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Jesus is my boyfriend

posted by awelborn

Those of you who follow the evangelical music scene know that the title of this post is a catchphrase used to describe a particular thematic element in some praise and worship music, in which the language used to address Christ is, well, somewhere between a Blue Mountain card and the Billboard top 100.

Agnieszka Tennant looks at some minitrends on the same theme outside of music.

But does all this closeness mean that Jesus is the personal boyfriend of Christian women? That God is my fiancé? That the First and the Last is my husband? That he and I are dating?

So it appears to some.

In a popular book, I learn of women who set up date nights with Jesus. Christie enjoys her Friday nights by going to Barnes & Noble "to drink coffee with the Lord and to read whatever book from the Christian living section he guides me to" or by cooking a wonderful meal and setting the table for two, then "talking to God as if he is actually sitting there at my table with me, because I know that he is."

The author of this book calls women to "prayer, praise, and pampering" retreats: "Although God certainly loves us even with unshaven legs, no makeup, and a bed-head hairdo, he also deserves to occasionally have his princess sit at his feet while she is looking and feeling her best." She casts these retreats as exciting dates. "You are running away with your Lover, not confining yourself to a convent."

In another book, the author assures her readers that "you are the one that overwhelms his heart with just ‘one glance of your eyes,’" quoting from the Song of Solomon. "His gaze is fixed on you," she writes. "He is captivated by your beauty."

These teachings have spread into churches. My friend’s mother took part in a "tea with the Lord," during which she and the other women wore their wedding gowns—those, at least, who managed to squeeze into them—and fancied themselves as brides of Christ. An influential Kansas City church teaches thousands of people the so-called Bridal Paradigm, which encourages a quasi-romantic relationship with Christ. And who among us hasn’t detected an eerie resemblance between a contemporary Christian song and a pop diva’s breathy rendition of a sensual love ballad?

Tennant takes the long view, bringing the tradition of Bride of Christ imagery in spirituality into the picture, but she’s not too wild about that either. Perhaps someone can help tease out the difference between this and spiritual-erotic expressions in mystical writings, the experiences of some mystics, as well as the "bridal" implications and symbolism of consecrated life…if there is one. (there is, but brain won’t compute at the moment…)

From Maureen, in the comments, who, as usual, is sharp as a tack:

The problem here is that Jesus can’t possibly be your boyfriend. If you’re going for that kind of imagery, He’s pretty much got to be your Husband. God’s not into temporary love.

Maureen’s blog. Well, one of them. On which she discources perceptively about the USCCB’s new lectionary podcast.



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Taylor Marshall

posted December 6, 2006 at 1:47 pm


So when one of these women marry, does she have to “break up” with Our Lord? How does this work if vows of virginity are not maintained?



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gsk

posted December 6, 2006 at 1:56 pm


Fascinating! The Theology of the Body is taking root in the most foundational way, with nuptial love brought to the forefront of faith. It’s all good! (except the throw-away line distaining convents).



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Liam

posted December 6, 2006 at 1:58 pm


Moral of the story: be careful about treating metaphors as syllogisms.



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Rosemarie

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:03 pm


+J.M.J+
As a lonely teenager in Evangelicalism, I was encouraged to consider Jesus my “boyfriend” to help with the loneliness. I tried to do just that (though I preferred the biblical term “Beloved” to “boyfriend”), and can tell you it’s not exactly the easiest thing in the world. For one thing, one has to completely subliminate any physical desire – which isn’t easy during ones hormonally-charged adolescence. Also, it never quite compensated for a relationship with a human being here on earth. I don’t know how well it works with others, but it wasn’t a perfect solution for me.
Also, Taylor makes a good point. When I finally started dating my future husband I had to pretty much give up seeing Christ as my Beloved. Wouldn’t exactly call it a breakup, since I still saw Him as my Lord, God, Redeemer, etc.; but dating an earthly man did put an end to the “Jesus-as-Beloved” thing.
Another interesting point: In retrospect, I see that God actually used this to draw me back to the Catholic Church, because I became drawn to the bridal spirituality of medieval nuns and this dabbling in Catholic spirituality eventually helped me return to the Church.
In Jesu et Maria,



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Ephrem

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:08 pm


I would like to say that there should be no public expressions of this erotic personal appropriation of the ecclesial nuptial character of our relationship with Jesus, within the Church who is the Bride of Christ.
But–the custom of consecrated virgins is time-honored.
And–no CCM song is even close to being as “hot” as the poetry of St. John of the Cross.
And–even St. John of the Cross couldn’t heat it up like the Song of Songs.
In sheer speculation, I would suggest that the problem is that the erotic apparently comes in at two very distinct moments of the spiritual life. In the beginning, the soul may still be very attached to the sensual life. The Samaritan Woman, for example, seems to be almost flirting with Jesus and teasing him. But then at a much later stage, when the soul has become very mature and entirely given over to God, it seems like the John of the Cross kind of eroticism comes into play for some.
From the outside (and probably from the inside)it would be very difficult to say whether the Christian who is breathless for God is at the first stage, and finding an outlet for sexuality, or at the later stage, when commitment is the main thing and the feelings of closeness express the commitment. One way to judge (as a spiritual director or pastor) would be to see if concrete expressions of commitment are present in addition to the eroticism.
Consumers of music don’t have that kind of information.
What strikes me as really dangerous or odd is that entire churches are being built on this paradigm. It’s an optional aspect of Catholic spirituality, or at least it doesn’t have to be central to a Christian’s spirituality. It would be bizarre if everyone in a community were expected to have the same experience–like a Pentecostalism of Christ.



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RyanL

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:13 pm


Very interesting. As has been stated, the Theology of the Body (and indeed, it seems, the whole of Eucharistic theology) is nuptial in its expression. What’s more, our earthly lives are the metaphor for the true reality. Seeing Jesus as our bridegroom, if indeed we are the bride (Church), is a perfectly valid expression of Christian theology.
Is there weirdness in this “Boyfriend Jesus” thing? Definitely.
Why? Because our earthly relationships are disordered, and now we’re superimposing that (earthly-metaphorical) disorder on the supernatural reality.
How do you keep the two, to use ecclesial language, “distinct but not separate, united but not confused” (ref: Chalcedon)? Beats me. I don’t even have a good suggestion…
God Bless



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Randy

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:15 pm


A lot of this intimacy with Jesus stuff promises more than it delivers. It focuses on experience. The trouble is dry times in you Christian walk are a reality. That is when you need liturgy and faith to keep you from falling away. Communities that focus on experience tend make it very hard to admit when you don’t feel anything. You start to think everyone is connecting with God and you are just faking it. The truth is probably most of them are faking it much of the time.



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Nate Metzger

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:17 pm


Interesting. And also a little creepy, yes?
Majoring in music during college, I remember writing papers on the rather, ahem, ‘detailed’ lyrics that certin songs from the Middle Ages had in ‘praise’ and ‘love’ of Mary. I wonder if this modern phenomenon by some Protestant groups is but a modern adaption of this apparently ingrained (and misplaced) devotional tendency. Though I am neither a psychologist nor theologian. Thoughts from the peanut gallery?



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Brandon Rhodes

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:17 pm


The first step towards bringing these errors into focus is probably to observe that Christ is Bridegroom to the Church, not to any particular individual within the Church — his relationship to particular Christians is, by contrast, that of the firstborn Son to whom all are adopted brothers and sisters.
So the most basic criticism that could be leveled at these movements, songs, and books might be that they encourage women to treat as an object of romance either their Father (eww!) or their Brother (eww!), depending, of course, on which Person of the Trinity is being addressed at the moment.



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Ephrem

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:30 pm


Tennant says: And consider how unhelpful this misreading must be to single women who are hormonally awake. The cruel message they get is: If Jesus is really your husband, what’s your problem? Be satisfied!
Poor St. Paul is always being accused of cruelty.



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Maureen

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:36 pm


But… running away with your Lover is what a convent is all about!
*totally cracking up here*
The problem here is that Jesus can’t possibly be your boyfriend. If you’re going for that kind of imagery, He’s pretty much got to be your Husband. God’s not into temporary love.
Moving on….
There’s something to be said for this kind of imagery. But it’s a daring kind of imagery, and I think it’s a mistake to dumb it down and make it safe and ordinary. I also think it’s a mistake to lead single women on this way, and especially married women. A tad creepy.
Of course, it’s possible that God is working up to solving the vocation crisis among sisters and nuns in one fell swoop. Which I wouldn’t put past Him.



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Old Zhou

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:44 pm


David Murrow, author of “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” mentioned this line of kissy-kissy Jesus praise music in an interview in May 2005.
All you guys out there repeat, now:
“Jesus is my boyfriend.”
C’mon, try again. I can’t hear you:
“Jesus is my boyfriend.”
Now hold hands with the guys next you you and say it again:
“Jesus is my boyfriend.”
From a more recent interview with Mike Frost

Smulo: When I was a student, and later worked with you at the Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission at Morling College, I couldn’t help but noticing every now and then that you didn’t seem overly enthusiastic with corporate singing. You’ve also written about your distaste for “Jesus is my boyfriend” worship songs. Can Christian music be redeemed through contextual forms of music and meaningful lyrics?
Frost: I really hope so! But I’m not a musician, so I write about this stuff as a disempowered critic. I have no ability to change it myself because I can’t write music or play an instrument. But I’m getting tired of singing love songs to Jesus-my-boyfriend. And frankly I feel silly when I have to sing songs so sentimental and cloying they could have been written for a 1990s boy band. As much as I’m loath to admit it these days, I’m not ‘in love with Jesus’ (for some people this might sound like blasphemy). But let’s be honest, I love my three daughters more deeply than I could ever imagine loving anyone, but I have never fallen in love with them. My love for them transcends the exciting, heady, temporary feelings of romantic love. Likewise with Jesus. I love him and am completely in his debt. But I’m not head over heals in romantic love with him. So it’s not singing that I don’t like. It’s the kind of singing that I’m expected to engage in. As much as this romanticising of worship bothers me, even more disturbing is the recent trend of singing worship songs in which I have to pledge my unfaltering devotion and service to him. You know, the ‘Jesus, I will never let you go…’ type song. In these songs I have to declare that I will follow him to the ends of the earth and that I will praise him all my days. In one sense, there’s nothing wrong with making such promises to God. The Psalmist does so on occasion. But frankly, I’m so much more comfortable with singing about the fact that Jesus has promised that he will never let me go. My promises seem hollow and unreliable. It’s God’s promises to me in Christ that are solid, reliable and unfaltering.
I sorely wish Christian musicians would write songs that help to sustain us as exiles, as foreigners in a forbidding country. We need songs that strengthen our resolve and inspire us to act. Not silly loves songs to Jesus.

Jesus is Lord!



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Bill Puschmann

posted December 6, 2006 at 2:49 pm


I, too, was a bit disconcerted by reading and hearing of this. But, unfortunately, I’ve been reading “Story of a Soul” by SAINT THERESE in the evenings. And, let’s all be honest, she uses the exact same “over-brided” imagery throughout.
I seem to remember that the invitiations she used when actually entering Carmel where printed up like wedding invitations.
At that point in time, she wasn’t a saint and she wasn’t a nun. She was an “ordinary” person (much like those women above). You can rationalize it away by saying, “well… she was gonna be a saint,” but that’s a false argument. She was still a person.



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caine thomas

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:09 pm


I’m gonna be sick.
What would these women do if Jesus wanted to watch football on Saturdays? Or insinuated by his silence that those pants make them look fat???? The spousal relationship they’re looking for is more from Oprah then Edith Stein.
People are nuts. If Jesus ever rolls his eyes, I’m pretty sure a 40 year old woman setting out tea for him in her wedding dress would be such an occasion.



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TSO

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:10 pm


I recall reading somewhere a long time ago that single Catholic men might want to see/treat Mary as their girlfriend.



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gb

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:17 pm


“Jesus’ Spousal relationship is about the Church & not individuals within the Church” Really??? That’d be news to most of our canonized Saints. Say, for example, John of the Cross (as cited above) or Augustine who said that the Lord was more a part of him than he was a part of himself. I’m not sure how individuals in the Church could be more intimately related to Jesus than Paul describes: as a body part to the Head.
No, the problem here is not that God isn’t “that intimate” with each of us. The problem is that we want Him to be less intimate.We want to control or define or characterize the relationship with Him.
If we can safely set Him on a shelf & pull Him down whenever we need help or want ‘a date’ or whatever & then put Him back, we feel more comfortable. What the Church has taught for all her history is that we don’t have a comfortable God. He’s jealous. He wants all of us all the time. Individuals make up the Church & He’s involved in each individual at each moment. He’s nothing if not vital, intimate, involved with each of us.



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caine thomas

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:22 pm


I’ll have to take exception with you Bill. I do know what you mean about the flowery writing St. Therese uses, and I was initially inclined to chalk that up to literary style of the culture and times.
HOWEVER – when she says those sweet nothings to Jesus, she ain’t whistling dixie. She wasn’t talking about playing house, or setting up a pseudo-date. Her imagery was an adornment to the complete surrender of her whole being to Jesus. In her case this sweetness is a veneer that hides the darkness of the cross she faithfully bore in her heart.



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Melody

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:24 pm


It seems to me that the songs have it backwards. They are using earthly love between a man and a women as a paradigm for divine love between Our Lord and the soul. In reality it is the other way around. Human love is a reflection of divine love; of the union with God and the beatific vision which we hope to experience in heaven. This will be the perfection of love, which we are unable to experience on this earth. We don’t need to feel that there is any conflict between marital love and union with Christ because it is to this end that all our earthly relationships should be directed, including marriage.



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derringdo

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:28 pm


If I had to “tease out” (as Amy puts it) the difference between the old-skool and new-skool uses of romantic imagery in Christianity, I would say that the difference is that the “old school”‘s vocabulary is more reverential-it dates from periods where there was this idea or affectation of putting the beloved on a pedestal. John Donne’s kind of love-talk *already* blurs into religious talk, so orienting that kind of love-talk towards God is in a sense, merely a matter of orienting it correctly.
In other words, you can’t see your Beloved in God unless you already see or would be prepared to see the image of God in your Beloved.
Does that make any sense?



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Brad C

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:28 pm


There have been some good comments here. My first reaction was that this is clearly insane. But in light of some of the comments I have revised my opinion and think it is only moderately insane.
I agree with Randy that focusing on a certain experience can cause problems when one is in a dry spell. I was raised as a Protestant and there was heavy emphasis on “feeling” saved, “feeling” love towards Jesus, etc. I didn’t have any of those feelings. Then I went to college, read Hume, and became an atheist.
One of the things that drew me to Catholicism was the view that certain acts of will don’t necessarily feel like anything. Because we are commanded to love one another, it must be within our power to love. But it is not always within our power to feel one way rather than another. So love, as an act of will, is not the same thing as a feeling of desire. You can love Jesus even if you don’t feel the kind of intimacy you feel with other human beings.



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Liam

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:40 pm


IIRC, the Little Flower makes darkly clear later in her story that her effulgent language was an attempt to project what she wished she could feel but in fact did not feel. It’s like a very depressed person singing a happy song, hoping that they might catch wind of a an non-depressed way of being. It’s a caution that is often overlooked by people who don’t read her carefully.



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Liam

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:44 pm


And in this, S Therese was very much in harmony with S Teresa of Avila and S Juan de la Cruz.
The great crime in spiritual formation of young people these days is not so much that they are not getting truth-bites, though that is a serious problem. It is that they are not really being prepared spiritually for dark nights of the senses and of the soul. In this failure, we are very much at one with our secular culture. Catholicism and Orthodoxy, unlike most Reformed spirituality, has a great deal to teach — not just in principle but also in practice, from centuries of personal testimony — and therefore to offer people who don’t realize they will need this.



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Bill Puschmann

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:46 pm


Actually, late 19th Century vocabulary wouldn’t have been as flowery as St. Therese. Granted, the only recent experience I have with that period is “Madame Bovary” (which I would guess would not have been read by St. Therese).
But again, is this not the same argument as calling God “Abba” instead of “The Great and Powerful Oz”? (I like derrindo’s comment about vocabulary changes over time – s/he’s correct that what we may think of as “formal” used to be much more intimate…)
As to the article and women specifically, I don’t believe it’s about “when they can put Jesus back on the shelf” but more an encouragement to invite Him more and more into their lives. And He should be, always and everywhere. I often talk to him in the passenger seat of my car while on the way to work – if only because it helps me focus and remember that He is always with me… rather than just some mystical ether floating around the cosmos.
To say it’s about “putting Jesus back on the shelf” would be like Protestants claiming that we are trying to confine Christ to the boundaries of a piece of bread.



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Ephrem

posted December 6, 2006 at 3:53 pm


An enormous part of the doctrine of St. John of the Cross is that God Himself is the author of our salvation. So we don’t have to be too afraid about the purity of our images, because God wants to purify them and replace them with truthful and more spiritual images. The dark nights do that work–and they are passive.
Conversely, we do have to be careful not to be attached to whatever images and objects we have in our prayer lives in the moment.
Sometimes I wonder if the main reason for holding on to spiritual images, persons, places and things is to avoid the pain of the dark night.



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Christine

posted December 6, 2006 at 4:12 pm


At the height of the 60’s and 70’s silliness a parish had a banner put up that read “God is other people”. A wise priest changed it to “God is OTHER, people.”
“You are running away with your Lover, not confining yourself to a convent.”
The contempt and misunderstanding of consecrated life that evangelicals sometimes display is annoying.



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Ave Maria!

posted December 6, 2006 at 4:20 pm


The holy Catholic Church is indeed the bride of Christ in the mystical sense. But moreover, Our Blessed Lord is also indeed the Bridegroom of our souls.
I visit Jesus daily and receive Him daily; I need Him so much!
I do not think of Him as my boyfriend but I do think of Him as my Beloved and as my Bethrothed. My soul desires union with Him!
I have a ‘date night’ with Jesus every week–3 hours of adoration every Friday evening. When one is in love, one wishes to spend time with the Beloved.
I do not wear jeans to holy Mass; rather I dress up even for daily Mass. Don’t we dress up for our earthly dates?
The goal of my life is to get to heaven and spend eternity with God; I am getting a jump start with that with daily Mass and adoration.
(I might add also with weekly confession because we always get cleaned up for our ‘dates’)
Ave Maria!



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S

posted December 6, 2006 at 4:23 pm


I find this discussion fascinating. I always wondered why some orders of nuns wear gold bands on the same finger as married couples. Also, in some orders, do the novices dress as brides for their final vows? Maybe someone can enlighten me.
I think Melody has is right. To project earthly love onto one’s relationship with Jesus Christ is backwards. I do not doubt the sincerity of these women, but I have a question. Could the women who do this use any of His other titles to address Him and gain a little perspective? How about King of Creation, Son of God, Messiah, Almighty God, I Am Who Am, to name a few. The person of Christ is part of the Trinity. It seems a slippery slope to the very garbage The DaVinci Code spouted. I have read Story of a Soul, and much of St. John of the Cross. Carmelite spirituality is a challenge. I do not think those lovers of Christ thought of Him as a “boyfriend.” It is clear that His love and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross (for them) is what made their souls “swoon.” Therese meditated on the Holy Face as it appeared during the Passion. She and St. John would be the first to admit the inability to express in human words what it is to be “in love” with Jesus Christ. We can all imitate those great saints in their humility and tender love for Christ without dragging God down to our level.



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James Englert

posted December 6, 2006 at 4:31 pm


I think the male version of ‘Jesus is my boyfriend” is “Jesus is my best friend 24/7.” Also problematic. Jesus is a person so we can’t help but bring our experience of our other relationships to him, but those are just approaches. And our thoughts about other people are historically and culturally conditioned, even “Father” and “Mother” though those have more historical continuity than other human relationships, e.g. “boyfriend.” We all know what a boyfriend is, but girls in thirteenth century France or 1st century Palestine didn’t have “boyfriends.” And I doubt that Peter would have called Jesus his best friend. It seems a mistake to try to contain Jesus like that — I want Jesus to be more than my limited experience.



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anne

posted December 6, 2006 at 4:33 pm


When I read things like this, or the recent articles on “quiverful” evangelicals, I get a bit sad. Its as if these folks grasp the beautiful underlying truth, but because they don’t think with the mind of Christ’s Church, things get kind of twisted up and extreme. I am glad that they are edging ever closer to Catholic theology, but the fullness of truth really does set you free – free from the trendy and/or coercive elements present in so many of these stories.



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Mary

posted December 6, 2006 at 4:38 pm


This article reads like a reinvention of the wheel, without the correct tools. There are natural impulses in Christian spirituality, and this is an example of one of them, that I think Protestants lack the vocabulary to explain, so you get this rather shallow experience versus St. John of the Cross. And it’s not only a lack of vocabulary, but a rejection of the vocabulary (because it’s Catholic), thus the convent comment. I think there are examples of this throughout Protestant history, and that some of the more radical and weird Protestant movements are an attempt to make up for what’s missing in typical Protestant theology/experience. This is done by becoming more and more radical, and moving further and further away from the source (i.e. Catholicism) because the answer can’t be found (O! the horror) in Catholicism.



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gsk

posted December 6, 2006 at 4:58 pm


I am amazed at the negativity of some of the comments here, esp. from the guys. You are guys who I am guessing deplore feminism and the “in your face” haughtiness of the liberated female. And here she settles in to embrace her vocation as “bride” and you attack her for being sentimental and flighty. No one is asking the men to embrace a huggy-Jesus doll here, only to allow women to find unconditional love through a legitimate iconography that feeds the feminine soul. If she finds her dignity in this way, guards her purity, and nourishes her soul to take her bridal status to the next logical step, motherhood, isn’t that a net good?
Geesh. Pro-choice is anathema, androgyny is anathema, and now spousal love is anathema in your way of thinking. What on earth do you guys want??



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Anna

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:18 pm


I am a single woman who is very comfortable with spousal language when talking about Jesus. I am very uncomfortable with the openness, and the boyfriend language used in the songs.
It almost feels like “bedroom” language is being used in public.
I also feel for the women who are doing this, and yet are not called to that choice. Will they just live in despair because they are not feeling/thinking what everyone else seems to be feeling/thinking/doing?



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Bill Puschmann

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:23 pm


Thanks, gsk. I didn’t want to say it. I, too, “get a bid sad” (as anne wrote) but more because I see people attacking non-Catholics for “not doing it correctly” when I see people trying to find Christ in the only way they know how.
Yes, Christ is above the Bridegroom metaphor. But Christ taught us to call him “daddy” and to ask him for our “daily bread”.
I like what Mary wrote (new methods as an attempt to plug holes in Protestant theology) – but I’d go further and suggest that these are also ways to plug holes in Catholic society. We are certainly the “choir” (as in “preaching to”), but the average-joe Catholic doesn’t have anything resembling a personal relationship with Christ. Church is something you do only for an hour, only on Sundays. At least “Tea time with Buddy-Jesus” addresses that. More often than not, your average-joe evangelical/fundamentalist is already experiencing Christ on a level that we Catholics can’t imagine. (Not a deeper or “better” level – just that they’re getting something different out of it that we aren’t.)
Enh. Read Song of Soloman. Love comes in all forms (agape, eros, etc.). God wants ‘em all.



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Susan Peterson

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:24 pm


Yes, some orders of nuns did dress novices in bridal gowns for their final profession of vows. But, during the ceremony they changed into a habit…and had all their hair shaved off. While all of this feels very foreign and strange to me, it was certainly about something serious and permanent, Jesus as husband, not ‘boyfriend.’ If they had any sense and were prepared well, they knew there would be plenty of darkness, dryness, and lack of consolations in the life ahead.
Contrast having all your hair shaved off as a sign of committment, to shaving your legs and having your hair done for Jesus. I think these folks have something right, or are trying to get at something true, but the way they are doing it is very subject to a confusion of categories.
I think of a book called “He and I” by Gabrielle Bossis
http://www.amazon.com/He-I-Gabrielle-Bossis/dp/2890398072
which is one woman’s prayer life written down, including what Jesus “said” to her,with many expressions of love and tenderness. It isn’t so much erotic but tender. It still exists in the universe of moral demand ie “Your little sacrifices please me.” But the intimacy of this is almost too much even for a spiritual book, and certainly would not translate into liturgical music.
This idea is not new to Protestantism either.
What of ‘In the Garden’?
.”………while the dew is still on the roses…and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other, has ever, known.”
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/t/g/itgarden.htm
I know this song because it was a favorite of several old ladies on the dementia unit I worked on as a nurses aide. Singing it was the only way to calm them down sometimes. So I remember this song fondly because of these old ladies…but I would certainly find it objectionable to hear it in church. I mean, someone might choose it for her funeral…but as a routine hymn, no, too personal, too gooey. Yet, still way above the level of shaving your legs for Jesus. There is something deficient about the sensibility of the person who wrote that, I think. Yes, God made us bodies and cares what we do with them. I think Jesus might be pleased with a woman who shaved her legs for her husband even though she was dead tired and would really have preferred to just collapse into bed and go to sleep. I don’t think we ought to imagine that He has any interest in our shaving our legs for Him. Dressing up for church shows respect and seriousness. But shaving one’s legs is just too unmetaphorically about not sufficiently symbolized or spiritualized eroticism.
There is a problem when such a spirituality becomes a product and is marketed, and when it is taken up by people who have no access to the great spiritual writers of any tradition. (If they read Pilgrim’s Progress they would hardly be so vulnerable to the dangerous aspects of ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’.) And people are taking this up without having a spiritual director to guide them. It is sort of like starting to climb Mt Everest without a sherpa or getting into a raft and heading for class 5 rapids without a guide.
Susan Peterson



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Blind Squirrel

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:43 pm


Genevieve Kineke asked:-
If she finds her dignity in this way, guards her purity, and nourishes her soul to take her bridal status to the next logical step, motherhood, isn’t that a net good?
In all honesty, I don’t think so. Well-meaning silliness is still silliness. Moreover, it’s not so much a question of women “find[ing their] dignity in this way,” as all of us acknowledging His.



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caine thomas

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:49 pm


I’m all for exploring the spousal elements of our relationship with God. But is that what’s going on here? A true spousal union exists a la Psalm 42’s “deep calls out to deep”.
The stuff about tea parties and “dates” with Jesus just seems to support and feed our self-serving peripheral needs. I also think its reflective of a generation of adults mired in an adolescant culture. My Grandma had as intimate a relationship with Jesus as a person can and she’d have had several variations on the word “goofy” for this type of stuff.
Do I need to add “Bah! Humbug!”?



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gsk

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:50 pm


Blind Squirrel: did you send that meme to JP2 while he was still alive? Perhaps he could have rethought “On the dignity and vocation of women” and scrapped it for a hymn to the dignity of God…



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M.Z. Forrest

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:55 pm


The sentiment belies a certain piety that comes in and out of fashion. It seems to spring from a desire to be with the Jesus on earth rather than the difficult relationship with God the Father. I believe it works to the detriment of understanding Christ as part of the God-head. This piety, which isn’t exclusive to Evangelicalism, more than anything makes people susceptible to conversion attempts from Muslims and other who deny the Divinity of Christ.



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Sandra Miesel

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:56 pm


Braut-Mystik was all the rage in the Late Middle Ages. And it wasn’t just for nuns. Anybody remember Margery Kempe (a married woman, mother of 14 children) who has a vision of Jesus giving her permission to play with him in bedf? Or St. Angela of Foligno doing a striptease in front of a crucifix? Just a bit extreme, eh what?



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Lee Podles

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:58 pm


I discuss bridal mysticism extensively in my book The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity.
The bridal image, which was first used of Christ and the Church, was applied in the middle ages to Christ and the individual Christian. Some regard this as a legitimate development, and such language was certainly used by saints.
But it leads rapidly to an alienation of men from Christianity. The proper language, which our Lord himself has given us, is that he is our friend. Friendship is the highest love, because friends share all goods, and friendship either finds or makes friends equal.
Christ’s call to friendship is therefore a call to divinization or theosis.
Aquinas teaches that caritas is not eros, but amicitia, friendship. The love that the persons of the Trinity have for one another is friendship, and we are called to enter into that communion.
The popularized language of Jesus as boyfriend is both a product of the sociological feminization of the Church (the vast majority of active faithful are women) and a guarantee that men will want to keep their distance from the Church



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Lee Podles

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:58 pm


I discuss bridal mysticism extensively in my book The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity.
The bridal image, which was first used of Christ and the Church, was applied in the middle ages to Christ and the individual Christian. Some regard this as a legitimate development, and such language was certainly used by saints.
But it leads rapidly to an alienation of men from Christianity. The proper language, which our Lord himself has given us, is that he is our friend. Friendship is the highest love, because friends share all goods, and friendship either finds or makes friends equal.
Christ’s call to friendship is therefore a call to divinization or theosis.
Aquinas teaches that caritas is not eros, but amicitia, friendship. The love that the persons of the Trinity have for one another is friendship, and we are called to enter into that communion.
The popularized language of Jesus as boyfriend is both a product of the sociological feminization of the Church (the vast majority of active faithful are women) and a guarantee that men will want to keep their distance from the Church



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gsk

posted December 6, 2006 at 5:59 pm


You know, guys, when I converted to the Church, I was in awe of all the legitimate charisms, and I found the one that suited me, which was the Rule of Saint Benedict. That doesn’t mean I sit and gripe at the charismatics or the Franciscans. There’s plenty of room in the Church (visible and invisible) as Flannery O’Connor reminded us. You still haven’t answered my question about what women who reject feminism are supposed to use for their model. I posit: “the church” and showed that the bride has many diverse dimensions.
http://catalog.americancatholic.org/product.aspx?prodid=T16768&pcat=73
All JP2, all theology of the body, and yet infinitely diverse. Now I find to my amazement that poorly formed protestant women have stumbled onto this reality and find nourishment. Praise God.
You guys are lucky in that you get to choose a wife who will share your family charism; but de gustibus non disputandum est, and all that. So these women wouldn’t be your choice — so what.



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TheLeague

posted December 6, 2006 at 6:04 pm


I was on the (DC) metro one day, sat next to a teenage girl, writing with great emotion in a black/white composition book. My curiosity got the best of me, and I looked over at what she was writing:
“Must improve my relationship with Jesus…”
She turned back to a previous page
“I need to talk more to Jesus…”
I was drawn in. She turned the pages, looking back at what she wrote. Page after page of her communication issues with Jesus. It wasn’t cute. It was wierd.
And all I could do was think to myself: “He’s the second person of the Blessed Trinity, girl, not your boyfriend.”
I didn’t realize there’s an entire pop sub-culture around the idea of Our Lord, the Main Squeeze. I don’t like it. It makes superficial what should be supernatural. A boyfriend is a boyfriend because you’re not dedicated to him, and he’s not dedicated to you. Christ died on cross for my sins, and rose again on the third day. He’s not taking me to the movies on Friday to see Casino Royale.
Does everything need to be banal? Our hearts and minds were made for something more than this.



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caine thomas

posted December 6, 2006 at 6:08 pm


gsk,
Have you by chance leafed through Women in Christ: Towards a New Feminism ed. by Michelle Schumacher? That is an awesome collection of really well developed essays that cover everything from the language of feminism, the Church as “bride”, JPII, Edith Stein, etc. etc.
Some of it is dense reading, but I HIGHLY recommend it!



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Old Zhou

posted December 6, 2006 at 6:39 pm


Dear gsk,
I, too, am a convert (in practice, not canonically, having spent 1976-2008 in evangelical Protestant christianity), and I am just coming out of my “Benedictine transition phase” that provided an easy re-entry into the Church. While I don’t care to compare charisms, I must admit that after eight years I feel that a lot of what goes in in wider “Benedictine” circles is rather bizarre.
Anyway, back specifically to this contemporary evangelical (mostly based from IHOP-KC “prophets,” etc.)
This is a strain of prophetic, dare I say “pentecostal” Protestant christianity. The Bickle-Strom debate has been going on for close to five years now. Strom has a recent article with very strong critique of the IHOP-KC approach to IHOP’s “Bridal Paradigm,” and some of the excesses that people fall into.
This is not a Roman Catholic thing. Most of these folks would just as well burn books by Ss. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross as read them. Don’t conflate this with Carmelite spirituality or JP2’s “Theology of the Body.” The “intimacy” of this “Jesus as Boyfriend” appraoch is very, very individualistic and personal, and intended to produce devoted warriors (and martyrs) for the coming Apocalyptic battle. Here is a quote from Bickle:

The Great Commission will not be fulfilled without martyrs. The apostle John related a vision that reveals the role of martyrs in the last days: “I saw…those who had been slain for the word of God…saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’
“Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (Revelation 6:9-11, NKJV, emphasis added).
The fact is, there have been more martyrs in the 20th century than at any other time in history. The Western church, however, has been mostly exempt. This will soon change. Many ministries in the coming hour will be sufficiently anointed to equip “joyful martyrs,” even in the Western church.
How will these martyrs be empowered to face even death with joy? They will experience a deep spiritual intimacy with Jesus—an intimacy that results from feasting on the knowledge of the beauty and majesty of our Bridegroom.

The whole pentecostal, prophetic, “intimate with God,” “bridal paradigm” thing seems intent on developing individualistic, rather poorly educated, extremely zealous martyrs for the coming years.
Then comes the outline of the “7 Longings of the Heart” (none of which is a longing for anything like a proper, apostolic historic Church, or a longing for knowledge of the faith).
Then the “Holy Lovesickness”:

The bridal paradigm has been reserved by God to empower the church to overcome the coldest and the most lawless, fearful, demonic and sexually perverted generation in history. As the days grow near for his Son’s return, the Holy Spirit will increasingly unfold the revelation of Jesus as our Bridegroom and our corresponding spiritual identity as his bride.
Already the Holy Spirit is beginning to awaken a “holy lovesickness” that will not be denied. An intervention by God of radical proportions is coming. Through this bridal paradigm, he will change the way we view him—and the way we view ourselves.
He will fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts. And in that final hour the Spirit and the bride will say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17).

This is apocalyptic, emotional development of potentially seriously misguided Christians longing for martyrdom in an evil, evil world.
The “Jesus is my Boyfriend” teachers tear down any sort of normal teaching about the Church as community, about proper relationships and dignity between man and woman. They want you, as an individual, isolated, to be so in love with Jesus that you are ready to die for Him. Whenever the prophet gives the word.
Please don’t confuse this with JP2’s “Theology of the Body.”



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gsk

posted December 6, 2006 at 6:51 pm


Old Zhou: Ecclesiology has to start somewhere. Since the protestants don’t have a “church” in that sense (what we understood to have been born from the side of Christ on the cross) they need to start in this small way. It is indeed a start.
TheLeague: “Must improve my relationship with Jesus” is weird?? God help you.
MZ Forrest: it’s not either Jesus or the Father. Of course we want to be with Jesus on earth — try a Holy Hour. He came to be with us, and to show us the father.
Mr. Podles: with all due respect, I wrote my book specifically in response to yours. Neither a lengthy review nor an article was sufficient to take on your tome. I would be honoured for you to read mine and tell me where it goes off the rails. Pax.



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Maureen

posted December 6, 2006 at 6:51 pm


I don’t think anybody wants to mock this. Partly, it’s funny. (I’m sorry, but talking about shaving your legs for Jesus is comedy gold. I expect the people who said it were amused even as they spoke.) Partly, I think we’re all concerned about what kind of spiritual direction these women are receiving.
I mean, obviously, from the beginning the spousal imagery is there. And if Mary and the Church can switch around in metaphors, the ordinary Christian woman can, too. And yes, we can go all the way back to St. Perpetua’s martyrdom narrative describing her as a wife of Christ.
But there’s also no denying that the spousal imagery has been exploited by a lot of bad people in the history of the Church so they could get laid, and by a lot of unwell people in the service of their own neuroses. I’m not saying people shouldn’t go there, but I am saying that they should keep good watch on the way.



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Gadfly

posted December 6, 2006 at 6:59 pm


There are many legitimate spiritual practices that are “creepy” to those who don’t share them. (I suspect many good and devout Catholics, who admire Therese of Lisiuex, for instance, would be yeeshed out my her poetic conceit of herself as a toy that Jesus plays with, and “pierces” and breaks.)
Problems arise, yes, when people denigrate other people’s devotions, but even more often when devotees try to foist their enthusiasms on others.
That is what has happened with the pop love ballads that replace legitimate liturgical music. (Good-night Sweet Jesus, or To Jesus Heart All Burning show that the late 20th c had no monopoly on them.)



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted December 6, 2006 at 7:04 pm


The thing I find repellent about “Jesus as boyfriend” is that the term “boyfriend” connotes an ordinary fellow, a boy next-door sort of person. Such a fellow is my equal; he is one of us, just plain folks.
But plain folks is not who Jesus is; He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity; the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Many Catholic male authors of devotional books in the early part of the last century, and earlier, refer to Jesus as the “spouse of my soul.” And they – men – refer to their own souls and the souls of other men, as well as of women, using the personal pronoun “she”, as is customary when referring to a ship, but they’re referring to the soul.
So with a ship, one might say, “She was launched and listed a bit to port, but the crew righted her.”
And these authors used to write things like, “When the soul realizes that God has infused a virtue into her, she may be tempted to inordinate spiritual pride.” Even in the case of the soul of a man. It was apparently, just a normal, understood usage, that the human soul is a “she”. Like a ship.



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Chris

posted December 6, 2006 at 7:09 pm


Reading through these comments, i keep thinking of GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, where he wrote about trying to devise his own religion, and kept discovering over and over again that all his “new” ideas have a long history in the Catholic Church.
Perhaps, with some respectful interaction, the “Jesus is my boyfriend” crowd can be helped to see that the longings they are trying to articulate can better be satisfied within the Church and her spirituality.



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Sr Lorraine

posted December 6, 2006 at 7:10 pm


In TOB John Paul II says:
“Continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, the choice of virginity or celibacy for one’s whole life, has become in the experience of Christ’s disciples and followers the act of a particular response of love for the Divine Spouse. Therefore it has acquired the significance of an act of nuptial love, that is, a nuptial giving of oneself for the purpose of reciprocating in a particular way the nuptial love of the Redeemer.”
***
While the “boyfriend” idea is a bit much, perhaps the women the article discusses have grasped in some way, however unclear, what the Pope was saying.
People at different stages of life will see this in different ways. But the time comes, eventually, when our relationship with Jesus gets so real that he is indeed our Spouse.



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Rosemarie

posted December 6, 2006 at 7:18 pm


+J.M.J+
TSO writes:
>>>I recall reading somewhere a long time ago that single Catholic men might want to see/treat Mary as their girlfriend.
I heard something about that in an article somewhere, maybe a decade ago. It was kind of a “throw-away” comment; the writer said it and then moved on – no explanation given.
However, some male saints of times past did develop a spirituality around the idea of mystical “marriage” to Mary, see:
http://home.earthlink.net/~mysticalrose/bride3.html
Now, this was never quite as popular as “Braut-Mystik” was with nuns (thank you, Sandra; that’s the term I was looking for but couldn’t remember it for some reason). And “mystical marriage” to Our Lady is certainly not for every man – when my husband read that “Mary as their girlfriend” statement above he responded, “Ick! No, she’s my Mom…Ick! That’s just wrong! Talk about an Oedipus Complex!”
Yet some men evidently liked the idea, including St. Robert of Molesmes, Blessed Alain de la Roche and St. John Eudes. So I’m not going to dismiss it completely; if it appeals to you, fine, if not, fine.
S. writes:
>>>Could the women who do this use any of His other titles to address Him and gain a little perspective? How about King of Creation, Son of God, Messiah, Almighty God, I Am Who Am, to name a few. The person of Christ is part of the Trinity.
Well, I for one didn’t neglect those titles/images. Though I can’t really speak for anyone else, I imagine some of them must use those titles as well.
In Jesu et Maria,



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Rosemarie

posted December 6, 2006 at 7:37 pm


+J.M.J+
Wow, Zhou. That first article you linked to is disturbing. This whole “Jesus-as-lover” thing goes way beyond what I did as a teen. I would never have imagined anything sensual – let alone sexual! – about my relationship with Christ. It got no worse than imagining Him holding my in His “everlasting arms” when I felt lonely – and I even tied that in with images of the Good Shepherd holding His sheep. It had a more spiritual flavor, not really “romantic;” no fantasies about mouth-kissing or… yuck, I can’t even finish that sentence!
Yeah, if that’s what they’re doing then they’re definitely going way too far….
In Jesu et Maria,



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Keith Strohm

posted December 6, 2006 at 7:41 pm


My reaction to reading the article was that the author, in rightly decrying the over-use of the Christ as Boyfiend metaphor, too quickly reduced the nuptial dimensions of the relationship between Christ and the Church to that of mere poetry, rather than the mystical reality that the Church teaches.
Since the author is a protestant, I wasn’t too surprised . . .I just thought that she was so close to connecting to the richness of the Tradition, and yet took “a left turn.”
I also found it interesting that in the same issue that talked about the beauty and the richness of apostolic Chritianity (which for the authors and editors pretty much meant Orthodox Christianity), this article flat out contradicted the richness of that Tradition in relationship to the nuptial dimensions of Christ’s relationship with the Church.
Keith



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Lynn Gazis-Sax

posted December 6, 2006 at 8:09 pm


On the one hand, I actually like “In the Garden,” even recognizing that it is something of a “Jesus is my boy friend” song. And I recognize all the stuff people are saying about nuptial imagery having its place in devotion, etc.
On the other hand, I can’t help thinking of the gay men’s chorus I once heard in San Francisco, which managed to skewer “Jesus is my boy friend” imagery with a song which worked its way to “Trust only in Jesus, he will satisfy you. Ask the Savior to date you …” etc. Mean, irreligious even, but they kind of had a point about the limitations of that sort of imagery.



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Kyle

posted December 6, 2006 at 9:28 pm


To be terribly irreverent, it makes me think of a South Park episode in which the lil’ fat kid announced, “Writing Christian rock is easy! All you do is take any old regular song, and take out words like ‘baby’ and ‘darling’ and replace them with… Jee-zus!”
Ahem.



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Sandra Miesel

posted December 6, 2006 at 9:33 pm


The early medieval saint Herman Joseph contracted a “mystical marriage” with the BVM, usurping St. Joseph’s role to the extent of appropriating his name. (Nobody was named for St. Joseph in those days.)
Then there’s the “Jesus as Mother” image originated by Cistercian abbots although people today have heard of it via Julian of Norwich. See the book JESUS AS MOTHER by Caroline Walker Bynum.



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gsk

posted December 6, 2006 at 9:44 pm


Please keep in mind that marriage is the primordial sacrament. Creation began with a wedding, Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding, on the cross, He said “it is consummated” which sounds suspiciously nuptial, and we all hope to be included at the wedding feast of the Lamb at the end of time. The point of any deepening of theology (i.e. theology of the body) is to open our understanding of established revelation to enhanced scrutiny. With the sexual revolution ravaging society, the Church responds with answers to questions heretofore unasked. Now we see that there is a nuptial meaning to the body, which offers women a paradigm of “church as bride.” What a gift! And as usual, protestants have shards of the truth, though without a full understanding. Patience.



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Sonetka

posted December 6, 2006 at 10:08 pm


Kyle – I thought of that too.
This discussion is fascinating but I can’t help being deeply creeped out by the original piece. Imagery without any consistent theological backing can go haywire very quickly, and I’d classify “tea with the Lord” as haywire at the very least.



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dwayne

posted December 6, 2006 at 10:13 pm


Has anyone here read B16’s first encyclical? He brings up exactly the relationship between eros and agape.
Now, I have to go leaf through it again to clarify what it is he wrote.



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Lawrence King

posted December 6, 2006 at 10:20 pm


Sandra referred to “St. Angela of Foligno doing a striptease in front of a crucifix”.
This isn’t really a fair description. A “striptease” refers to undressing in a way intended to arouse the viewer. That seems an unfair term to use for this:

Then, before the cross, she [Angela of Foligno] strips herself of all her clothing and offers herself to him, pledging her chastity. Her own body is instrumental in the uniting of herself to Christ: “I promised him then to maintain perpetual chastity and not to offend him again with any of my bodily members, accusing each of these one by one”. Her own physicality helps her in the joining of herself to him: “if I wanted to go to the cross, I would need to strip myself in order to be lighter and go naked to it”. [Text by Molly G. Morrison, quoting and paraphrasing Paul Lachance, trans., Angela of Foligno: Complete Works.]

She was clearly pledging chastity, and showing Jesus her body as part of this pledge. However this should be described, it is certainly not a “striptease”.
Of course, the question of whether we should admire or be dismayed by what Angela did is a separate question. (Canonization in no way endorses all of a person’s practices or visions or writings.) I’m just clarifying this one point.
The other case you cite — Margery Kempe — is much closer to explicitly sexual. That was a case of a woman who detested sex with her own husband, buying into the unfortunately common view that sex, even within marriage, was almost always at least venially sinful.
I am very nervous about modern folks, who have no qualms about sex, trying to import these medieval models into the modern age. (Among other problems, these medieval examples were hardly common knowledge, even during their own time.)



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nab

posted December 6, 2006 at 10:33 pm


Two things struck me–one was mentioned by several of you. I was really upset with the slam against conventual life. “It’s a date with Jesus! Not shutting yourself off from imperfect mortal men forever.” Ew.
Second though, in the comments several people talked about the Carmelites getting dressed as brides and their invites that look like wedding invites. As a little tidbit–those dresses or later the fabric that would have been the wedding dress (depending on the era, i think) were made into chasubles. JPII wore St Teresa Benedicta a Croce’s when he elevated her to the altars.



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Lawrence King

posted December 6, 2006 at 10:42 pm


You don’t fix a problem with the techniques used to fix the opposite problem. You don’t help an agorophobe by giving them the cure for claustrophobia.
Late-medieval erotic mysticism arose in an era when every single person who taught theology was a man vowed to celibacy, when it was routine for clergy and laity alike to see chastity as the true route to holiness and marriage as an unfortunate (but permissible) compromise. Even Thomas, who was very far from any kind of Manicheism, taught that having sex with your spouse for any reason other than pure procreation was venially sinful (although if one party requests it for desire and the other grants it out of obligation, the second party commits no sin: ST Supp., q. 41 a. 4), but still that in every case sex between spouses remained something shameful (ST Supp q. 41 a. 3 ad 3, q. 49 a. 4 ad 4).
During this era, a few women saw their relationship with Christ in erotic terms. As mentioned above, for example, Margery Kempe saw her real-world sexual desire for her husband as something shameful, and turned to fantasies about being in bed with Christ instead.
We simply can’t enter their mindspace today. Today, the secular world exalts physical, exploitative sex as the ultimate nirvana. The Christian world responds by exalting unitive and procreative sex within marriage as the ultimate sharing in God’s love.
We must therefore have some common sense: this world has little danger of undervaluing sex, or paying too little attention to it. So holding up medieval bridal-mysticism as something helpful for our time seems very dangerous today.



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TerryC

posted December 6, 2006 at 10:44 pm


The thing that comes most readily to my mind is:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus
said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love(agape) me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love(philia) you.”
Jesus is asking Simon for unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, thoughtful love, in other words spousal love. Peter with his usual, all to human lack of understanding (I love Peter he is so much like all of us,)offers the Lord friendship.
So Jesus asks him again. “Simon son of John, do you love(agape) me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love(philia) you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love(philia) me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love(philia) you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
What this says to me is that Jesus wants agape, the full unconditional love that exists between spouses in a good sacred marriage, but he’ll take friendship if that is all we can give.



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Lawrence King

posted December 6, 2006 at 10:59 pm


Terry, you are omitting the verb that the narrator uses: Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love [philia] me?”
In other words, the evangelist depicts Jesus as using the verb agapaô the first two times, and the verb phileô the third time. But if the evangelist had understood these two verbs to be significantly different, he would not have referred to Jesus’ third question as asking the same thing “a third time”, much less asking about philia a third time.
In fact, agape was never used for romantic love, either before Christianity or by the Christians themselves. Jerome is quite accurate in translating agapaô as diligere. Indeed, in this passage he translates phileô as amare!



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Keith Strohm

posted December 6, 2006 at 11:19 pm


Mystical language, like poetic language, is useful in that it approaches truth “analogously,” by way of metaphor and symbolism. Thus, for some of the mystics, the experience of intimate union with Christ is best expressed with the rich language of nuptial or conjugal love.
The beauty of Catholic Tradition is that, unlike our modern understanding of metaphor and symbolism, where the signifed and the sign have no “real” relation to each other, signs often point to that which they signify, making them present in a real way.
Thus, while bridal imagery and nuptial language are a way of expressing the intimacy of relationship with Christ (as a community and as individual members of that community), they also point to a very real Truth about the nature of our relationship with God.
In general, I have no problem with someone using conjugal language about their relationship with God. As the author of the article points out, it can be taken too far. My main reaction to the article is that protestants often don’t take it far enough–at least in relation to ecclesiology.



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Jordan Potter

posted December 7, 2006 at 8:48 am


“But if the evangelist had understood these two verbs to be significantly different, he would not have referred to Jesus’ third question as asking the same thing ‘a third time’,”
He didn’t say Jesus asked “the same thing” a third time. He said Jesus asked a third time.



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Lily

posted December 7, 2006 at 8:51 am


Just heard Dawn Eden on satellite radio promoting her book: Thrill of the Chaste.
Obviously young women have not been raised to love themselves enough or know the dignity of their bodies in that they are freely giving themselves away in the sexual sphere. The fallout is tremendous including abortions, STD’s and the de-valuing of life and persons. We are in crisis as a society and I applaud Dawn for sharing her story in order to help other people.
I think priests need to start preaching to men and women at Mass the theology of the body and the Gospel. All I ever hear is “justice” “peace” “love” and picture a camp fire where we’re all holding hands….meanwhile people are falling into serious sin and possibly losing their salvation.
I totally understand why single women turn to Christ as their “boyfriend.” Even though the concept sounds odd, and perhaps is, they are desperate for the love of others that used to be given in families that took care of single women, included them and loved them. Now they’re supposed to be “liberated” “free” and all they want is love. Yes, God gives this love and the boyfriend concept is the same idea, just turned a little bit the wrong way.
caine thomas, your tea party idea reminded me of the cute spinster sisters on the Walton’s setting up a flowery tea party with a bored Jesus. Really funny. But maybe Jesus would enjoy a tea party with the ladies? :>
WWJD? :>



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Tim Drake

posted December 7, 2006 at 8:59 am


It strikes me that it’s all about re-making Christ into an image that’s palatable for us moderns; in this case bordering on sexualizing our relationship with Christ.
It’s not just about re-envisioning Christ, but his mother as well. Evangelical communities are reclaiming Mary, envisioning her not as the pious, prayerful, “blessed among all women,” but as a rebellious, courageous, gutsy young woman. Thankfully, they haven’t attempted to sexualize/romanticize that relationship.
“The presence of the figure of Jesus itself is becoming diminished…the figure is transformed from the “Lord” (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men,” writes Pope Benedict XVI in “On the Way to Jesus Christ.”



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Mary

posted December 7, 2006 at 9:18 am


It never ceases to amaze me how God created us with these “consciences” that protect us like armor. When I read stories like this It’s as if there is an alarm going off w/in me, “Alert, Alert!” Sometimes I can’t put my finger on why there is an aversion to what I’m reading right away, because it has been put into a flowery way. But if we follow the warning w/out always understanding, we allow Him to protect us in all things!
Mary



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Dale OLeary

posted December 7, 2006 at 9:21 am


We need to go back to JPII’s “Love and Responsibility.” There we can see laid out the full understanding spousal love as a complete gift of self, in which you belong to the beloved and he is yours. Marital love is a image of the love of Christ for the Church. Dating is not a proper image, but marriage is.
Having learned how to make a complete gift of self to the Lord, we have a model for love of husband. We love our human husband as if he were Christ our Lord, with the reservation that should our husband ask us to do something contrary to Christ’s commandments or contrary to our dignity as daughters of God we must not comply.



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Christine

posted December 7, 2006 at 9:26 am


“More often than not, your average-joe evangelical/fundamentalist is already experiencing Christ on a level that we Catholics can’t imagine. (Not a deeper or “better” level – just that they’re getting something different out of it that we aren’t.)”
Oh please. One of the great benefits of being Catholic is that the Church opens her doors to everyone, at whatever spiritual level they are. There’s no telling what will happen down the road and how one’s spirituality will blossom. The Christian life is a journey, not a split “decision for Jesus” and we certainly have the example of the “great cloud of witnesses” in the Communion of Saints to guide and help us.
I meandered in the evangelical milieu for a short time before becoming Catholic. I know te culture.



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Blind Squirrel

posted December 7, 2006 at 9:53 am


Genevieve Kineke wrote:-
“did you send that meme to JP2 while he was still alive? Perhaps he could have rethought “On the dignity and vocation of women” and scrapped it for a hymn to the dignity of God…
As always, JPII was way ahead of me. Here’s what he wrote about how we should interact with the Lord:
“[W]e must always remember who it is we are speaking with and address Him with deep respect, a spirit of praise and an attitude of humility. ‘Who am I who stand before Thy face? Dust and nothing,’ wrote [Adam] Mickiewicz, with humility.” (The Way to Christ, p. 67.
What these women are doing may not be sinful, granted, but it’s an impoverished, adolescent, and ultimately unsatisfying way of relating to the Divine. Why should we encourage adult Christians to remain all their lives in spiritual infancy?



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Catholic Whiteboy

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:11 am


Few observations I have after reading through everything here…as a disclaimer, I realize that some of this might sound condescending and chauvanist…it’s honestly not my approach or intentions, and generalizations are just that – general.
1) As many have pointed out, the perception of who Jesus really is creates the fundamental flaw exhibted by some of the women in the story. However, I don’t think the problem is between the idea of “Lord” and “friend” as many here have pointed out (which I’ll address in a moment). It strikes me that these women are actually doing is acting in terms of “best girlfriend.” I think this is also understandable given how our culture has lost a significant understanding of true love, courtship, and what a relationship is supposed to look like, combined with the general castration of Christ that’s present in most of the Christian world.
Let’s be honest – through any number of actions and sins, us men have caused a world of hurt to women (which is a whole different elaboration for another time). And I know I’ve seen this quite a bit – what model does the Church hold up as the model for men? The “nice guy” Jesus – always tender, never angry, just “nice” – as another commenter put it, it’s an image of Jesus that is projected with what are traditionally considered “feminine” qualities. And go figure, the “nice guy” Jesus image isn’t exactly something that gets men going. So what’s a woman of faith who’s been hurt by the “dating scene” supposed to do when there’s a total dearth of the sort of guys that are held up as the “model?” The answer, obviously, is turn to Christ…but the “nice guy” model Christ, who is treated more like a best girlfriend than anything else. I’m sorry…is there really a guy out there that the “tea party” appeals to?
Relationships are dangerous, and a relationship with God is no different. Different sorts of danger, but it’s impossible to dumb down a relationship with God so it’s just “we’re cool.” As such, fixing this broken image of what a relationship with Jesus looks like first requires reclaiming the feminized image of who Christ really is.
(And for those of you who think it sounds a little too much like Wild At Heart…well, I think the author was on to something there.)
2) Some of the comments are an interesting study in contrasts of how people actually perceive the person of Jesus. We’re running the whole spectrum from Old Testament “God is so far superior, and I suck in comparison” (really a master/slave) relationship to God to the 21st century “Buddy Christ” image. And to be honest, part of my Catholic journey has been struggling to find that “right” image. A relationship with God strictly as master (or even Father given family experiences) is very difficult for me, out of basic points of respect. I compare it to trying to talk to, say, the president. If I’m in the Oval Office, there’s a natural intimidation plus a desire to communicate what you want to say as perfectly as possible. So how do you actually build a prayer life around a highly intimidating, unapproachable image of God, especially when talking to the Creator of the Entire Universe, you shouldn’t want to stumble over your words, or misspeak – it’s God for crying out loud, get it right! At the same time, strictly using the image of “hanging out with Jesus” isn’t something that a serious prayer life can be built around because it dumbs Christ down to just a pal that you call up to have a few drinks with.
It took me a while to realize this…but Christ doesn’t lose one ounce of his glory when treated as a “best friend” (for the record, someone said that they didn’t think Peter would have used that term – I’m not sure I agree. Given the context of the current culture, it wouldn’t be a “BFF4eva” sort of thing, but put in terms of someone that alawys tries to help and do the right thing, a friendship that always builds us up, and a friend that one would demonstrate “no greater love” for, I could very easily see terms of “best, closest friend” being used by Peter. And I pray all of us have someone in our lives similiar to that). If He doesn’t lose one bit of glory coming to us in the appearance of bread and wine, (which is about as simple and glory-less as you can get), He’s not going to lose any glory being treated as a friend. He’s always going to call us to a deeper relationship, but He even tells us that He no longer calls us slaves but friends. That realization is something that greatly helped my growth. That it’s just as legitimate to speak in latin in prayer as it is to speak in slang, that both build the relationship.
I guess what I’m getting at is let’s not totally knock the “friend” imagery. It’s a different facet of the same God. Let’s just not let that (or anything else) be our exclusive view.
OK…that was long, rambly, and probably didn’t make any sense. I’ll stop now. ;-)



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Blind Squirrel

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:34 am


CWB:-
I think you’re on the right track–as with most other things Catholic, it is that creative tension we need to find. If I lean a bit more towards the “God is so far superior, and I suck in comparison” end of the spectrum than some others here (though I wouldn’t characterise it as an “Old Testament” perspective, myself), it’s because practically every influence pulls me in the other direction: towards a narcissistic image of God that puts me rather than the Creator at the centre of the story. If I am a single woman, I stand on terms of equality with my boyfriend. If I am a married woman, I stand on terms of equality with my husband. But nothing can, or ever will, make me stand on terms of equality with Jesus Christ. That’s where the analogy irretrievably breaks down.



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Tim J.

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:49 am


Like a poster above, I also thought of a Chesterton quote;
“When a religious scheme is shattered it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also, and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they are isolated from each other and are wandering alone.”
Catholicism is the religious theme that he is speaking of, and the Reformation was the shattering to which he refers.
One can certainly understand the desire for a “spousal” relationship with Christ… Catholicism has always revered, encouraged and protected such reletionships.
Protestantism is yearning deeply for the monasticism it has rejected. Within Catholicism, consecrated celibate singlehood can be a positive, substantial thing, a joyous militancy… within Protestantism, it is an orphaned child.
I know that even many Catholics have come to think of being “single” as merely a lack of success in finding a mate, but this is tragically out of tune with Catholic thought, and speaks of worldly influence.
I would think any mature Christian would realize that getting dolled up in fine clothes and makeup is not exactly what their heavely Spouse finds appealing. What do we find taught in scripture? Just the opposite!;
“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 1 Tim. 2:9
Heck, good old “poverty, chastity and obedience” are what he values… not “day-spas for Jesus”. God save us from hot-tub Chritianity!



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April

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:53 am


I’ve been resisting but now I have to throw my 2 cents in; Our Protestant brethren are on to something..like it or not. I am a consecrated virgin, (you know, that “consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ” canon 604 vocation?)I love the classical repertoire, Gregorian Chant and Latin..LOVE IT. Talk about love songs to the Jesus the Bridegroom! Yep, folks, our Protestant brethren are on to something, we just need to find the gold in the nugget and go deep, really deep, like JPII and John of the Cross and Mother Theresa deep..the “Passion” deep..which takes prayer, suffering, hard work, joy, hope and good Catholic theology..have fun!



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gsk

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:56 am


Blind Squirrel says: “What these women are doing may not be sinful, granted, but it’s an impoverished, adolescent, and ultimately unsatisfying way of relating to the Divine.”
I agree whole-heartedly, but as Catholic Whiteboy reminds us in his inspired ramblings, “Christ doesn’t lose one ounce of his glory when treated as a ‘best friend.'”
The ineffible, magnificent, and infinite God Who created everything visible and invisible, counting the very hairs of our head, asked us to call Him “Daddy.” As Jesus finds an open invitation to heal and nourish these women’s souls, He’ll gently bring them to a more mature spirituality. But ultimately, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said at the end, “it’s all straw.” None of us will ever come close.



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April

posted December 7, 2006 at 11:04 am


PS…then we can share what we learn and discover and help our fellow Catholic and Protestant brethren go deeper; and we simply must go deeper in our love for Christ in our Protestant brethren..”Father, make us one..”



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TerryC

posted December 7, 2006 at 11:10 am


“In fact, agape was never used for romantic love, either before Christianity or by the Christians themselves. Jerome is quite accurate in translating agapaô as diligere. Indeed, in this passage he translates phileô as amare!”
Quite true and agape was not used classically for romantic love. That is eros. Agape was reserved for the deep, abiding love, I’m not sure esteem quite encompasses the meaning.
This might be a case where Greek and Latin do not correspond well, just as English with its single “love” does not translate well the concepts.
As already mentioned by another poster I believe the Evangelist knew exactly what he was saying. And of course the three questions by the Lord are also symbolically meaningful as they relate to Simon’s three previous denials of Jesus after his arrest.



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Steve Kellmeyer

posted December 7, 2006 at 11:18 am


AS the author of a book entitled “Sex and the Sacred City” which explores this nuptial theme on a number of levels, I can say that the Protestant approach is definitely incomplete.
First, they don’t have a solid Trinitarian theology, so they don’t understand – nor have they ever heard of – perichoresis aka circumincesssion, aka, the interpenetration of the divine Persons. This is a foundational aspect of Trinitarian theology that most Catholics have never heard of, even though it is a commonplace in the writings of the Fathers.
Second, they don’t have any Eucharistic theology nor do they have the Real Presence. Thus, they don’t understand how the interpenetration of persons established by Eucharistic reception is a lived experience of the inner life of the Godhead.
Third, as has been pointed out above, the emphasis on God as boyfriend fails to correlate the interpenetration of persons that happens between married persons, which itself is a pale shadow of the communion we are called to with God.
Fourth, because they don’t recognize baptism’s true character, they don’t understand baptism as a nuptial bath that changes us into someone capable of marriage to divinity – the best they can manage is “tea with Jesus.”
Fifth, because they don’t have sacramental theology, they don’t recognize that every single sacrament is an expression of some aspect of our marriage to Christ the Bridegroom.
The Theology of the Body is powerful, true enough, but it is incomplete. It must be combined with covenantal theology, especially its expression in sacramental theology to be fully understood. That, in turn, must be viewed through the lens of perichoresis, for perichoresis is the life we live for all eternity.
Protestants can’t do this because their theology is too shallow. To be honest, most Catholics don’t know enough about the Faith to properly integrate TOB into the Catholic worldview. TOB isn’t new, it is simply a powerful synthesis of ancient doctrines that modern adult Catholics have, for a variety of reasons, never learned.



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Ephrem

posted December 7, 2006 at 11:19 am


I agree with GSK’s last post–God will bring people along. However, the caveat is: as long as they are willing to let go of any devotion when it no longer bears fruit.
I find some of the posts here offensive, much as I found the derision of a friend offensive when he recounted the tea parties that some woman or another had with the Trinity. (I think she set out 4 cups.) All the spiritualities in the Church poke fun at one another; otherwise we wouldn’t have all those jokes about Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits.
But derision crosses the line. Who are you to make fun of anyone’s prayer life, or to put yourself in the place of Christ regarding another’s prayer? There is a big distinction between saying, “Oh, no, that’s not the way I pray, that is not the way God leads me,” and “Oh, no, that kind of praying is abominable to the Lord.”
Finding clear-cut lines in theology is already tough. But finding clear-cut lines in spirituality is very rare. Mostly it is a matter of discernment, and on a personal level.
Interestingly, the same error, that of making the particular discernment into a general rule, cuts both ways. A lot of people take their own personal spirituality (“how God is leading me now”) and try to make it a generally applicable necessity. Sometimes it catches on (like the Charismatic spirituality being incorporated in gestures like hand-holding in many parishes) but normally it’s just annoying.
As always, the rule is: rash judgment is easy and usually wrong, and discernment is extremely difficult.



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Liam

posted December 7, 2006 at 12:05 pm


Reminder: God has no facets. We have astigmatisms aplenty.



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gb

posted December 7, 2006 at 1:00 pm


Ephrem, Your last comment makes me say what I’ve been thinking throughout this thread: Thank God for solid, trained Spiritual Directors that the Church has always offered us. That has been of inestimable value in keeping me from driving off the road (either on the right or the left hand side) for the last 30 years. A good spiritual director not only reflects back to you how God is working in your life (ie., your ‘spirituality’) but also calls you to daily accountability in your walk toward Him. What a blessing.



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Charlotte Allen

posted December 7, 2006 at 2:12 pm


This is amazing. I’m writing my doctoral dissertation on the very sort of bridal imagery this thread is discussion. The notion that Christ is the bridegroom not only of the church but of the human soul long predates the Middle Ages. In the East, Origen introduced this theology in the third century in his commentary on the Song of Songs, and in the West, Tertullian referred to consecrated virgins as brides of Christ, and St. Ambrose, in his fourth-century treatise “De Virginibus” used this image extensively. In the fifth-century Passion of St. Agnes, often attributed to Ambrose, Agnes rejects a human suitor because, as she says, she is already affianced to Christ, who is richer and more handsome and loves her more.
Starting in the eleventh century, there was a proliferation of devotional liturgy using bridal imagery, often in the form of commentaries on the Song of Songs and its erotic language. The profusion of this sort of literature coincided with a growing devotion to the humanity of Christ, especially in his passion, where he was viewed as the perfect and perfectly self-sacrificing lover who had given over his body to ghastly torments for the sake of each individual unworthy human soul. In recompense, the reader was asked to drink Christ’s blood and kiss his wounds in his or her imagination, as Aelred of Rievaulx wrote in a “triple meditation” addressed to his anhoress-sister. Rupert of Deutz wrote of a dream in which he kissed the lips of Christ on the crucifix on the altar in church. Hildegard of Bingen addressed Christ as “lover” (the Latin word she uses is “amator”) and “you who embrace me” (Latin: “amplexator”). “Ancrene Wisse,” a thirteenth-century treatise for anchoresses, developed the allegory of Christ as a lover-knight who wooed his beloved(our soul) by fighting in a tournament with the devil and allowing his shield–his body–to be pierced many times, and that body, the crucifix, now hangs in the church in the way that knights’ shields were often hung in churches.
With all due respect to Mr. Podles, bridal imagery appealed to men as well as women. Both Aelred’s triple meditation and “Ancrene Wisse” were excerpted and revised for male readers as well as females, and both works were highly popular with the laity of both sexes.
As for us moderns, as Lawrence King points out, it nearly impossible for us to enter the mindspace of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is difficult for us to read erotic language allegorically and mystically, and we seem to be stuck in a mire in which we can view sex only in grossly literal and ultimately debased terms. There is now a whole body of “queer studies” literature, for example, speculating that Rupert of Deutz was gay.
Similarly, our language and imaginations seem to be grossly impoverished and literalized, so that we find ourselves referring to Jesus as a “boyfriend” and consequently thinking that we ought to dress up for dates with him and shave our legs. It all reminds me of Flannery O’Connor’s description of the preacher who decided that the most effective way to make Christ’s sacrifice real for his congregation was to haul a live lamb into the church, tie it to a post, and slaughter it during the service.



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Steve Kellmeyer

posted December 7, 2006 at 3:02 pm


It is absolutely the case that people have trouble with allegorical language, even when that language is approved by the Church.
For instance, the Mass is called the Nuptial Feast or the Wedding Feast, the Easter Candle represents Christ and the baptismal font is known as the “womb of the Church.”
So what happens at the Easter Vigil Mass – mother of all feasts, according to the early Church Fathers – involving the Easter Candle and the baptismal font? Even to pose the question scandalizes people precisely because they don’t understand allegory anymore.
Being Catholic is an exercise in lived allegory, lived mysticism, but modern American Catholics have been trained by a Protestant (literal) and pagan culture in such a way that we can’t easily leave our literalisms behind.
We’ve lost the poetry of Catholic life, and we are all poorer for it.



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Old Zhou

posted December 7, 2006 at 4:33 pm


August 17, 2006, Stefanie Hausner of the Washington Times interviewed Connally Gilliam, author of Revelations of a Single Woman: Loving the Life I Didn’t Expect. An excerpt:

Q: How do you live as a single Christian woman and avoid the whole “Jesus is my boyfriend” thing?
A: The whole “Jesus is my boyfriend” thing is gross. Jesus is not your boyfriend. I mean, He is the lover of your soul, but He’s not going to take you out on a date on a Friday night. It does not work that way. If you look at Psalms, you see how David constantly poured out his heart to God, but he was also a person of action.
We pour out our heart, we admit our ache to our friends and then we do what is in our power to do. It doesn’t guarantee that the ache goes away. We grow up to realize the ache is part of life.

Sounds like she has a good alternative.



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Ephrem

posted December 7, 2006 at 7:29 pm


Sounds like she has a good alternative.
For her.
Not for everybody.
gb makes a good point about spiritual direction. But spiritual directors make a lot of mistakes too. St. Teresa of Avila never made a move without the permission of a director–even when a vision or locution told her the opposite. But she would drop spiritual directors like hot potaters when they showed themselves ignorant of the spiritual life.
St. John of the Cross RAILS against spiritual directors who try to force souls into paths that are not their own. God makes unique persons and leads them. We can very easily block His work with our rules.



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April

posted December 7, 2006 at 7:36 pm


I would never use the term “boyfriend” for my spousal relationship with Jesus, but I think we need to look beyond the surface and recognize that maybe, just maybe, Our Lord is drawing this person (persons) into an intimate personal relationship with Him and reaching out to them where they are at..meeting them where they are comfortable…the same way He does with each one of us…..And for what it’s worth, I am going on a date tomorrow night with Jesus my Bridegroom. He is coming to me disguised in the poorest of the poor, a woman who has one of the worst kinds of cancer that is eating away her face and causing unspeakable suffering. The Lord has stripped her to the bone, and there is very little left in her to block Jesus from shining through..in my eyes. It wouldn’t surprise me if these women going on their dates with “Jesus their boyfriend” end up falling so deeply in love with Him that they find Him hidden in the most distressing disguise of the poor before too long, and leave all of us in the dust, scratching our Catholic heads..let’s work at growing in humility when it comes to how Our Lord works with and in each and every individual soul folks…peace!



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Heather

posted December 7, 2006 at 7:43 pm


Many comments have been kind of hard on these women and girls. I think that however misguided their thoughts may be, they are looking for the right thing – God’s love. That’s what I want from a relationship, love and affection. And if someone is going to give you love, God seems like a pretty good source. I don’t think it is the same thing as being in a human-human relationship, but since human-human relationships and love should be built on love of the Lord, maybe this is just practice for them.



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Jeannette

posted December 7, 2006 at 8:59 pm


You have to be Protestant to have Jesus as a boyfriend, because if you’re Catholic and receiving sacraments, and you only think of Jesus as a boyfriend, isn’t that a sort of spiritual fornication? I mean, when we receive Him in the Eucharist, He is entering us in a perfect way that leaves marital life in the dust. You know, dating is when the guy buys you roses and chocolate, but marriage is when he cuts your toenails because you’re too pregnant to see your feet…
(Sorry this is jumbly and crude, but the third trimester is when I get like the guy in “Flowers for Algernon”)



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Lawrence King

posted December 7, 2006 at 9:10 pm


Charlotte wrote:

With all due respect to Mr. Podles, bridal imagery appealed to men as well as women. Both Aelred’s triple meditation and “Ancrene Wisse” were excerpted and revised for male readers as well as females, and both works were highly popular with the laity of both sexes.
As for us moderns, as Lawrence King points out, it nearly impossible for us to enter the mindspace of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is difficult for us to read erotic language allegorically and mystically, ….

That, I think, is Podles’ main point: regardless of how medieval males may have taken this, modern males generally cannot relate.
I know of a gay man, who is a priest and in a major religious order, who said that “I don’t think that straight men can really be Christians. Only a gay man can truly fall in love with Jesus.” This fits with what both of us are saying here: the modern person takes sexual allegories too literally, or (I would suggest, though many would disagree) takes them too seriously as well.
In the middle ages, almost all these people — nuns, St John of the Cross, etc. — were virgins. They hadn’t watched any pornographic videos either. None of us can imagine how little they actually knew of the sex act. If they imagined a sexual allegory, it was in vague terms. You and I cannot hear claims like “This [fill in the blank] is allegorical to Jesus having sexual relations with you” and hear it in a vague ghostly manner: it becomes blatant and real and physical.
Most of us are taken aback or revolted by that idea. But I worry about the fraction who are not — and there are such people in Catholicism today.
So I am actually more comfortable with Christian women saying “Jesus is my boyfriend” than “Jesus is my husband”, because maybe the whole point of that distinction is to keep the relationship short of first base!



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gsk

posted December 7, 2006 at 9:28 pm


So anyone here familiar with Christopher West’s talks on marital love and the Eucharist. It’s all nuptial, but we can only handle so much of it. Consummation is part of the passion, the Mass, and spousal union. Is it possible that there is more Jansenism here than we’re willing to admit…? Yes, the paschal candle and the baptismal waters have been mentioned above; but when women are ready to embrace “bride” they will find a paradigm that includes the “temple as womb” in a marian and motherly icon. It’s coming, folks, if you’re brave enough to see the analogy through.
(I exclude men from this imagery because their vocation is to image the bridegroom, who is called to lay down his life for the bride.)



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Old Zhou

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:33 pm


I knew there was a reason that temperance was a virture. Everything can be taken too far.
gsk, if you want to know about “temple as womb,” I would suggest that you study Hindu (the Garba-griha) architecture and teachings.

A typical Hindu temple consists of the following major elements – an entrance, often with a porch; one or more attached or detached mandapas or halls; the inner sanctum called the garbagriha, literally ‘womb chamber’; and the tower build directly above the garbagriha.

Things which are good can be taken too far, and they are not so good anymore.
I also thought to mention last night that, although in translation, JP2 did say at some times, in certain context, that marriage is “the primordial sacrament,” he more often, in the TOB series, called it “a primordial sacrament.” Pope Benedict XVI has called the Church “the primordial sacrament,” as have many theologians since Lumen Gentium. Rahner and even Pope John Paul II also called Christ, especially in his humanity, the primordial sacrament. There is no dogmatic definition of “the primordial sacrament,” so you might want to lean on that “the” a little less. “Primordial sacrament” is an idea which is not really defined.
Also, you exclude men from your “bride paradigm.” Do you also exclude post-menopausal women? Do you exclude religious women? Do you exclude children? It seems that what is left is a minority of the Church. My own opinion is that you and Mr. West perhaps take your product a bit too far. I would much rather that people who are interested read and discuss (locally) the actual teaching of JP2 in the new translation.



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Old Zhou

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:33 pm


I knew there was a reason that temperance was a virture. Everything can be taken too far.
gsk, if you want to know about “temple as womb,” I would suggest that you study Hindu (the Garba-griha) architecture and teachings.

A typical Hindu temple consists of the following major elements – an entrance, often with a porch; one or more attached or detached mandapas or halls; the inner sanctum called the garbagriha, literally ‘womb chamber’; and the tower build directly above the garbagriha.

Things which are good can be taken too far, and they are not so good anymore.
I also thought to mention last night that, although in translation, JP2 did say at some times, in certain context, that marriage is “the primordial sacrament,” he more often, in the TOB series, called it “a primordial sacrament.” Pope Benedict XVI has called the Church “the primordial sacrament,” as have many theologians since Lumen Gentium. Rahner and even Pope John Paul II also called Christ, especially in his humanity, the primordial sacrament. There is no dogmatic definition of “the primordial sacrament,” so you might want to lean on that “the” a little less. “Primordial sacrament” is an idea which is not really defined.
Also, you exclude men from your “bride paradigm.” Do you also exclude post-menopausal women? Do you exclude religious women? Do you exclude children? It seems that what is left is a minority of the Church. My own opinion is that you and Mr. West perhaps take your product a bit too far. I would much rather that people who are interested read and discuss (locally) the actual teaching of JP2 in the new translation.



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Old Zhou

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:45 pm


Sorry for the double post…the library computer wanted my attention.
One thing that, I feel, has not been stated clearly enough here is that:
– pagan religions, almost universally, incorporate “sacred sex” (whether Hindu womb temple and “erotic dieties,” Buddhist tantra, Daoist sexual exercises, Celtic, etc.)
– God has never revealed, to my knowledge, that His people (Jewish and Christian) should incorporate sex or sexuality or much overt anything in that area in worship, architecture, symbology, etc. It is not that God is a Jansenist. Rather it is that God knows what sex is, and is not, for. It is, in the “sexuality” aspect, for making more people in this age, from Adam until the Kingdom. Then no more. Sexual activity has a very, very small window in time, and a very, very limited purpose in God’s plan. Male and female is eternal, but sexual activity is not. God knows that. It is not part of the timeless, eternal activity known as worship.
Just a few concerns as this thread gets stranger.



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Old Zhou

posted December 7, 2006 at 10:45 pm


Sorry for the double post…the library computer wanted my attention.
One thing that, I feel, has not been stated clearly enough here is that:
– pagan religions, almost universally, incorporate “sacred sex” (whether Hindu womb temple and “erotic dieties,” Buddhist tantra, Daoist sexual exercises, Celtic, etc.)
– God has never revealed, to my knowledge, that His people (Jewish and Christian) should incorporate sex or sexuality or much overt anything in that area in worship, architecture, symbology, etc. It is not that God is a Jansenist. Rather it is that God knows what sex is, and is not, for. It is, in the “sexuality” aspect, for making more people in this age, from Adam until the Kingdom. Then no more. Sexual activity has a very, very small window in time, and a very, very limited purpose in God’s plan. Male and female is eternal, but sexual activity is not. God knows that. It is not part of the timeless, eternal activity known as worship.
Just a few concerns as this thread gets stranger.



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Rosemarie

posted December 8, 2006 at 9:52 am


+J.M.J+
TOB is a wonderful set of reflections on the Christian meaning of the human body. JPII began this theology and it is legitimate for others to continue it. But we must prudently limit our speculations. As I wrote in the upcoming (God willing!) expanded edition of my book, Clean of Heart:
The belief that all sex is evil or sinful is not Christian, but an error characteristic of heterodox groups such as the Manichaeans and Shakers. An opposite error involves the divinization of sex, as is found in certain forms of paganism which either profess that their gods engage in it or that humans can use it to achieve union with the divine. This is also not a Christian belief.
The Catholic Faith avoids either extreme, teaching instead that conjugal relations are a natural good reserved for the marriage bond. Though its misuse is sinful, sex is not innately evil, but part of God’s good creation. On the other hand, although it is an earthly sign of the union of Christ and the Church, the marital act does not divinize us – that is the work of the Sacraments.
The teaching that virginity is superior to marriage also helps to keep sex in its proper perspective. The marital act is but a temporal good, which does not exist in Heaven at all. Everyone in Heaven is celibate, yet they are deprived of nothing because they experience the joy of the Beatific Vision, to which no earthly pleasure can compare. So sex, though an earthly good, is not the greatest good.

This is the boundary within which we must keep our speculations on TOB. The conjugal act is a natural good, not supernatural. It is proper to the temporal realm, not to Heaven. It may vaguely image a spiritual reality, but that does not mean that the spiritual reality corresponds exactly to the temporal image.
Take, for instance, the immersion of the Paschal Candle in the baptismal font. If interpreted as a “marital” symbol (which is one possible interpretation among others) it must not be taken hyper-literally. Our Lord is perpetually celibate; Holy Mother Church is not a flesh-and-blood woman and she also has always been considered a mystical “Virgin.” So yes, the Bride is united with her Bridegroom in a “fruitful” union which produces children in the Sacrament of Baptism, but no literal coitus is involved. The Church (similar to Our Lady) is a “Virgin Mother,” so to speak. Neither our Blessed Lady nor Holy Mother Church have marital relations of any kind with God, yet each is the mystical “Bride of God.”
We are approaching a mystery here of symbols and metaphor, and must be very careful where we tread. The earthly reflects something of the heavenly, but the heavenly transcends the earthly, is higher and greater than it. The symbol should cause us to lift our minds to the reality in heaven without dragging the reality down to earth in the process.
In Jesu et Maria,



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Steve Kellmeyer

posted December 8, 2006 at 10:38 am


Rosemarie does a good job summarizing the difficulty that has been discussed above, but one additional point can be made.
John Paul II points out that when the temporal good of sex is used within its proper bounds, i.e. within the gifts bestowed by Confirmation, especially that of fear of the Lord, “[it] becomes in a certain sense, liturgical.”
The liturgy is wrapped around the sacraments in much the same way that the swaddling clothes were wrapped around the body of the infant Christ, and for much the same reason: by means of the liturgy, God incapacitates Himself so that we may approach Him with holy Fear of the Lord, but without fear for our damnation.
There are two things we can do in the temporal world that even the angels envy us for (not in a sinful way, but in an awed way, of course):
(1) We can suffer, and thereby share in the Divine Passion which Christ used to sanctify all of creation. Angels don’t have bodies, they can’t participate in the Cross as we can.
(2) We can procreate – participate in the life-giving love of God via the co-creation of immortal persons (our children). Angels can’t procreate.
Thus, while the proper use of sex does not provide sanctifying grace, it does have eternal live-giving consequences in an absolutely unique sense, in a way that is very much analogous to the eternal consequences of the liturgy.
Like sanctifying grace, sex affects the composition of heaven – it affects who enters heaven if only because it creates new persons who are intended to be there.



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Steve Kellmeyer

posted December 8, 2006 at 10:54 am


Not to follow up to my own post (too late), but it should also be noted that the above conversation about the consequences of sex (children) is what makes TOB incomplete.
The Theology of the Body, if we limit it to just the Wednesday audiences, says absolutely nothing about the two major ways the body participates in redemption. It says absolutely nothing about pain/suffering and it says almost nothing about children or about parenthood.
Instead, as the Holy Father himself noted, his TOB presentations may easily be called “the theology of sex.” But, since these audiences didn’t discuss the procreative end of sex in any great detail, focusing instead almost exclusively on the unitive aspect, too much attention on the audiences can easily twist the point of the talks.
Far too many people have been using TOB as a form of sex therapy – our Protestant friends are doing a limited form of that with the “Jesus as boyfriend” schtick. TOB speakers themselves – even the best-known speakers on the circuit – often become nothing more than Catholic versions of Dr. Ruth.
That isn’t the point of TOB. Weigel saw TOB as a timebomb, but too many people think that’s because TOB is so new. That is a false understanding. It is a timebomb because TOB is so ancient. We’ve forgotten so much of the Faith that it seems to us to be a new teaching.
In fact, TOB *MUST* be understood within the context of the whole Magisterium. Many people think that only with JP II is the Catholic Church beginning to understand sex – that’s complete balderdash. It is the Catholics of the last couple of generations who are only now being introduced, through JP II’s TOB teaching, to an adult understanding of the Faith. Because of our ignorance, we project our failures onto the Church.
So, don’t mistake TOB for the whole enchilada. It ain’t. TOB was meant to be nothing but a commentary on Humanae Vitae.
That’s all.
And that’s really all it is, which tells you something about the depths of what the Church teaches in her encyclicals and apostolic exhortations. We are well-paid if we understand TOB to be a starting point, not an ending point.



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Rosemarie

posted December 8, 2006 at 12:44 pm


+J.M.J+
>>>Far too many people have been using TOB as a form of sex therapy – our Protestant friends are doing a limited form of that with the “Jesus as boyfriend” schtick. TOB speakers themselves – even the best-known speakers on the circuit – often become nothing more than Catholic versions of Dr. Ruth.
That is a definite danger in the TOB movement (if I can call it that). There is also the danger that too rosy a picture will be painted: “Just learn everything you can about TOB and you will have a fantastic sex life!”
No one can make that promise, especially considering the lingering effects of the Fall. All of us are “broken” in the area of sexuality, and, depending on how much we have indulged ourselves in the past, some of us are *very* broken. Just learning TOB in and of itself won’t heal that brokenness, though it can be a start. The healing is a long process of grace in our lives.
I don’t think any married Catholic couple can come to the point in this life where husband and wife are so healed by grace that they experience conjugal union exactly as God intended it for Adam and Eve. That is as closed to us as the gates of Eden, with a cherub holding a flaming sword barring the door. Perhaps a few may come somewhere near that ideal, but only after *much* prayer and mortification. Sorry if that sounds pessimistic, but IMHO both spouses would have to be experiencing the unitive way before that could happen, and we don’t see such high spiritual advancement too often outside of a monastery.
In Jesu et Maria,



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Old Zhou

posted December 8, 2006 at 1:34 pm


Whew! I was a bit dreading what comments might come back after my late comments yesterday.
Since then, I have spent a little time studying JP2’s use of the phrase “primodial sacrament” (“sacramento primordiale” in Italian), as well as his numerous and varied uses of “sacrament” in TOB. They are, indeed, numerous and varied. In other places, too.
For example, in Mulieris Dignitatem (15 Aug 1988), n. 29 in English reads, “This passage connects the truth about marriage as a primordial sacrament with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:27; 5:1).”
In Italian, there is no “a” or “the,” no article at all. “Primordial sacrament” is just an adjectival expression: “…la verità sul matrimonio come primordiale sacramento con la creazione dell’uomo e della donna…”
And, in Latin: “Veritatem enim consociat de connubio velut sacramento primigenio cum ipsius viri ac mulieris…”
Turning to TOB, the new tranlation/edition by Waldstein has a nifty “concordance” and comprehensive indexing scheme. TOB 19:3-4 (Audience 20 Feb 1980) reads, in Italian first then English:

Un riflesso di questa somiglianza [con Dio] è anche la consapevolezza primordiale del significato sponsale del corpo, pervasa dal mistero dell’innocenza originaria.
4. Così, in questa dimensione, si costituisce un primordiale sacramento, inteso quale segno che trasmette efficacemente nel mondo visibile il mistero invisibile nascosto in Dio dall’eternità. E questo è il mistero della Verità e dell’Amore, il mistero della vita divina, alla quale l’uomo partecipa realmente. Nella storia dell’uomo, è l’innocenza originaria che inizia questa partecipazione ed è anche sorgente della originaria felicità. Il sacramento, come segno visibile, si costituisce con l’uomo, in quanto “corpo”, mediante la sua “visibile” mascolinità e femminilità. Il corpo, infatti, e soltanto esso, è capace di rendere visibile ciò che è invisibile: lo spirituale e il divino. Esso è stato creato per trasferire nella realtà visibile del mondo il mistero nascosto dall’eternità in Dio, e così esserne segno.

A reflection of this likeness [to God] is also the primordial awareness of the nuptial meaning of the body, pervaded by the mystery of original innocence.
Thus, in this dimension, a primordial sacrament is constituted, understood as a sign that transmits effectively in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial. This is the mystery of truth and love, the mystery of divine life, in which man really participates. In the history of man, original innocence begins this participation and it is also a source of original happiness. The sacrament, as a visible sign, is constituted with man, as a body, by means of his visible masculinity and femininity. The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.

Then later reflecting on this audience, JP2 tries to explain more what he means by “primordial sacrament” in the Audience of 6 October 1982, n. 6:

6. In quale modo si verifica in questo contesto la realtà del sacramento, del sacramento primordiale? Nell’analisi del “principio”, di cui è stato citato poco fa un brano, abbiamo detto che “il sacramento, come segno visibile, si costituisce con l’uomo, in quanto «corpo», mediante la sua «visibile» mascolinità e femminilità. Il corpo, infatti, e soltanto esso, è capace di rendere visibile ciò che è invisibile: lo spirituale e il divino. Esso è stato creato per trasferire nella realtà visibile del mondo il mistero nascosto dall’eternità in Dio, e così esserne segno” (L’amore umano nel piano divino, Città del Vaticano 1980, p. 90).
Questo segno ha inoltre una sua efficacia, come ancora dicevo: “L’innocenza originaria collegata all’esperienza del significato sponsale del corpo” fa sì che “l’uomo si sente, nel suo corpo di maschio e di femmina, soggetto di santità” (Ivi., p. 91). “Si sente” e lo è fin dal “principio”. Quella santità conferita originariamente all’uomo da parte del Creatore appartiene alla realtà del “sacramento della creazione”. Le parole della Genesi 2, 24, “l’uomo . . . si unirà a sua moglie e i due saranno una sola carne”, pronunciate sullo sfondo di questa realtà originaria in senso teologico, costituiscono il matrimonio quale parte integrante e, in certo senso, centrale del “sacramento della creazione”. Esse costituiscono – o forse piuttosto confermano semplicemente – il carattere della sua origine. Secondo queste parole, il matrimonio è sacramento in quanto parte integrale e, direi, punto centrale del “sacramento della creazione”. In questo senso è sacramento primordiale.

6. In what way is the reality of the sacrament, of the primordial sacrament, verified in this context? In the analysis of the beginning, from which we quoted a passage a short time ago, we said that “the sacrament, as a visible sign, is constituted by man inasmuch as he is a ‘body,’ through his visible masculinity and femininity. The body, in fact, and only it, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be its sign” (loc. cit., p. 90).
This sign has besides an efficacy of its own, as I also said: “Original innocence linked to the experience of the conjugal significance of the body” has as its effect “that man feels himself, in his body as male and female, the subject of holiness” (Ibid., p. 91). He feels himself such and he is such from the beginning. That holiness which the Creator conferred originally on man pertains to the reality of the “sacrament of creation.” The words of Genesis 2:24, “A man…cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh,” spoken in the context of this original reality in a theological sense, constitute marriage as an integral part and, in a certain sense, a central part of the “sacrament of creation.” They constitute—or perhaps rather they simply confirm—the character of its origin. According to these words, marriage is a sacrament inasmuch as it is an integral part and, I would say, the central point of “the sacrament of creation.” In this sense it is the primordial sacrament.

Notice that in the last sentence in the Italian origninal, there is no “the” (“il”). Again, the English translation introduces a definitie article which is absent in the original. “Primordial sacrament” should be understood as a theolgocial idea, and one should go easy on saying too strongly, without adequate context of the whole theology of Sacraments, and especially the context of JPs “Sacrament of Creation,” that “Marriage is THE primordial sacrament.”
It just isn’t so, in any sort of absolute, context-free sense.
If anything, I would say that you could build a stronger case for saying, based on JP2’s theological reflections here, that Creation is THE primordial sacrament, since it is what makes visible the invisible realities of God’s love and truth, whether the incarnated Christ (as Rahner), or the Church (as many after LG), or marriage in it’s work of perpetuating human creation and even more representing God’s love and desire for communion with man in creating man male and female, incomplete in himself.
In the TOB materials, JP2 introduces a number of “sacraments”:
– The sacrament of creation (eg. 6 Oct 1982)
– The primordial sacrament (marriage in th state of original innocence) (eg. 20 Feb 1980)
– The sacrament of the world (eg. 20 Feb 1980)
– The sacrament of man (eg. 15 Dec 1982)
– The sacrament of man in the world (eg. 15 Dec 1982)
– The sacrament of man and the world (eg. 15 Dec 1982)
– The sacrament of redemption (the whoe efficacious sign through which Christ redeems us, including his atoning self-gift and the seven sacraments of the Church; Marriage plays a key role in within this comprehensive sacrament) (eg. 13 Oct 1982)
– The sacrament of the Church (eg. 2 Apr 1980)
These “sacraments” of JP2 theological reflections should be understood as just that: reflections of sacramental theology. They should not be taken out of their context, nor should these “sacraments” be placed in contrast with or used to evaluate the “Seven Sacraments of the Church.”
And, yes, TOB says very little, actually, about children. But a lot about continence in married life, and in eternity!



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gsk

posted December 8, 2006 at 3:12 pm


Old Zhou — I must be older than you and my eyeballs are beginning to glaze over. You said I reduced “the bride” to a very small number of women. I use the paradigm of the Church for women specifically because it includes every woman of EVERY time and place. (Even other cultures who by grace get shards of the nuptial theme.) The Church is virgin, bride, and mother — and each is a spiritual and physical metaphor. Thus the barren woman, the crone, and the divorcee will all fit, for example using the themes in Jesus’ parables, created wisdom, and the desecrated or abandoned temple among a plethora of other images. The bride finds herself fertile when wedded to the seed/semen/word and in that way gives life to the world and children to the Father.
You said: “Sexual activity has a very, very small window in time, and a very, very limited purpose in God’s plan. Male and female is eternal, but sexual activity is not.” Actually it’s the opposite; there is no male or female in heaven, but there IS a wedding feast. That’s what JP2 wanted us to ponder.
Steve Kellemeyer said TOB is a starting point, not an ending point. Perhaps, but I think its transcendence will shock us all when we’re ready to hear it. Earthiness has never been a strong suit in Calvinist America, but it has more of a place than we’ll imagine.



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Steve Kellmeyer

posted December 8, 2006 at 3:50 pm


“You said: “Sexual activity has a very, very small window in time, and a very, very limited purpose in God’s plan. Male and female is eternal, but sexual activity is not.” Actually it’s the opposite; there is no male or female in heaven, but there IS a wedding feast. That’s what JP2 wanted us to ponder.GSK has hit on an important distinction.”
There are two misconceptions above, and both need to be ironed out. Something may have a “very, very small window in time” but that has no bearing on its importance. Christ’s crucifixion and death took only three hours out of several millennia, but it is the most important three hours in all those millennia.
Similarly, the sexual act and its consummation is a very small part of marriage in terms of time, but its consequences on the marriage are enormous, as anyone who has raised children knows. So, I don’t think we can say that sex has a very limited purpose in God’s plan, given that sex is how heaven gets populated.
Further, we are most definitely male and female in heaven and for all eternity. True, Matthew tells us that we are not given or received in marriage, but nowhere does Scripture deny our eternal sexual identities.
The Son of God incarnated as man – He is most certainly not coming back as woman. We get our bodies back at the Last Judgement with every external and internal organ present and accounted for.
As for the transcendence of TOB shocking us in the final analysis, I am sure that is true.
But what is shocking now is the fact that it has to be done. I cannot recall a time in the Church when a teaching concerning a human act has ever been presented without reference to its end(s), yet that is precisely what JPII did with TOB. He presented a teaching on sexuality without discussing its end/purpose – children.
That truncation is CRUCIALLY important to understanding the teaching, and it is an omission almost no one has begun to address.
Why did he give us a teaching about the body which is, in the last analysis, not concerned with two of the most important redemptive aspects of the body: suffering and procreation
Put another way, he left out participation in spiritual life-giving (the use of suffering), participation in corporal life transmission and participation in imaging God, both through Himself as source of life and Himself as source of Personhood? Despite the purported “eschatological man” discussion, he actually left out most of the eschatology involving the body.
In short, he gave us a teaching based on instrumental use, not on formal end. For a philosopher, that’s an incredible thing to do. I’ve only seen a professional philosopher do this once, and he was talking to someone who simply wasn’t bright enough or educated enough to grasp any more.
Thus, I would argue it is a very strong (albeit not very positive) comment on the state of the Faith among the laity.



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Old Zhou

posted December 8, 2006 at 3:53 pm


Dear gsk,
I don’t want to go on an on.
But let us take one point in your last comment:
“Actually it’s the opposite; there is no male or female in heaven, but there IS a wedding feast. That’s what JP2 wanted us to ponder.”
I quote at length from JP2’s Audience of December 3, 1981, also known as TOB 66 in the new edition:

1. “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mk 12:25). These words have a key meaning for the theology of the body. …. All three synoptic Gospels report the same statement, except that Luke’s version is different in some details from that of Matthew and Mark. Essential for them all is the fact that, in the future resurrection, human beings, after having reacquired their bodies in the fullness of the perfection characteristic of the image and likeness of God—after having reacquired them in their masculinity and femininity—”neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Luke expresses the same idea in chapter 20:34-35, in the following words: “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
Definitive fulfilment of mankind
2. As can be seen from these words, marriage, that union in which, according to Genesis, “A man cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (2:24)—the union characteristic of man right from the beginning—belongs exclusively to this age. Marriage and procreation do not constitute, on the other hand, the eschatological future of man. In the resurrection they lose, so to speak, their raison d’être. “That age,” of which Luke spoke (20:35), means the definitive fulfillment of mankind. It is the quantitative closing of that circle of beings, who were created in the image and likeness of God, in order that, multiplying through the conjugal “unity in the body” of men and women, they might subdue the earth. ….
Renewed in resurrection
4. The words, “They neither marry nor are given in marriage” seem to affirm at the same time that human bodies, recovered and at the same time renewed in the resurrection, will keep their masculine or feminine peculiarity. The sense of being a male or a female in the body will be constituted and understood in that age in a different way from what it had been from the beginning, and then in the whole dimension of earthly existence. The words of Genesis: “A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (2:24), constituted right from the beginning that condition and relationship of masculinity and femininity, extended also to the body, which must rightly be defined as conjugal and at the same time as procreative and generative. It is connected with the blessing of fertility, pronounced by God (Elohim) when he created man “male and female” (Gn 1:27). The words Christ spoke about the resurrection enable us to deduce that the dimension of masculinity and femininity—that is, being male and female in the body—will again be constituted together with the resurrection of the body in “that age.”

gsk, how can you say, “Actually it’s the opposite; there is no male or female in heaven, but there IS a wedding feast. That’s what JP2 wanted us to ponder.” ??



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Old Zhou

posted December 8, 2006 at 4:07 pm


A bit more, from TOB 69 (Audience 13 Jan 1982):

…Christ said: “They neither marry nor are given in marriage,” but he did not state that this man of the future world will no longer be male and female as he was from the beginning. It is clear therefore that, as regards the body, the meaning of being male or female in the future world must be sought outside marriage and procreation, but there is no reason to seek it outside that which (independently of the blessing of procreation) derives from the mystery of creation and which subsequently forms also the deepest structure of man’s history on earth, since this history has been deeply penetrated by the mystery of redemption.

However, the original and fundamental significance of being a body, as well as being, by reason of the body, male and female—that is precisely that nuptial significance—is united with the fact that man is created as a person and called to a life in communione personarum. Marriage and procreation in itself do not determine definitively the original and fundamental meaning of being a body or of being, as a body, male and female. Marriage and procreation merely give a concrete reality to that meaning in the dimensions of history.
The resurrection indicates the end of the historical dimension. The words, “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mk 12:25), express univocally not only the meaning which the human body will not have in the future world. But they enable us also to deduce that the nuptial meaning of the body in the resurrection to the future life will correspond perfectly both to the fact that man, as a male-female, is a person created in the “image and likeness of God,” and to the fact that this image is realized in the communion of persons. That nuptial meaning of being a body will be realized, therefore, as a meaning that is perfectly personal and communitarian at the same time.
5. Speaking of the body glorified through the resurrection to the future life, we have in mind man, male-female, in all the truth of his humanity: man who, together with the eschatological experience of the living God (the face to face vision), will experience precisely this meaning of his own body.



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gsk

posted December 8, 2006 at 5:51 pm


Zhou the Younger: I’ll blame it on the eyes, and the depleted grey matter. I was referencing “no male, no female, no slave or free…” in a completely different context. My bad. Yes, Steve, we’ll have our bodies complete with appropriate organs and genitalia. Mary will be Queen, Christ the King. And there will be a consummation beyond all reckoning.
All of this seems to have taken us light years from our initial point: that some protestants seem to have stumbled on an infantile understanding of TOB. They were roundly trounced by their more sophisticated Catholic brethren. I came to their defense. That’s my take away: give them a break — and pray to end the scandal of disunity in the Mystical Body of Christ. Pax.



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avidkayaker

posted December 10, 2006 at 7:22 pm


Two points:
Point One:
TOB certainly connects the body to both children and suffering. It makes much mention of procreation and was written in defense of Humanae Vitae and thus assumes the full teaching of that document. The consequences of the fall are clearly stated and such is the source of all suffering. Pope John Paul II wrote a full encyclical (Salvifici Doloris) about suffering and perhaps thought he didn’t need to do it again.
Point Two:
Followers of this strand might want to ponder not only the pervasive bridegroom/bridal imagery in scripture and in the holiest of spiritual writers but also the imagery of spiritual childhood, of sitting on one’s mother’s lap as a weaned child as a image for our proper relationship to God. Small children can have tea parties with the Trinity and call Jesus their boyfriend. Sometimes great spiritual advancement is indistinguishable from childlikeness and only God knows if one has descended into childishness rather than childlikeness. But even childishness may be preferable to haughtiness. Advancement in the spiritual life means growing smaller and more childlike. And then maybe giving our daddy and our boyfriend a big old smacker on the lips. Christ came as a babe to be snuggled and kissed and bathed and we are certainly invited imaginatively at least to enter into that relationship with him and really all other conceivable human relationships. Meditating on the Song of Songs eliminates the possibility of any puritanicalness in the spiritual life, doesn’t it?
This has been a great discussion to read. I thank all who have posted such fantastic comments.



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xiaonanok

posted March 10, 2007 at 1:56 am


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Brenda

posted March 11, 2007 at 8:05 am


I am a 43 year old Catholic woman who literally “fell in love” with Jesus at 33 years of age, and at this time made a private vow of perfect chastity to Him, the love of my life. I gave up dating at this time, because it wasn’t fair to the man to dream of Jesus when I was on a date with him. I have never been unfaithful to Jesus and my exclusive love for Him has enabled me to aspire to please Him by the way I live my life. Jesus is on my mind 24/7, and this is the greatest “Grace” a woman, or a man for that matter, can have. I think that the Evangelical world is lacking in understanding the importance of the concept of “Jesus as Bridegroom.” There is nothing sensual about this commitment, but it does enable the “lover of Jesus” to aspire to be like Him, please Him in all things, and “transcend” the superficiality of our culture with regard to “fashion” and caring what others think, that is, to rise above “human respect.” Jesus has been drawing women and men to Himself since His lifetime and after His death and resurrection, to love Him exclusively, and all one needs to do is study the history of the Church and the lives of the Saints to see the reality of this exclusive “spousal” love for Jesus. There were even some married woman saints who were forced into their marriages when earlier on they set their hearts on loving Jesus exclusively as nuns or tertiaries, and some of them were successful in convincing their husbands to live as brother and sister. St. Catherine of Genoa comes to mind here. So, there is no denying that this spousal love for Jesus Christ has borne much spritual fruit in the lives of those who have embraced Him as their Spouse and renounced earthly love for Him, because no moral man could compare with Him, who is the All-Beautiful.



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Mary

posted March 22, 2007 at 5:58 am


I have read some of this. I am one who has become as Shulamite before the Lord. Yes i can say it is very steamy in PRIVATE. I am almost never moved upon in PUBLIC in this way.
There is a season of betrothing which we might consider dating in North American Culture.
But in God concept to accept the betrothal is first to accept Him who chose you and then second to accept His kids… which would be you and me….
I have walked in this for a little more than 4 years now. He is many things and from this His inimate heart should be birthed.
It is everso much more than sex.
There needs to be biblical baance to emotional experience as defined BY GOD ALONE.



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Rosemarie

posted June 22, 2013 at 6:53 pm


+J.M.J+

Since this combox allows me to post, I would like to make a retraction of something I posted here on December 8, 2006 at 9:52 am. I wrote the following:

“Take, for instance, the immersion of the Paschal Candle in the baptismal font. If interpreted as a “marital” symbol (which is one possible interpretation among others) it must not be taken hyper-literally.”

At the time I believed that was a valid interpretation of the immersion of the Paschal Candle in the baptismal font. I no longer believe that is the case, thanks to facts to the contrary that were brought forward by Dawn Eden a few years ago. Thank you.



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