Image we were created in. This is a fundamental point of the Holy Father’s teaching.

Basic terms and ideas that we need to define: 
What is the “Theology of the Body”? 
What is Theology? In simple and general terms, Theology is the study of God. Coming to know him, striving to understand the mysteries he has revealed to us.
What is meant by “body”? What is Anthropology? The study of man - likewise seeking to better know and understand human nature and what it is to be human. 
The Theology of the Body is coming to understand God’s creation, most especially mankind, made in His Image and Likeness, and what that means for our lives. It is coming to see what "anthropology" means to God, in his context, according to his plan. It is seeking to know what was intended for us from the beginning by our Creator. 

Some brief points on the whole series - 
This is a 4-part series, and each is going to flow into the other. They are meant to be understood in context of one another, in the context of the whole story.
Again, we are calling it God’s Vision of Love because this is a consideration of how God sees man, and the world, and how we are called to share in this vision. When we understand the love that holds us together, it changes how we see ourselves, one another and the world. Specifically, we will draw from a quote found in the Vatican document Gaudiem et Spes, or Joy and Hope, the Church in the Modern World: 
“The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.” – G et S, 22
It is important to keep in mind that vital phrase, "Christ...fully reveals man to himself." 

So we begin where the Holy Father begins, with Genesis, “In the Beginning.”
Genesis 2:4-7, 18-25 and Gen. 1:27
The first questions we ask of this story is the why and what?
God creates.  Our existence comes as a gift. We are. This is the “What”.
Why? Because God is love. As love himself, he desires to share his goodness and perfection. So he creates us in His Image, after his Son, Christ.
What this part of the Creation story communicates is the beauty of human nature before the fall. And the beauty of the whole world, of all creation, before sin enters. It is our “original” state.
This original state remains with us all, even after the entrance of sin through the Fall. We still retain aspects of this original purity within us, simply by being human.

Some important definitions to aid us in understanding our "original state" of humanity:
Original Innocence – there is a purity of heart within man, for no concupiscence exists. We do not suffer temptation or lust, we do not reduce others or fail to love them fully. God is our first and whole occupation.
Original Solitude – This is first and foremost our solitude before God. It is each man and woman known totally, inside and out, by the Lord and Father in heaven. It is also the solitude of all of mankind in the world, as we are set apart, finding no equal among creation, being the “height” of God’s creative work.
Original Unity – This is the ability to be in a deep union with God and one another that is premised upon the original innocence and lack of sin in our relationships. There can be a total vulnerability, a full openness, a perfect giving and receiving between persons because there is nothing to hold us back, no failure to love as we ought. Also, it is the shared nature of man and woman, the sameness that they experience in their similar nature of child of God. They are in a unity that is equal but different. (Will talk about that more later)
Original Nakedness – As Adam and Eve first see one another and are sure of the goodness of the other person, expressed in the naked body, they know no sin or shame. There is no lust present. Neither demean the other or think only of certain parts of the other person. Because of their original innocence, they are able to see the other person as they are, sharing in this vision that God has of them. There is no shame because neither is tempted to use the other.

We are embodied souls, a union of physical and spiritual. All that we are interiorly is made visible and expressed exteriorly. All that we are exteriorly directly speaks of what is interior. They cannot be separated! In the original nakedness, we are able to know the person in the seeing of the body. This is the holy vision.
These "originals" are gifts inscribed in the being of man, in our nature.
Sin, sadly, is also carried on through our nature after the fall. It does not cancel out these good things that constitute us, but it does create a struggle for us.  Man now has to deal with sin and its effects. 
What is Concupiscence? It is the disposition in the heart of man to selfishness, pride, evil…to sin. It is the invitation to disobedience that arises so often in our lives. It is the scales on our eyes that make it impossible to see ourselves, others or the world in the light of Truth and Love that God has created them in, unless we have help. We will talk more about the remedy for concupiscence that Christ brings us later in the program.

Christ comes to free us. The Church teaches that Scripture is always to be understood as a “whole”, with the Old Testament and New Testament completing one another. Christ is the key to the Scriptures. He is the Word. All of human history points to him. He was at the beginning, when we were created in Love. He is the final end which we are moving toward. Christ comes to free us from sin, to invite us into a new and different participation in the life of God than we would have known even before the Fall. We are able to be made even more new, new wineskins and new hearts.

There was a good question brought up during this talk concerning the very First Sin. If concupiscence did not exist yet, why would Eve even have been tempted? If this original innocence was so pure, why would she choose sin. I have heard the question before, and the answer that I have heard given which I found to make sense is as follows: Satan did not tempt even in the way we know temptations now. It was not a lust for an apple that looked too good to pass up, as we might not be able to walk by starbucks some days. It was much worse. The devil's words went to the very heart of the original state of man. He says, "The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad." (Gen. 3:1-5) 
It is not even that the serpent tempts them to thinking of making themselves "like God" rather than allowing that God has already made them so much like himself, when they were made out of nothing. Even before this temptation, what he is doing is casting doubt on the gift of God. Casting doubt on God himself, on his love, on who he is. Doubt that he would be honest, that he would be always perfect, that everything that he does or says is good and true. Doubt that he would actually make creatures so like himself. 
This is a serious crisis. If God is not God, and his love is not perfect, all of life is upside down. This does not excuse the sin, and so there is certainly just punishment from God for the disobedience, but it is easier to understand how the innocence was confused by this lie, rather than the heart tempted as it is by concupiscence.

(And as an aside, I hope that is helpful and also not heretical in any way, lol. I will always reiterate my disclaimer - when speaking of things theological, I may be very wrong. We are speaking of the One, Holy, Triune God. So first I strive always to be in agreement and obedience to the Roman Catholic Church and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, and then I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit guides my words. But if I am ever out of place, I beg forgiveness and hope to correct it.)

Ok, so that's basically the first talk. I will get around to the next three soon enough. If you ever read this, pray for me. And pray for our Church, and the world, and our family of brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for purity. Pray for humility. Pray that hearts be made new. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.