Pope John Paul II on Elevating Burdens (HFF)

The Holy Father this Friday presents us with a reflection on morality. Before I introduce our quote, I would like to offer a brief ground work for understanding him.

Pope John Paul II has a specifically “Johannine” view of morality and burdens in the Christian life. He sees the burdens we face, specifically the burden of morality as something tthat can elevate.

He shares what I have termed a “Johannine” view of morality because it is a view shaped by understanding our own burden as analogical to the cross of Christ in the gospel of John. John chapter 3:1-21 talks about how Jesus must be “lifted up” like the image of the serpent in the desert.

Pope John Paul II sees the moral burden as a glorification. Our cross is something that brings us closer to God when we properly engage this burden.

We have already said that the Christian is a person whose place is beside Christ, this person therefore takes on the whole burden of morality–for morality is a burden, as well as being an instrument of elevation. The person who wants to be with Christ must take on his shoulders the whole burden of morality, which will be the instrument of his elevation.

What beautiful words, full of challenge, and promise and truth. They come to us from the book The Way to Christ by the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, pulished in 1984 by Harper One. Let’s continue to expound the wisdom of our holy father among the saints, John Paul II.

The Christian belongs with Christ. They take on the moral burden for His sake, and for their own. He elevates them through the disciplines of moral formation according to the gospel.

Morality, Christian morality is the instrument of our elevation precisely because it is a burden. If we are to fight a good fight at all, it seems to me necessary that there should be a fight in the first place.

If your faith is flagging, be of good courage. To continue to choose the good that is Christ Himself, this is your elevation. To be as Christ in the world is your glory. To the single mothers, to continue to mother your children faithfully and raise them well, this is your great burden, but to do it faithfully is to experience the life which Our Lord Jesus called abundant.

To those who are fraught with various trying temptations, you have my prayers. Yet, know this: to continue to resist and forsake the devil is to receive the glory which Christ intends for you. The more you resist these various temptations faithfully, the more you receive the glory God intends for you.

To bear the burdens which you face is your formation in glory. This is the great paschal mystery, that Christ reshapes our suffering into the firstfruits of perfection.

Just as an infant must pass through a birth canal to come to life, so too this life is in labor, all creation is in labor, working and waiting for the final resurrection of the sons and daughters of God. To labor rightly is to give birth to the firstfruits of this final manifestation. To labor is to be elevated. Therefore let us take to our work with strengths renewed, and hearts attentive to our formation in glory.

Let us bear these burdens which we face that we may be elevated with Him also. Let us bear the elevating burden, with strength, and with the courage of those who know that this is the firstfruits of being in God for He elevates us in this way.


Pope John Paul II on Nature and Worship(HFF)

The next two Holy Father Friday posts will be on ecology and theology. I love the Creation stories, and I love everything about

Although one might think that all created life should be a hymn of praise to the Creator, it is more correct to maintain that the human creature has the primary role in this chorus of praise. Through the human person, spokesperson for all creation, all living things praise the Lord. Our breath of life that also presupposes self-knowledge, awareness, and freedom becomes the song and prayer of the whole of life that vibrates in the universe.

-Pope John Paul II
GENERAL AUDIENCE , Wednesday 9 January 2002

This is Christian ecology as it should be done, not deifying the creation, nor man, but returning man to dominion over nature as is fitting of the creature. Pope John Paul II’s theology of nature in this selection is one that works with man, as is stated in the creation account of the Genesis. It is through humanity that all nature praises the Lord, and through the work of humanity that all nature vibrates with the power of liturgy. It is the human that turns nature from Creation into Liturgy.

It is the faith of man, and his reason through which the universe utters its songs of praise. It is through our breath, our song, and our life that all creation expresses itself. So too, just as the creation does this for humanity, so the human does through Christ. He is the song of worship through which we find meaning, purpose direction and life. Just as we find all this in Him, so too he bestows it on us, that we might be the royal priesthood, bearing the image before and for all Creation.

A Reflection on Sexual Liberty(HFF)

I have decided that I am not lazy, just busy, and thus have posted another personal reading and reflection on John Paul II from my other blog here. I hope you are enjoying Holy Father Friday. Thanks for reading and the dialogue. Let’s get to it, today’s post is good.

It is an illusion to think we can build a true culture of human life if we do not . . . accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and their close inter-connection.

John Paul II, The Gospel of Life (n. 97).

Our generation is one plagued with sexual anarchy, and the rejection of guilt. Ultimately ours is a generation that refuses confession, and as such is a culture that destroys itself through the anarchy inherent in the absence of reconciliation. It is riddled with questions and contradictions too great to be reconciled, and yet it terms itself free. The only thing it is free from is chastity, and in so doing, it is free for nothing at all. Pope John Paul II sees this and seeks to Liberate us from the bonds of unchastity and the bonds of sexual depravity that modernity has championed as true freedom.

All the “liberties” that modern culture wants to make sexually charged are simply chains by other names. The sexual freedom of our culture is freedom for myself, and so it is a freedom that is bound to every passing whim, and is not truly a freedom at all. The Pope seeing this proposed to undertake a series of teachings to answer some of life’s most pressing questions about sex, existence, and what it means to be human.

The Theology of the Body is John Paul’s answer to sexual anarchy and the dissolution of Humanity in the wake of a sexual revolution that like all the revolutions of the 20th Century have had far more detrimental effects than positive ones. Since the lectures began, they have cultivated profound respect and a renewed imagination in the realm of sexual ethics and sexual polity.

In the lectures JPII takes a positive interpretation of the Church’s sexual teachings and frames them in terms of the ultimate question: “How shall I be free to love my neighbor?” The answer he proposes is that Love, true Love, requires work, sacrifice and holiness and here’s why: “Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love,  fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”(Gaudium et Spes 22). The Holy Father’s solution is that Christ is the eternal mediator, between man and man, and between man and God. He proposes that especially sexuality is consecrated by the power of the gospel, and none shall be truly free apart from it.

In short, the heart of the lectures is a sexual salvation open for all through either celibacy or marriage and the freedom that these two bring to the human person. This salvation happens by redeeming sexuality from the throes of false liberty that is liberty from everything and sees sexuality as something that is free for the other and for The Triune Lord.

Pope John Paul II merely follows the advice of Jesus and shapes his lecture as such in keeping with the greatest commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your heart and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

He insists that love is something that will place demands on us and not be “free for the taking” because and precisely because if it is to be love at all, it must have its origin in the Triune Love itself, and nowhere else. JPII also says “Only the chaste man and chaste woman are capable of true love.” Chastity is not just a bygone of an outdated era, it is the only way in which the human person engages love at all.

A sexuality that cannot keep these commands cannot be free at all. As Pope John Paul II said “Real love is demanding, I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God”

Without a love that works, a love that creates space for the other, we cannot truly love at all. For love must echo the loving act of God’s creation.

Liberation and the sexual freedom that the Holy Father teaches will come by obeying the Lord’s Commandments, which are what is natural to us, they are what our bodies are intended for. They are very difficult at the start but then they become more “natural” through the process of the disciplines and obedience. As with all life, there is a process of growth ad recognition, and just as bodies mature, so should their disciplines.

When we love God and neighbor in the proper language with our bodies and holy intent, then we will form the habit to be disciples, most especially with our bodies. We shall then follow and in turn spread His glorious light. We will be able to “Think without thinking” and love without legalism. This is the heart of the Theology of the Body, a revolution that frees us for our neighbor and in so doing, truly gives us ourselves.

Ultimately the path to sexual freedom must believe the following: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” –Pope John Paul II

The Second Account of Creation (Part Two)

This week, we’re going to focus in depth on what we looked at last week, namely the way in which the text of Genesis 2-3 is psychological, and what type of psychology it entails. This week we will work through the rest of the third lecture. Let’s get to it.

To sum up last week: Genesis has a very specific vision of humanity, and psychology. It is deep in a way that differs from the depth offered by the first chapter which establishes how we should read the psychological and subjective side of the second and third chapters.

First Human Being

It is significant that in his reply to the Pharisees, in which he appealed to the “beginning,” Christ indicated first of all the creation of man by referring to Genesis 1:27: “The Creator from the beginning created them male and female.” Only afterward did he quote the text of Genesis 2:24.” The Holy Father will open this section into a more in depth study of the words of Genesis, by pointing out, in so terse but so profound a statement what we’re supposed to be getting here. Christ indicated that the beginning presupposes the indissolubility of marriage because of the Image of God in which man and woman are created. At least, this is what I’m gathering from this statement. Pope John Paul II goes on “The words which directly describe the unity and indissolubility of marriage are found in the immediate context of the second account of creation.” The unity and indissolubility of marriage are something that belong to the subjective, or revealed commentary on the first chapter’s theological objectivity. So we may draw the conclusion that the unity and indissoluble nature of marriage is a reality given that it flows from the image of God, and describes and outlines subjectively and psychologically the nature of marriage immediately following the creation account where a distinctive feature is the creation of woman as separate from man.

A further point the Holy Father makes will follow from this next quote, “It is also significant that in referring to Genesis 2:24, Christ not only linked the “beginning” with the mystery of creation, but also led us, one might say, to the limit of man’s primitive innocence and of original sin.” This is a bit dense, but don’t let it slip by you. In referring to Genesis 2:24 Jesus is explicitly connecting Creation with nuptiality; he is linking marriage to original innocence and insisting as it were, that marriage is something which crosses back over the boundary established by original sin. The Holy Father insists that this is the case with his interpretation of the teachings of Christ. I could not agree more. That this is the case seems explicit not only as conjecture, but through the careful exegesis of the Holy Father we see that this seems to be not only plausible, but compelling.

Yet, how is it that Christ can insist that we act as though we are not tainted by original sin?

It is my desire that we not get ahead of ourselves here, but to say the least, it is because He Himself is the one who carries the redemptive cross. It is because His sacrifice makes possible our freedom for one another. It is His atoning work which liberates us from sin and establishes us in the true freedom, the freedom for one another.

The next section focuses on Genesis 3 and is titled The Tree of Knowledge.

The Holy Father wishes to delineate between the situations of original sin and original innocence and does so with the following statement, “The tree of knowledge of good and evil is the line of demarcation between the two original situations which Genesis speaks of.” These two situations are clear from the text. It is established that there is a psychological shift in the text before and after the encounter with the tree. Let’s look at an example:

The text says: “. “And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed” (Gn 2:25).” Shame belongs to the after, the new situation demarcated by the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. This knowledge will immensely alter the situation that was established in verse 2.25. Shame is part of the new situation in which the humans find themselves within the sphere of the knowledge of good and evil.

Pope John Paul II says:

The first situation was that of original innocence, in which man (male and female) was, as it were, outside the sphere of the knowledge of good and evil, until the moment when he transgressed the Creator’s prohibition and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The second situation, however, was that in which man, after having disobeyed the Creator’s command at the prompting of the evil spirit, symbolized by the serpent, found himself, in a certain way, within the sphere of the knowledge of good and evil.

This paragraph is almost self-explanatory. I merely wish to draw out the Holy Father’s strong emphasis on the psychological and anthropological shift present in the text itself. Even though the Genesis 2 text is concise it is theologically and psychologically profound and offers much to ponder for the reader, and the systematic theologian. “Systematic theology will discern in these two antithetical situations two different states of human nature: the state of integral nature and the state of fallen nature.” Pope John Paul II has basically established that there are two states of being, the fallen nature which is opposed to the “integral nature” as he terms it. I would suppose he uses this term to specifically denote wholeness, and a sense of unity in the human creature which has been flawed since the fall.

[Jesus Christ] did not approve what Moses had permitted “for their hardness of heart.” He appealed to the words of the first divine regulation, which in this text is expressly linked to man’s state of original innocence. This means that this regulation has not lost its force, even though man has lost his primitive innocence.

The Holy Father here ushers in a conclusion we reached a while back, both with Christopher West and with our preliminary conclusions; Christ issues a command that is binding, decisive, and normative. His command appeals to the most ancient revelation about man and woman and from this He draws his teachings. “Christ’s reply is decisive and unequivocal. Therefore, we must draw from it the normative conclusions which have an essential significance not only for ethics, but especially for the theology of man and for the theology of the body.” The Holy Father concludes the post by informing us that our thoughts on the body, and on marriage are revealed, and they are revealed by the normative conclusions established by Christ in and through these teachings. We are required as it were to bridge the gap between original integrity and where we find ourselves through the Christ Himself Who is the bridge to this return.

Join us next week for the Fourth lecture, and thanks for reading.

The Second Account of Creation: The Subjective Definition of Man

This week we begin the third lecture in the Theology of the Body series. It will focus on the second account of Creation, which the Holy Father calls “Subjective” and “Psychological.” To reiterate, this is not to say it is untrue, but rather that it is concerned with the experiences of Adam and Eve.

The Holy Father begins delineating these two because he would like us to join him in seeing that the First chapter establishes truths whose conclusions we may not violate by conjecture through reading the second chapter or otherwise. As with all good theology, he is establishing foundational groundwork, by which we may come to discern not only his line of thought, but to think along the same lines through careful attention to his method.

Pope John Paul II’s program is to show that the second chapter of Genesis is the revealed experiences of what is established in the first chapter. Therefore, he establishes the first chapter as objective, a guiding principle, a foundational lens, and the second as that from which we shall derive the experiences of Adam and Eve and therefore ascertain the “values” which we previously discussed when we talked about the second lecture. In so doing he has established a “control” or an axiom, a foundational principle or set of principles by which he can guide our subjective reading of the texts.

By reading in this way, he has established a set of rules by which we cannot misinterpret wildly the texts, or miss the point by veering off into miscellaneous details which are not consequential the points I raised previously which I will repeat here for the sake of clarity as we move on.

1) Man is a creature, His universe is established by God

2) Man is created in the Image of this God

3) Male and female both share in the divine image

4) This Divine Image is somehow irreducible from the maleness and femaleness it is established in

These I think are the 4 main points of the Holy Father’s reading of the text, which of course he will add detail to later on. I think these four are sufficient.

Anyways, let’s move along and see how the Holy Father lets the “objective” first chapter guide his reading of the “subjective” second chapter.

The Holy father has established an objective reading, the 4 “values” I listed above which we are to carry as we read the second chapter of Genesis. Yet, he will expound on these values through their subjective appropriation in the experiences in the lives of Adam and Eve.

The Holy Father admits that experience is subjective, meaning there’s no codified universally binding manner in which we experience the goods and norms of Creation. Yet, as we internalize these in a subjective manner, these are still very good, and apply universally and appeal to our experience in a general objective sense. The values are true, yet their truth is apprehended experientially, “subjectively” if you will.

The Holy Father has a phrase (Typical profundity) which has, to be honest, left me a bit confused. I will present it here, and we will work through it. “…we should note that the entire text, in formulating the truth about man, amazes us with its typical profundity, different from that of the first chapter of Genesis.” (To be honest, this whole section left me feeling in over my head, so i talked to some Catholic friends who are in university studying the TOB and also emailed Michael Waldstein who translated the Theology of the Body recently under the title: Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body.) I got some answers later on on this particular phrase, as I kept reading, and rereading, but it took a while to get it to sink in.

Let’s do a short aside, as I wait in real-time for some answers. I guess it’s nice to finally hit a wall. I mean, I don’t suppose to know of master everything in the first reading, but I find myself genuinely stumped about how to appropriate this phrase. It’s humbling, and I appreciate that, because it reminds me that the transformative process is a joy both in visible growth and a trial in stretching oneself.

(20 minutes of real time later…)

I suppose after re-reading for about 20 minutes in real-time I now have an answer which satisfies me. It might not be right, but if that’s the case I will update later. I suppose the “typical profundity” which the Holy Father lays before us means the distinctive type of profundity. I believe he means it amazes us with how profound it is, and what type of profundity it is. I suppose this would make sense because of what follows and also because of the Holy Father’s intention to highlight what he as termed the Psychological aspect of the text.

(About one hour real-time later…)

Dr. Michael Waldstein replied later the evening this was written with: “He is saying that Genesis 2-3 has a different kind of depth than Genesis 1. He does not want to anticipate what the distinctive depth is, but he explains it later.” (emphasis added, because I’m happy I was right. Yes, it may seem totally logical to some of you; it hit me like a wall, and forced me to slow down.) I liked it though, caused me to pay more attention.

(rewind to about 20 minutes real time later…)

Pope John Paul II says “It can be said that it is a profundity that is of a nature particularly subjective, and therefore, in a certain sense, psychological.” The reason he draws on the word psychological here is to establish a framework through which we engage the actual experiences of Adam and Eve as recorded by the text. Further, the text does really profoundly establish a sort of psychological framework for itself, by entering into the intimate details of the creation of the man and the woman. This text fills in the gaps on a personal level. The Holy Father says, “The second chapter of Genesis constitutes, in a certain manner, the most ancient description and record of man’s self-knowledge.” To be certain, the Pope is aware that the intent of the text is not a comprehensive psychology of man, but he clarifies this in the blockquote which will end our examination of this section:

A reflection in depth on this text—through the whole archaic form of the narrative, which manifests its primitive mythical character(1)—provides us in nucleo with nearly all the elements of the analysis of man, to which modern, and especially contemporary philosophical anthropology is sensitive. It could be said that Genesis 2 presents the creation of man especially in its subjective aspect. Comparing both accounts, we conclude that this subjectivity corresponds to the objective reality of man created “in the image of God.”

Pope John Paul II is saying that this second chapter of Genesis provides us with a core understanding of the elements which form a psychology. It provides us with a certain psychological and philosophical understanding of what humanity is. It provides us with a grasp at the mind and soul of the humans and their interactions. This will presently develop into the third chapter which is the first testimony of human conscience. The Holy Father concludes affirming that this second chapter corresponds as in-depth revelation to what has come before in the first chapter.

Next week we will focus on what Waldstein has clued us in on for the following post, “[The distinctive depth provided in Genesis 2-3] is the focus on the experience of the body,” and particularly shame.

The Biblical Account of Creation Analysed (Part Three)

Let’s continue our discussion on the second address by the Holy Father.

Theological character

Last week we outlined what it might mean that the Holy Father says that the first account is of “especially of a theological character“. We said that it is such because it define man away from the world and sets him apart. “Already in the light of the first phrases of the Bible, man cannot be either understood or explained completely in terms of categories taken from the “world,” that is, from the visible complex of bodies.” Man is an embodied creature like all the others, yet something unique is happening in the creation of man. The Holy Father says that Genesis 1:27 observes the essential point in the following manner, God created man in his image…male and female he created them.” The Holy Father says that the account is objective, in that it does not explain the subjective experiences of the man or the woman. It is solely establishing an interpretative framework. It only establishes the Truth, the reality itself that “God created man in his image…male and female he created them.” It establishes the Truths which we will be working with the “foundations,” if you will. This foundation is established with 4 key points.

1) Man is a creature, His universe is established by God

2) Man is created in the Image of this God

3) Male and female both share in the divine image

4)This Divine Image is somehow irreducible from the maleness and femaleness it is established in

The Holy Father closes this section saying the following about the first creation account: It contains only the objective facts and defines the objective reality, both when it speaks of man’s creation, male and female, in the image of God, and when it adds a little later the words of the first blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth; subdue it and have dominion over it” (Gn 1:28). I think what we must carry with us from the words of blessing, is that they are spoken to male and female, they are spoken to the ones who share the image in their male and femaleness. This blessing is connected both to the divine image and to the corporeality of male and female. Anyways, we covered a lot of this last week conceptually. Let’s move on.

Inspiration for thinkers

The Holy Father proceed to unpack what he calls the “metaphysical content” of the first creation account in this section. He urges us not to forget that “…this text of Genesis has become the source of the most profound inspirations for thinkers who have sought to understand “being” and “existence.” He also reminds us that when we look for what it means to be and what it means to exist perhaps the only other equally compelling chapter in all of the Bible is Exodus chapter 3. The Holy Father says that man is defined in the dimensions of being and existence, or in short “He is defined in a way that is more metaphysical than physical.” What the Holy Father is proceeding to do is establish a metaphysical groundwork for the future of the lectures.

The next paragraph we will block-quote and work through intricately. It’s really dense and has lots of great stuff to offer us.

To this mystery of his creation, (“In the image of God he created him”), corresponds the perspective of procreation, (“Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth”), of that becoming in the world and in time, of that fieri which is necessarily bound up with the metaphysical situation of creation: of contingent being (contingens). Precisely in this metaphysical context of the description of Genesis 1, it is necessary to understand the entity of the good, namely, the aspect of value. Indeed, this aspect appears in the cycle of nearly all the days of creation and reaches its culmination after the creation of man: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gn 1:31). For this reason it can be said with certainty that the first chapter of Genesis has established an unassailable point of reference and a solid basis for a metaphysic and also for an anthropology and an ethic, according to whichens et bonum convertuntur (being and the good are convertible). Undoubtedly, all this also has a significance for theology, and especially for the theology of the body.

We are just going to go through line by line.

The Holy Father says that being created in the divine image corresponds with the “perspective of procreation.” He means by this that the divine image is a historical reality. It is a becoming which takes place in the world of time and space. It is a begetting, in a sense. The word fieri means to become or to be made. He is saying that our being made corresponds with a being begotten by God. In other words, it is a metaphysical reality which man is born into. He is born as a child, bound up metaphysically with God the Father in the beginning. We are created to be contingent beings. For those of you who did not jump at reading that last sentence: We are created to be contingent beings. The claim is huge! To be created means to be dependent on God. It means that we are to be dependent analogically to a child’s need for a mother after birth. This is the mystery the Holy Father is touching on. The Holy Father desires for us to enter into the subjectivity of Adam and Eve in order to deduce the values which we talked about last time. The aspect of value here is the good, which is being established by every act of creation being called good all the way along. Pope John Paul II is trying to get us to see that this male and female contingency is good and natural to the order of man, precisely because the metaphysical claims that were established culminate in the man and the woman who are contingent on God. The Holy Father thus concludes that man is a metaphysical being, a creature who is by nature contingent, and that this contingency is very good.

Given all these claims, the Holy Father says that we can say with certainty that the first chapter of Genesis is normative and an unassailable basis for a metaphysic, for an anthropology and for an ethic in which being and goodness are convertible. Or in other words, a metaphysic, an anthropology and an ethic where being itself is the good, and the good itself is to be. He’s getting at how this Chapter establishes our foundation of original innocence; necessarily this will shape the rest of our discussion on Adam and Eve and the Creation since the Holy Father will adduce from the subjective and psychological aspects of the second chapter of Genesis a clear theology, specifically a Theology of the Body.

On Reading the Holy Father

This week we will finish up everything in the second address by our beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, who has been leading and guiding us on a rather grand philosophical and theological journey. As an aside, for those of you who are not scholars, it may seem that I’m spending a lot of time studying every word, nit-picking every detail. I am. I have no reason to do otherwise.

I normally like working through a text all at once, and offering a few critiques here and there, but this project is as much a personal quest for transformation as it is a scholarly examination of a text; these two are inseparable.

To love a text is to read it carefully. To love a person is to pay them the attention they deserve. I never knew that this would get so big when I started it. I thought to do 129 blog posts, but as I read, I could not be brief. I had to write carefully, attentively, lovingly.

I offer no apologies, I know that this text was a massive effort on the part of the Holy Father, and that it is no less necessary to echo such effort in our attempts to understand. It would be unbecoming of us to think that a series of lectures garnered through a lifetime of wisdom, scholarship and insight could be apprehended logically without sacrifice, without labor, without discernment, and vision in the course of a few short weeks.

I only ask you to read the texts and enjoy each week’s examination of the words of the Holy Father with me, that you read the materials, and let them change your life.

John Paul II on God and Creation (HFF)

This post has been featured on my other blog, but I wrote it while reading joh  Paul II and am not lazy, well yes, I am lazy. So, in short here is a recycled yet relevant reflection to think about in this new year of Our Lord 2011, that god as Creator makes space for us.

Creating undoubtedly does mean making something out of nothing, but in the more specific sense of giving existence–not constructing objects or beings, but transmitting existence, causing a being to begin existing outside myself. That is what the Creator does. -Pope John Paul II The Way to Christ, (Harper; 1984. 10).

I think that often when we think of God as Creator we tend to think of a flourish of power, the way we see performance artists cast something into being. Perhaps we are wrong in terms when we call this ‘creation’ and should recognize that the transmission of existence is not something properly bound to objects at all.

Creation firstly belongs to God as his freedom to create space for existence outside Himself. Father, Son and Holy Spirit make room for our contingency upon their loving union. (So too human sexuality is guided by this and sees that allowing room and space for contingent need to develop out of absolute and free gift is not alien to the body, but at the heart of its meaning.)

Creation belongs to our nuptiality and our communion as beings to be able to transmit being so that there may be an existence outside myself. Not only does this mean that when I am called to marriage I am called to a spouse, it means that this spouse and I, when participating in the Divine Love made possible in the conjugal act have every right and responsibility to allow freedom for life and contingency based on our union to develop.

I know that contextually the Pope is elucidating some points on discovering our true self in terms of its correspondence to its Creator, but I think that to do so rightly will mean a reshaping of the erotic imagination with which we approach our bodies and the doctrine of creation.

What I mean is, if we are to understand ourselves in terms of our absolute and sober minded importance, we will not do so apart from a proper Theology of the Body, or a reconceived sexuality.

Yet, the sexuality I think is offered to us is precisely and most necessarily guided by the quote above. It is because Creation is this and not some other thing that our existence in the image of God reshapes even sexuality.

The Biblical Account of Creation Analyzed (Part 2)

This is part two of our examination of the second article of the Theology of the Body by our holy father among the saints of the Church, Pope John Paul the Great. Anyways as we move on with our examination We’re going to look a bit more closely at the Genesis accounts and what are termed the “first” and “second” creation narratives.

Various Accounts of Man’s Creation

In the second address of the Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul II opens up a foundation for discussion by looking at the two different interpretations of creation present in the first three chapters of Genesis. If you were to re-read the first three chapters of Genesis (which everyone in this study should do if they wish to actively participate in this study), you’d notice that there are two different creation accounts as relates both to the world, and to human beings. The first is in the first chapter of Genesis sets what most of us know as the typical creation story in seven days. However, this first text implies that God made Adam and Eve together at the end of the sixth day.

The second account is the chapter two narrative which is less developed stylistically, linguistically and otherwise, and is held to be the more ancient of the two creation stories. The first chapter is a well ordered and intentional summary of creation and holds phrases about man being created in the image of God, and after his likeness. Whereas the second chapter of the Genesis which is called the ‘Yahwist’ account because it uses the Divine name instead of the first chapter’s ‘Elohim.’ The Holy Father approaches with these two readings because he will make a set of points about the first account which is estimated to have been written later and put at the front of the book.

The Holy Father repeatedly makes the point that this first account of Creation in Genesis 1 is theological and objective. He does not mean objective as in truth opposed to subjective opinion, though this is sometimes how the terms are read. He means that this first narrative establishes the foundational way we should read the text of the second chapter. It is the epistemological(meaning it establishes the way we should understand the) framework for what is to follow.

What he means by theological is that this text establishes a theology, it establishes a framework for how to read. However, and perhaps as importanly is the other implied point that this text is theological in that it establishes ‘Creation from God’s point of view‘ a term he will use later in the text. Also, as we look at this text (Genesis 1) it establishes the “what, where, when and how of Creation.” This text also clearly in a few ways intentionally pauses before the creation of man and woman. This account sets up a vision for what the Holy Father says in a rather surprising phrase “The Creator seems to halt before calling him (man) into existence, as if he were pondering within himself to make a decision. The emphasis is on the distinction between the human creature and all the others. I agree with the Holy Father here, that man is something unique, someone unique in the divine communication towards the universe

What the Holy Father means by objective is not, as I mentioned, a truth opposed to subjective truth. What the Holy Father means by objective is that it establishes a word by which we may judge and know our subjective experiences. Pope John Paul II was a student of phenomenology a branch of philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness. John Paul II studied phenomenology, and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the phenomenology of Max Scheler. Scheler argued that every human experience is connected to value. In other words that we are either attracted to or repulsed by the value of something. Scheler believed that through subjective experiences we could know these values objectively. For those who are familiar with the constructs of Catholic natural law, you can see how the Holy Father would want to bring this to the table, even this early on.

A further point should be made to bring all this to the fore. A brief look at the Holy Father’s use of the term”subjective” is in order. What he means by subjective throughout this text and in many others of his works is what we experience individually as the goods and the norms of creation. Richard Hogan is my source for my reading of this term. His survey of the first few addresses of the Theology of the Body have been helpful navigation for me. But we can see from above, how objective and subjective are colored by a phenomenological reading in the works of the Holy Father. Hogan SaysIn studying Scheler, John Paul saw that Scheler’s use of phenomenology provided a powerful tool for the study of Christian ethics. If the Christian norms taught by Revelation could be understood as interior norms, i.e., if these norms could be perceived through experience as values, they would cease to have the character of external laws imposed on one from the outside.” I could not agree more. Pope John Paul II’s project among other things seeks to show us the natural calling of man and woman. What I’m saying is that the Holy Father wants to show us that what we know to be right, what the Church teaches as right is not externally imposed law, but agrees with the natural conscience of humanity as evidenced by its making clear of the interior “subjective”(or individual) values that humans commonly experience through their subjectivity.

To go back to what West was saying in the introductory articles, the Holy Father is establishing a developed language for talking about human sexuality in the Church as something that has values associated with it, values which should be guided by the question: “What is the act that makes me free to truly love my neighbor?” If some of this isn’t easy to grasp, you’re not alone. Anyways, let’s keep reading this lecture next week, hopefully we can finish the lecture then.

The Biblical Account of Creation Analysed (Part One)

Pope John Paul II first delivered this address on September 12, 1979. For those of you interested in the full text of the lecture, it will be really helpful if you read the article with me. However, I will do my best to summarize and develop key points as they come along.

Having established that he desires to study the teachings of Christ and delve into this “from the beginning” The Holy Father, will now begin to unpack a theology of the human body by looking at the Creation account with this in mind. This post will most deal with two things, higher criticism and the text itself. If neither of these is a concern to you, then you can stay tuned for next week’s post. If you care to read on, feel free.

The Holy Father reminds us of the context of what he will continue to expound here by saying; “As we recall, the Pharisees who questioned him appealed to the Mosaic Law. However, Christ went back to the “beginning,” quoting the words of Genesis.” Christ reframes the argument, is another, simpler way of saying what Pope John Paul II is teaching.

Christ Himself reinterprets the law and the prophets to us, and offers His own teachings on marriage, celibacy and offers us this strange, dense and mysterious interpretation of “from the beginning” for his own teaching on the nature and purpose of creation in the image of God, both male and female.

In order to know for sure what exactly the Holy Father is saying about the text itself, the English translation of the passage will be of assistance. Matthew 19:3-9 in the NRSV says:

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?”

He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”

He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.

So, now that we have established the text from which we draw Jesus’ teachings on this, we move forward now to the very beginning, to the Genesis itself. The Holy Father will be working with higher criticisms in his analysis of these texts.

A Brief Word on Higher Criticism:

Catholicism is by far the most balanced Christian perspective on higher criticisms and often presents a view of higher criticism that is able to often transcend the unhealthy divide between faith and reason that is often present in many other circles of Christian thought. Liberalizing tendencies are not unheard of in Catholic thought, but when approached on its own terms, the Church has a well balanced set of teachings that embrace scholarship so long as they are guided by faithfulness to the deposit of faith.

In 1943 Pope Pius XII gave license to the new scholarship in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu: “[T]extual criticism … [is] quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books … Let the interpreter then, with all care and without neglecting any light derived from recent research, endeavor to determine the peculiar character and circumstances of the sacred writer, the age in which he lived, the sources written or oral to which he had recourse and the forms of expression he employed.”

Unlike the Fundamentalist position which ultimately shuts the bible off from history and secular scholarship that attempts to establish fictions outside the voice of the Tradition of the Church, The Catholic church desires healthy and faithful scholarship. The Church’s position sees as beneficial the use of higher scholarship. In fact the Catechism says: “”In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression”(The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. Article 3, Section 110.)

This is a highly reasonable position, and it encourages further study towards authorial intent. The Church accepts scholarship because she has various senses with which the Holy Scriptures are read. A personal aside: as an undergraduate student at a Charismatic, and Protestant University, we had surprisingly many fundamentalist positions among students that would come in. I always found myself surprised at how many people would be intolerant of higher learning when it came to the bible. It was seen as something that could cause you to lose your faith, if pursued. And yes, there have been anti-higher-learning positions even among Catholics, but this has not always been the case, nor did it remain the case.

One thing that compelled me to keep studying Catholicism and ultimately made me decide on confirmation was the respect and appreciation of scholarship that was present not just among the educated, or the intelligent, but even among the laity en masse. It is an educated and educating Church, but enough about that, let’s get back to the Holy Father and to our lecture.

So, as the Holy Father, approaches the Genesis accounts He does so with a reading of Genesis that sees the chapters as mutual and affirming each other, while differing from each other. Pope John Paul II says that the words

Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female…?” (Mt 19:4) [provide the larger Context]. [These words refer] to the so-called first account of the creation of man inserted in the seven-day cycle of the creation of the world (cf. Gn 1:1-2, 4)However, the context nearest to the other words of Christ, taken from Genesis 2:24, is the so-called second account of the creation of man (Gn 2:5-25). But indirectly it is the entire third chapter of Genesis.

The Holy Father says that these words are indirectly the third chapter of the Genesis. I think what He means by this is that these words shape the whole outworking of our understanding of the third chapter of Genesis. I think we should understand that the Holy Father’s use of the two creation accounts approach to Genesis actually serves to his and to our benefit. The glory of the Catholic Church is her freedom to be orthodox without being fundamentalist. She reveres, but she does not ossify. She takes both her own witness and careful attention to the historical nature of the texts. We will continue our discussion next week with our next article that will focus on the rest of the second article in the Theology of the Body.

Holy Father Friday

This will be something you can look forward to in 2011. In 2011 I want to do a series of posts at least once a month, and maybe more frequently. But this is our first Holy Father Friday. Yes I know it is a Thursday, but I needed to post before the Xmas vigil, thus our first Holy Father Friday is on…a Thursday. It will be a series of either homilies or just quotes. It will either be bi-weekly or monthly, I will keep you posted. Also, thanks for sticking with me through the year. And in closing, enjoy your Christmas, have a happy New Year. This is my last post till 2011. Expect posts to resume the first wednesday of 2011.

Text of Pope John Paul II’s Christmas Eve homily
Copyright © 1998 Nando Media
Copyright © 1998 Associated Press

(December 24, 1998 9:33 p.m. EST ) The Vatican’s English translation of Pope John Paul II’s Christmas homily at midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica:

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy. … For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:10-11

1. On this Holy Night, the Liturgy invites us to celebrate with joy the great event of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. As we have just heard in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is born into a family poor by material standards, but rich in joy. He is born in a stable, for there is no place for him in the inn (cf Luke 2:7); he is placed in a manger, for there is no cradle for him; he comes into the world completely helpless, without anyone’s knowledge, and yet he is welcomed and recognized first by the shepherds, who hear from the angel the news of his birth.

The event conceals a mystery. It is revealed by the choirs of heavenly messengers who sing of Jesus’ birth and proclaim glory “to God in the highest and on Earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). Through the ages their praise becomes a prayer which rises from the hearts of the throngs who on Christmas Night continue to welcome the Son of God.

2. Mysterium: event and mystery. A man is born, who is the Eternal Son of the Almighty Father, the Creator of Heaven and Earth: In this extraordinary event the mystery of God is revealed. In the Word who becomes man the miracle of the Incarnate God is made manifest. The mystery sheds light on the event of the birth: A baby is adored by the shepherds in the lowly stable, at Bethlehem. He is “the Savior of the world,” “Christ the Lord,” (cf Luke 2:11). Their eyes see a newborn child, wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger, and in that “sign,” thanks to the inner light of faith, they recognize the Messiah proclaimed by the Prophets.

3. This is Emmanuel, God-with-us, who comes to fill the Earth with grace. He comes into the world in order to transform creation. He becomes a man among men, so that in him and through him every human being can be profoundly renewed. By his birth, he draws us all into the sphere of the divine, granting to those who in faith open themselves to receiving his gift the possibility of sharing in his divine life.

This is the meaning of the salvation which the shepherds hear proclaimed that night in Bethlehem: “To you is born a Savior” (Luke 2:11). The coming of Christ among us is the center of history, which thereafter takes on a new dimension. In a way, it is God himself who writes history by entering into it. The event of the Incarnation thus broadens to embrace the whole of human history, from creation until the Second Coming. This is why in the Liturgy all creation sings, voicing its own joy: The floods clap their hands, all the trees of the world sing for joy, and the many coastlands are glad (cf Ps 98:8, 96:12; 97:1).

Every creature on the face of the Earth receives the proclamation. In the astonished silence of the universe, the words which the Liturgy puts on the lips on the Church take on a cosmic resonance: Christus natus est nobis. Venite, adoremus!

Christ is born for us. Come let us adore him. My thoughts already turn to Christmas next year when, God willing, I shall inaugurate the great jubilee with the opening of the holy door.

It will be a truly great holy year, for in a completely unique way it will celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the event and mystery of the incarnation in which humanity reached the apex of its calling. God became man in order to give man a share in his own divinity.

This is the good news of salvation. This is the message of Christmas! The Church proclaims it tonight by means of my words too, for the peoples and nations of the whole Earth to hear. Christu natus est nobis. Christ is born for us. Venite adoremus. Come, let us adore him.

The Unity and Indissolubility of Marriage (Part Four)

This lecture has opened me up to a whole new understanding of marriage. I mean I had heard similar teachings in undergraduate studies through some really awesome professors, but it’s nice knowing a source text for these teachings, since I was attempting to teache these things to my church when i was a baptist pastor and was really lacking in primary sources. My girlfriend and I have talked extensively about the Theology of the Body as I have been reading it, and it’s been a wonderful experience.

In any case, blogging about this lecture has been both eye opening and revelatory, yet comforting and familiar. The concepts are not new to me, so much as they are being properly articulated now. Working through the Christopher West article was a lot of fun, and drawing certain preliminary conclusions was certainly worthwhile. To reiterate, I don’t agree with everything West has said, nor do i endorse him as a final authoritative source. However, I do think he accurately conveys what the Holy Father is trying to say for the most part. Michael Waldstein who translated the work into a new English translation, and whom I have personally met and sat in class with, endorses West’s interpretative work here.

Waldstein, who is an amazing man of considerable talent offers some interesting and penetrating insight into West’s work, and asks us to focus on larger issues of the Theology of the Body. I am partial to West for as many reasons as I am considering his work one voice among many. I certainly do not think he is a final authoritative voice, but he’s a good primer and his work won’t lead converts or cradle Catholics wrong. I think his reading is very “democratic” as Alice Von Hildebrand put it, but this I found to be acceptable rather than to be decried. Also, given that this post is not about the West article anymore, and that I’ve reiterated my point, let’s move along.

Reading the actual lecture itself was highly rewarding, and I am at a loss for words to express how liberating this exercise in reading the Holy Father is. Just a few final personal thoughts on the matter of the lecture “On the Unity and Indisollubility of Marriage” will here follow. Notice that already we have seen Pope John Paul establish matrimony and the teachings of Jesus on Genesis as normative for the rest of the lectures. We can see why ‘Male and Female He Created Them‘ is a valid title for the series.

This vision of the political power of embodiment and the prophetic nature of human sexuality is astounding, refreshing and vivid. It’s only been the first article and a preliminary survey, but it’s been a moving experience for me. If there is anything to be said about the TOB it is this: It is fundamentally challenging in its simplicity. It is simple, precise and yet profound. It teaches nothing new, so much as theologically establishes and develops ancient anti-gnostic and pro-Christian views of the body and its dignity.

I have to agree with Alice Von Hildebrand that the Theology of the Body is nothing new, so much as it is a development of the ancient affirmations of the Church. It is fundamentally apostolic. Its voice speaks as one with the teachings of the early church fathers, and many of the writings of St. Paul and Jesus Our Lord Himself.

Blogging about the Theology of the Body has made me, in my opinion, a more humble future spouse to my girlfriend, and far more appreciative of everything about her, most especially the sanctity of our togetherness. I had a vision and understanding of this, but it seems that the more I read the writing of the Holy Father, the more sense it makes, the more flesh it takes on, the more glory-bearing and vocationally active I see not only this relationship, but my own body. I am indeed seeing how the divine mystery of our vocation is inherently tied into the paschal mystery and every other mystery.

Life itself finds fulfillment in the sacraments and the way they lead us on into God Himself. I have already begun to learn to see my body as spoken for and that has been one of the most rewarding changes that has begun to happen. I appreciate my girlfriend and the already-not-yet claims she has on me through our intentionality towards marriage. I feel that I have come to see our relationship as a pre-marriage in all the right ways.

The Theology of the Body has made it so that, even in these brief readings the vocational nature of bodies has begun to take on new form in my thought life and imagination. I have always appreciated her, from day one, and yet, I feel that even though I felt I gave my all before, I have since working through the Theology of the Body since mid August of 2010 come to give even more.

I see myself doing more than I thought possible, and yet, it is easy. I see this as a charism, a gift, and a grace to me. I see the calling that I have to give to her, to be for her as light and easy and full of value and worth. I won’t speak for her, but I recognize a deeper sense of the vocation of marriage. I thought I knew what it would entail, and I do, but there’s a deeper dimension that has come out from reading the Theology of the Body. Reading this lecture has affirmed the Church’s teachings in a way that is wonderfully easy to bear, and yet dramatically challenging in all the right ways.

I guess all I have to really say that I have not yet said is the ineffable gratitude I feel for Pope John Paul II only grows as I read and reread the lecture. It is simple, foundational, basic, yet in this it is profound, and challenges everything in late modern society and especially its view of the body. That the body should have a dignity at all is fundamentally revolutionary to this culture. It is not a matter of revolution in the Church, it’s a matter of revolutionizing society.

All in all, thanks for reading, and make sure to subscribe to the blog and leave comments as you see fit. Any readership and dialogue is helpful along the way. -Eli