A pure gaze of lust
(some thoughts re: TOB and Christopher West, a letter to a friend)


Dear ***,

Thank you for lending us the recommended by Fr *** books ‘Theology of the Body Made Simple’ by Anthony Percy and ‘Theology of the Body for Beginners’ by Christopher West. I was somewhat surprised with the content of those four public lectures which were announced, as you know, as “Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body”. I have sampled the lectures of Pope JP II in the past; I cannot say I was wildly interested in the topic but nevertheless interested enough to attend the local lectures about TOB, probably out of my habit to attend just anything in our parish that promises some theology, especially if it is something new to me.

The local lectures, while they clarified nothing about the complex ideas of the Pope (as I recalled them), seemed to also introduce something else that I found to be sufficiently at odds with what I remembered from my cursory reading of the ‘The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage’, the title of the of Pope JP II’s Wednesday Catecheses. Hence I dived into Pope John Paul II’s work again.

Almost everyone comments that his text is extremely difficult to get through. My difficulties with it are that the topic is very wast and the ideas are very many; it is exceedingly difficult to keep them all in mind while moving through the dense text which is his separate lectures presented in chronological order. Some say there are many contradictions in the text as well; I pinned a few. There is nothing surprising about that though, considering that Pope JP II had given his lectures over six years; it is only natural that his thoughts would develop over that time, sometimes abruptly I suspect. At least this is my impression. Hence his talks appear to be anything but the smooth monolith the modern TOB presents.

I think I am almost instinctively drawing the line here, between the ‘The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage’ and the current TOB movement, via stressing the original title and the character of Pope JP II’s lectures because the character of what is now circulating in the Catholic Church makes it hard to see it as the organic continuation of the Pope’s teaching (please note that when I say “TOB” I always mean the current TOB movement). While Pope John Paul II indeed spoke much about the human body he would always speak of it in the context of the human person. This is, I believe, the #1 important difference between Pope JP II’s thought and the thoughts of the developers of the Theology of the Body (hence referred to as TOB) who tend to consider the body as a separate entity.  The body in their take, being separated from the soul, becomes somewhat impersonal. Consequentially, a human being can now be considered as an animal whose bodily functions, sexual in particular, can be observed, studied, and discussed without the slightest consideration of the dignity of his person. Hence comes the #2 important difference between Pope JP II and the TOB-developers, namely that the former, while discussing human sexuality, does it far more broadly, laconically and immeasurably more modestly than the latter.

Hence, in my mind, there is a definite shift of the foci, proportions and vectors which one can clearly observe when comparing the teaching of Pope JP II and the TOB being put side by side. At the same time, the TOB seems to faithfully retain what they call “the ground-breaking approach” of Pope JP II, four original experiences of the human being, Original Solitude, Original Unity, Original Nakedness and Original Sin and following from them the realisations that the human body is symbolic, nuptial, free and fallen. It instructive though what the TOB does with it:

“John Paul II is taking us back to our proper roots. It is only from a proper foundation that you can build anything of worth. To go back to “the beginning” – to Original Solitude, Unity and Nakedness – means to understand that only by opening ourselves up to God, his creation and other human beings can we mature.”[1]

I am quite sure that, even while Pope JP II maintained the utmost importance of the understanding of these “original experiences” for his teaching about marriage, he would not put it in the way that TOB does, i.e. creating an impression that we must somehow run back to Eden – he is a far better theologian than this. The quote above creates a very strong vector “from the New Testament to the Old”, “from the New Adam to the Old”, “from being born in Christ – back to before the Incarnation”. This is just an example of how the handling of the Pope’s work can change its meaning via blowing up some of its parts and reducing other, distorting the proportions.

Before I move on to the discussion of what actually propelled me to write this letter I must say that I have numerous disagreements with the thesis of Pope John Paul II. My major disagreement is that I do not see any need in creating some additional “logical concepts” (like “the original experiences”) for backing up the Church’s teaching about marriage (as it was delivered by ‘Humane Vitae’ by the Pope Paul VI), for a very simple reason: the concept of the Christian marriage (as distinct from human marriage) is a product of revelation hence the former cannot be justified by the latter. Nothing in the created order can explain revelation without reducing that very revelation and without making it trivial. Rather the meaning of creation is itself revealed through the action of the Holy Spirit.

For example, reference to a “natural law” fails because, while a natural law points towards the normality of a union between man and woman and abnormality – of a homosexual union it cannot back up decidedly unnatural ideals like, for instance, the ideal of monogamy. In fact, the biology of every mammal [human being included] is contrary to it. I am quite sure that the Pope was aware of this problem hence his use of the concept of “original experiences” but – they do not say anything new, anything that Our Lord and His apostles have not already said. And, unlike a “natural law”, the “original experiences” are the subject of faith so they would not convince non-believers. As for believers, they, I repeat, have revelation including the grand revelation of ‘Song of Songs’ and the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

“Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ.
Wives should be subjects to their husbands as to the Lord, since, as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so as a husband the head of his wife; and the Church is subject to Christ, so should wives be to their husbands, in everything.
Husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy by washing her in cleansing water with a form of words, so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless.
In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because we are parts of his Body.
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh.
This mystery has great significance, but I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”

The apostle does not say “husbands, love your wives as some good people I told you about” or even “love your wives as Avraham loved Sara” but he says they should “love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her”. He gives the Lord’s self-sacrifice as an example for their earthly love! He continues doing that, always drawing on the heavenly examples (Christ and Church as the Bride) to explain how Christian couples are supposed to relate to each other. By doing that he gives the relationship on earth a heavenly dimension, the vector is not “back to the roots in Eden” but forward, to the New Jerusalem. The only time when the apostle uses a human relationship to explain the divine realm is:

“a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh. This mystery has great significance, but I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”

However, he uses the Old Testament revelation to explain some aspects of the New Testament revelation, of how in the sacrament two become inseparable, by the grace of God and how in Baptism and Eucharist a human being becomes the Body of Christ i.e. inseparable from Him.  He does nothing “to back up” or to explain the revelation about one flesh. A man could never come up with such an idea of “one flesh”, unless it was given to him; once it is given he can understand the truth of it on his own experience. And, hence people understand experientially what it is to be “one flesh” with one’s spouse – i.e. to feel each other’s pain as own, to love until death and even more they can grasp [albeit dimly] the ultimately higher mystery, of the relationship of Christ with His Church and with each of them. Genesis spoke purely about human marriage; now the Church is the Bride of Christ and each soul is a bride of Christ = in intimate communion with Him. The apostle seals this new reality: “Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ.” This phrase by the way can be applied to any personal relationship between Christians.

To put it simply, after the Apostle compared the desirable attitude to one’s spouse with the self-sacrifice of Christ for His Church a Christian nothing more is needed. And, because Our Lord said “one cannot love more than one who sacrifices himself for his friends” we have a direction for everything needed here including the subject of the TOB. It logically follows that a hypothetical person who is trying to practice self-sacrificial love would try to refrain from cheating their spouse, killing (including the embryos in vitro), and so on. That is not to say that the Church should not speak about marriage and sexual relationships. The question is how it should speak. I think the Church [the members of the Church] should speak as the true Bride of Christ i.e. considering the dignity of her Bridegroom first and also her own dignity, of persons made by Him and in His image.

Precisely because God has spoken about Himself as the Spouse of Israel, in the books of the Prophets, and as Bridegroom of a human soul, in the ‘Song of Songs’, Christians generally have an idea of marriage as something definitely exulted, definitely good and holy (I am saying “an idea” because we are sinful people living in a fallen world therefore the marriage is capable to become its opposite values in these conditions). And, precisely because God uses this symbol, of the love between earthly spouses, for His own love for us which stretches even beyond this life into eternity with Him, one should be very careful not to misuse or abuse it. Now, at last, I came to the actual point of this letter, that is, the current TOB as it is in the writings of Christopher West and his followers.

After giving up the idea to read every lecture of Pope John Paul II I moved on to your books. They both surprised me with, for an Eastern Orthodox, indecency when handling this delicate matter, of human sexual intimacy and God. Here is a typical example of such indecency. Anthony Percy about nuptial meaning of the body:

“The man’s genitals are external, while the woman’s are internal. They are made for each other. The man enters the woman in sexual intercourse and the woman receives him. They become “one flesh”…. Nuptial means meant for love – it made for relationship. You can see it from the symbolic nature of the human body. A man and a woman find each other attractive. There is a physical attraction but there is also a spiritual attraction. They marry and come together sexually.  This act is both physical and spiritual since the body is symbolic.(…)
The human body speaks – it has a language of his own. Therefore, sex – a bodily activity – has a language. Sex speaks a language of love… In the next chapter, we will examine closely the issue of contraception. But we can, I think, begin to see what is wrong with it. Contraception contradicts the language of love – the language of the body. It alters the language of love. Bishop Victor Galeon – Diocese of St Augustine, Florida, USA – has noted this. He writes: why do we tolerate a wife using a diaphragm or a pill, or a husband employing a condom during sexual communication?”

It is quite depressing to see the “differences in genitalia” as the major reason for a man and a woman “coming together”. Even Genesis is much nobler than that – probably because the major reason for the union of Adam and Eve was the fact that God created Eve especially for Adam and brought her to him. Because everything that God does is ultimately very good he made the two in the most perfect way so that they could fulfil each other, and not just as “bodies” but as persons. The whole poetic intonation of Genesis has something epic, noble and pure about it – something that is totally alien to the TOB movement. I find especially touching the moment of sudden recognition of Adam, “this is bone of my bones the flesh of my flesh”, the exclamation which, in the language of the Scriptures, expresses much more than “body from my body”. The love story as it is delivered by Percy, of a hypothetical man and woman, is reduced to the naked sexual act determined by their anatomical match. The admission “but there is also a spiritual attraction” does not raise the affair to the realm of the spirit because the spiritual attraction seems to have only one value – to give the sexual act a quality of the “language” i.e. the “sign”. This fragment quite well demonstrates the soullessness of the TOB and also the emerging shamelessness clearly seen in the last lines: “why do we tolerate a wife using a diaphragm or a pill, or a husband employing a condom during sexual communication?”

I am quite disgusted even to comment on those lines by the way. I find the words of the Bishop extremely offensive and also alarming because “tolerating” or “not tolerating” the usage of condom or diaphragm is something that only two involved can experience and discuss and be angry about, as the Bishop evidently is. His words and even more so, his transparent emotion, convey that the private affair of lovemaking including the most intimate details of the process are no longer private – he has somehow made himself the third so to speak and can now  literally “tolerate” or “not tolerate” them.  It may be argued that Pope Paul VI in his ‘Humanae Vitae’ also spoke against contraceptives. True, but the language he used is entirely different. He employed general principals of moral/ethical theology never allowing his argument to drop from the theological to the physiological level. Hence his discourse, despite the severity of the doctrine, never robs human sexuality and marital life of its intrinsic privacy. Perhaps it was so because Pope Paul VI did not make the sexual realm into something else like a “sign”. “Sign” is public by definition – noteworthy, the Bishop treats sexual intercourse as “sexual communication” – and there is something public, at least potentially, in the word “communication”, something to be heard or seen by the other unlike the term “love making” that excludes anyone but the couple.

You may say that there are books on sex and contraception which are far more explicit. Correct, but such books [usually] do not discuss God alongside of condoms, so to speak, as the current TOP routinely does, and not as the plain statement “God prohibits contraception” – if it did just that no spiritual harm would come out of it.  Unfortunately, because the whole TOB doctrine rests on the thesis “body is the sign; it has own language; sexual act is also the language which is supposed to express the truth of God” it cannot speak about the sexual act plainly, without reference to God. Sign points to the divine in the TOB’s take. Hence the use of condoms is not allowed not because they are just wrong but because “it twists the sign because condoms make the mutual self-giving less full”. Hence the condoms are somehow now, in a reader’s or a listener’s mind, connected with God. But this is not all.

Paradoxically, while reducing two persons to two bodies without souls the TOB is compelled to bring God into bedroom in even more direct way
[2], via references to God’s revelation about Himself as the Spouse of Israel and making parallels not between the love of human spouses and the love of God but between the sexual relationship of the human spouses and the spousal love of God. As a consequence, God becomes sexualized – not eroticised as an object of the pure desire of a mystic but sexualized i.e. he is turned into a pagan god. An example: Christopher West refers to ‘Song of Songs’ (which in Rabbinic and Christian traditions is interpreted, respectably, as the love of God for Israel and the love of Christ for His Church and each human soul) as “the centrefold of the Bible”.

I think this term, “the centrefold”, is very descriptive of the thinking, both of West and his followers who seems to be the major force behind that odd sex/fertility cult within the Catholic Church – not of spiritualisation = transfiguration of the total human person, including flesh, into god (God became Man so a man would become god as St Athanasios said) but sexualisation of God who is Love making out of Him God who is Sex.

While researching about Christopher West (who appeared to progress since he wrote his ‘TOB for Beginners’ in 2004, pun intended) I came across an informative website, of a person who seems to spend much longer time trying to define the problems with West’s “theology”. Here are a just few quotes; one can read the whole thoroughly referenced argument following the link in the reference[3]:

Overemphasis on Sex (or Sexualizing Christianity)

The novelty of Christopher West’s “Bedtime Prayers for Children” wherein “sexuality” and “the body” become central themes over our “personhood” and our “souls” even in one’s personal prayer.

This is the bedtime prayer Christopher West has taught his children to pray every night: “Thank you Jesus for making Mommy to be a woman. Thank you for making Daddy to be a man. Thank you for bringing Mommy and Daddy into the Sacrament of Marriage. Thank you for bringing [insert name(s) of children here] into the world through Mommy and Daddy’s love. Help our boys grow into strong men ready to give away their bodies in love. Help our girls grow into strong women ready to give away their bodies in love. If they are called into the Sacrament of Marriage, please prepare them for their future spouse. If they are called to give themselves entirely to Jesus and the Church as a priest or religious, please prepare their hearts for that. Amen”.”
In every sentence, “sexuality” is central. It goes from the mother’s “femininity” to the father’s “masculinity”, then to the marital bond, to procreation through sexual intercourse, then to the “bodies” of the male children and to the “bodies” of the female children, to their future “marriages” or their future as celibates (which is the only thing here not strictly sexual). None of the religious saints ever taught their spiritual children to pray with so much focus on sexuality, gender, and bodies. They focused on “persons” and “souls”. Clearly, these prayers demonstrate West’s inordinate preoccupation and even obsession with sexuality and the body. West seems to feel the need to sexualize everything, including even a child’s bedtime prayers.”

It is called the “seminary” because it is where priests are prepared to “inseminate” the Church.

West asks: “Where does a man go to train to be a priest? The seminary. What is he learning to do in the seminary? Where do we get that word, ‘seminary’? He is learning how to ‘inseminate’. Who is he learning to inseminate? The Church, with his spiritual seed”. It is true that the word “seminary” comes from the Latin word "semen", which simply means "seed". However, this is not why "seminary" was given a name based on the word "semen". Rather, it was because vocations begin as a “seed” and need to be nurtured and grown and raised to full maturity before that vocation is ready to “blossom” and be exposed to the world in such a way that it will survive and effectively thrive. But because West is disposed to connect everything with sex or give a sexual interpretation to everything, he commits this error.”

“West criticizing “flat-chested” images of Mary in art while encouraging Catholics to “rediscover Mary’s ... abundant breasts”. 
This is a quotation taken from Dr. Schindler's initial critique of West, which Schindler pulled from the March, 2002 edition of Crisis Magazine. I would hope that this argument and these statements by West are so prima facie wrong that it need not require commentary from me, but no doubt some defenders of West will even provide an apologia for this.”

End of quotes.

Those statement of West, while being errant and extremely offensive and (some of them) even blasphemous are nevertheless the logical outcome of the vector of the TOB movement towards God as Sex. If you take them out of the context of Christianity and apply them to some sex/fertility cult [to which they belong, in truth] they will cease being offensive. Who can be offended with the “abundant breasts” of the Mother Goddess or a priest who has to literally “inseminate” someone to ensure a good harvest?

Finally, to show how far the vector towards paganism can go, I would like to provide a take on the symbolism of the Paschal candle of the West disciple Fr Thomas Loya[4]:  

After stating that it is clear that the Eastern Church looks at the paschal candle in a phallic sexual way (that the descent of the Paschal Candle into holy water 3 times is analogous to a husband penetrating his wife in coitus) [Fr Loya says]:
“Acknowledging the Paschal candle’s phallic imagery 
does not require a quote from a particular Father of the Church.  It is only one example of the spousal character of the church’s entire liturgical life, from Bernini’s canopy over the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, designed to resemble a nuptial bed, to St. John Chrysostom reminding married couples that on the cross Christ united Himself with his Church in “spiritual intercourse,” to the liturgical texts of the Eastern churches that proclaim on Easter: “Christ emerges from the tomb like a bridegroom from the bridal chamber and fills the women with joy!” What Roman Catholics call “Holy Week,” Eastern churches call “The Week of the Bridegroom.” ”

I am not sure whether there is a need to say that we (Eastern Orthodox) do not look at the Paschal candle in a “phallic sexual way” because the denial in this case inevitably retains some of the sticky dirt and blasphemy of the original. Likewise, I am not sure that I should clarify that an Orthodox priest lowers the paschal candle into the water [blesses it] three times because of the Orthodox habit of saying and doing things, during the Liturgy, thrice as a reference to the Most Holy Trinity. Those facts are actually not important because no normal Christian would ever regard the thought about an analogy of the paschal candle with a male penis “in action” as anything else but an impure thought coming from an impure source – the impure psyche or the devil or both. To that the TOB-adepts would say [as they do] that “there is nothing impure about marital sex and Christ is married to the Church”. I rest my case – see my argument above about making the God of Love into the God of Sex. In the light of that there is no need to point out other mistakes of Loya about Eastern Orthodox liturgical practices and their interpretation. They are not just “mistakes” but an indication of a serious spiritual problem hence the clarification of particular mistakes would not prevent such people from continuing to pervert Christian symbols – they will come up with new ideas straight away. Like this example, from a West’ disciple in a public discussion:

“I forgot to mention that Christ's baptism in the Jordan is also part of that metaphysical sexual pattern. Whether carnal or virginal, it's the same pattern.
A husband 'knows' his wife.
The flame (or Christ candle) plunges into the font.
Christ plunges into the river Jordan.
The seed falls into the ground.
The Holy Spirit hovers over the waters.
The Holy Spirit overshadows the womb of Mary.
The Persons of the Holy Trinity all indwell each other in an eternally fruitful and blessed union.”
[5]

Noteworthy, West and his followers seem to be completely oblivious to the very inappropriateness – to leave alone the aberrance – of their “discourse”, and not just in the light of the Christian faith but in light of the normal modesty and dignity of a human person. Now, we have all met with people who seem to be unable to talk about anything but sex and sexual life (their own and others), in the most precise physiological detail and in the most inappropriate situations. Such people usually do not make any gender-related considerations before who they speak (a man before a group of women or likewise). A common (and entirely correct) explanation of such aberrant behaviour is that a chronic frustration of libido (chronic sexual dissatisfaction) drives the person to express it in whatever way is available to them. He or she engages in a kind of a “verbal sex” via making his or her audience to passively participate in their obscene discourse.  The fact that such behaviour is nothing else but the channelling of the oppressed libido is supported by the typical reaction of a normally modest listener, that he or she feels themself being polluted and his or her dignity – somewhat violated.

While it is transparent to me that it is not a “new theological concept” but plain sexual desire (frustrated libido) that is the real force behind West and his followers activity I acknowledge that the very frame of their discourse, of Christian theology, can [and does] prevent their audiences from seeing this fact. The words “theology” and, worse even, “God”, “Jesus Christ”, “Virgin Mary”, “Bride”, “Bridegroom” used by West and other likeminded work as a theological cover for the obscenity – for their audiences and, I suspect, for themselves as well. It is nothing else but an act of public masturbation sanctioned by theology; unlike an act of physical masturbation, the spiritual one may not only pass unnoticed but can also give to the person engaged in it a sense of being virtuous, so it is really handy so to speak.

As a result of that act, the sacred words and symbols become flattened and even polluted. The TOB is big on “symbolic language of the body” and its “truthfulness” hence it is quite amazing to observe how religious sisters who are supposed to represent, symbolically, the Bride of Christ, engage in public discussions of the techniques of the sexual act and various kinds of contraception under the cover of “defining the truthfulness of the language of the body” – all that combined with constant references to “God/ Jesus Christ as a Lover”. They seem not to be able to see that by doing this they are hopelessly untruthful to the sign of their own vocation, of a bride. It seems to escape their understanding that a vow of chastity means not just physical chastity but the chastity of a mind/soul as well. The same is applied to a virgin; one can remain a virgin physically and be corrupted, by one’s own mind and words.

Likewise, a celibate priest engaging in far too explicit discourse about sexual intercourse which, in his take, is somehow intimately connected with “the mysteries of the Holy Trinity” looks incongruent to his vocation to say the least. He also ruins the very idea of his vocation, of being a father for a congregation because the notion of “father” assumes the absence of any sense of sexualisation, before his “children” at least. Of course, by perverting the normal idea of a human father the image of God the Father becomes perverted as well. It is a good example of how the corruption of the earthly image corrupts the divine and likewise: it is enough just to start diminishing one and the other will inevitably fall down as a consequence. This is why the destruction of human morality always goes together with the destruction of the image of God = destruction of God.

Hence the West-TOB manages not only to pervert the unanimated Christian symbols and the Names of the Divine, it also perverts the symbols embodied by the people: priests, nuns, religious sisters, consecrated virgins etc.  It also perverts the whole Christian theology including the very core of it as we can see on the example above. Under the cover of “making marital sex holy” it literally does not leave anything sacred, in the Church. This is an extreme outcome of course but it is already clearly visible in the writings and actions of West and his followers.

Finally, a few words about what I consider to be the worst damage the TOB does, namely to Christian mysticism or better to say not mysticism as such (nothing can damage the truth objectively) but the damage it does to an individuals’ ability to understand mysticism. I understood it from my own experience which I will relate to you. As you probably know I have been into Carmelite spirituality for some time now, with St John of the Cross being my spiritual guide. Until I heard and read “the TOB-things” my mind was free from the obscene associations discussed above. It means that when I read the lines of St John of the Cross from his ‘Spiritual Canticle: Songs between the soul and the Bridegroom’:

“In the inner wine cellar
I drank of my Beloved, and, when
I went abroad
through all this valley,
I no longer knew anything,
and lost the herd that I was following.”  

I see the spiritual reality of the pure intimacy of a soul with God and the transformation it causes, to the soul. I still perceive those lines in this way. However, the TOB of West made me aware of other possible interpretations. After hearing and reading about “God and sex, sex and God” I had to labour for days to get rid of the dirt which got stuck to my soul. Please notice that I have been studying Christian mystical tradition for years now – and still I was profoundly affected. It is really hard to address God along the lines of ‘Song of Songs’ if ‘Song of Songs’ was turned, by a “theologian”, into the “centrefold of the Bible” because “centrefold” and God do not go together! Imagine then someone who has never read anything of the Christian mystical tradition (and it appears to me that it is the condition of the majority of the regular Catholics now, in the English speaking world at least) but read/listen the TOB. The ability of such a person to perceive any spiritual reality conveyed by the language of human love is ruined, probably forever. Why? – Simply because the sex drive is an instinctive, primary, and very powerful force, and for a human being it is much more natural/ easier to see “sex” instead of the “sacred” everywhere; unless they are educated properly so that their inherent sense of sacred is not ruined. An adept of the TOB is simply unable to go further than a superficial level. He can never really know God intimately.

Apart from the obvious, that the love of God is not “sex”, I think there is another reason why the Church, for all its history, has always been speaking about the divine in terms of human love, even of erotic love and never in terms of “sex” – not because it is “prudish” as some TOB-ists say – but because the notion of love understood as “the love of a human person in all the totality of his being” normally lifts an individual up and hence the discourse about love is capable of lifting a person up to God – unlike the discourse about “sex”. It is clearly seen in the poetry of St John which, while boldly using the language of erotic love has nothing to do with “sex”. Here the sense of the sacred (divine) is also being transmitted via the sublime quality of the poetry, just like in ‘Song of Songs’ – this can explain why the Church has been always very peculiar about the language it uses guarding against desacralisation, of the mysteries of God and man.  Oh, what a vast topic it is! – I could now discourse about the Incarnation of our Lord in Whom God and Man come together [one would hope this fact would prevent vulgar discourses about God and man both] but this letter is already long. I conclude then that one can speak as boldly as he wishes about God in terms of erotic love as long as the sense of awe is retained – as Christian mystics did. And here is something I have just noticed: the TOB, while talking much about making a body “sacred”[6] is totally devoid of the sense of awe, towards God and towards love as a gift of God.

I was going to finish on this point but, while checking the references, I came across of what seems to be an example of the “new mysticism” of the TOB which takes a vector towards turning Christianity into what it is not even further:

L., a follower of West, says in a public discussion [with my underlining]:

“The fact that the Blessed Mother's womb became fruitful indicates that a masculine act of giving life occurred. It doesn't have to be in the natural order of sexual intercourse any more than we have to think that God had intercourse with our mothers to give us spiritual life. But, the marital embrace is an earthly SIGN of life-giving love which points to the spiritual life-giving love that God bestows on us.
I still do not understand why this cannot all apply to the Easter vigil liturgy. If the candle is a symbol of Christ on the Cross, which is the marriage bed on which Christ consummates His marriage to His Bride where He gives His spiritual seminal fluid to her, wouldn't it make sense that there would be some sort of phallic imagery there? Rahner and Bux use the terms procreative and fertilize which are both masculine actions. Phallic images denote the masculine act of fertilizing since they are used in relation to crops and animals as well as human fertility.”
[7]

The words of L. about “Christ giving his spiritual semen to his Bride” disturbingly reminded me of a somewhat similar interpretation, of the encounter of Our Lord with the Samaritan woman at the well. In that account the “living water” which Christ proposed to give to the Samaritan woman is also explained as “seminal liquid” but physical, i.e. real. This interpretation actually belongs to the tradition of Gnosticism/Satanism. I do not know what you may think of it; as for me I am simply stunned with such a likeness of interpretations. The word “spiritual” obviously cannot rescue the discourse of L. from the obscene meaning. It is also noteworthy that the episode with the Samaritan woman is often symbolically interpreted, in the Christian tradition, as an encounter of the Bridegroom with His Bride. Hence it appears that both TOB-ists and Gnostics/Satanists have somehow a similar “vector” of turning Christ into Pan-like pagan god and His Bride into a Whore – that is not surprising because both are into the “sexual cult”; the difference is that the former seems to engage in imaginary sex and the latter – in real sex. But the spiritual fruits are disturbingly identical.

For the purpose of regaining the sense of reality I will quote an authentic mystic and theologian of the Catholic Church, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein):

“In the colourful series of images [of the ‘Spiritual Canticle’ of St John of the Cross] the whole way of the soul has been uncovered for us. At the same time, we were allowed an insight in the secret designs of God that were set in place along this way from the very morning of creation. And we see how the hidden way of the soul is woven together with the mysteries of faith. From all eternity the soul has been chosen to share the triune life of the Godhead as bride of the Son of God.

In order to lead the bride home, the Eternal Word clothed himself with human nature. God and soul are to be two in one flesh. But because flesh of a sinful human beings riots against the spirit, all life in the flesh is battle and suffering: for the Son of Man even more than for any other human being; for the others, more in proportion to the intimacy of their bond with him. Jesus Christ woos the soul, in that he substitutes his life for hers in the battle against his and her enemies. He chases away Satan and all evil spirits wherever he personally encounters them. He snatches souls from the tyranny of the evil ones. Relentlessly he uncovers human malice wherever it approaches him in delusion, disguise, and obduracy. To all who recognize their own sinfulness, remorsefully acknowledge it, and long to be liberated from it, he extends his hand. But he demands that they follow him unconditionally, and renounce everything that can oppose his Spirit within them.

Through all this he rouses the rage of hell and the hatred of human malice and weaknesses against himself until they break loose and prepare the death on the cross for him. Here, in the extreme torment of body and soul, above all by in the night of abandonment by God, he pays divine Justice  the ransom for the accumulated debt of sin of all times and opens the sluice of paternal Mercy for all who have the courage to embrace the cross and the crucified one. Into them he pours his divine light and life. But because this light unceasingly annihilates all that stands in his way, they experience it first as night and death. This is the dark night of contemplation, the death on the cross for the old self. The night is so much darker, the death is so much more painful, the more forcefully this wooing by divine Love grips the soul, and more unreservedly the soul surrenders herself to it. The progressive collapse of nature gives more and more room to the supernatural light and to divine love. It overpowers the natural faculties and transforms them into divinized and spiritualized ones. Thus a new incarnation of Christ takes place in Christians, which is synonymous with a resurrection from the death on the cross. The new self carries the wounds of Christ on the body: the remembrance of the misery of sin out of which the soul was awakened to a blessed life, and a reminder of the price that had to be paid for that. The pain of yearning for the fullness of life persists until, through the door of actual physical death, entrance into the shadowless light is gained.

So the bridal union of the soul with Christ is the goal for which she was created, purchased through the cross, consummated on the cross and sealed for all eternity with the cross.”
[8]

 

Best wishes,

Anna Terentieva

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[1] Anthony Percy, ‘Theology of the Body Made Simple’.

[2] I wonder if it is compensation, for the soullessness of the constructed couple.

[6] I thought our bodies are already sacred, being consecrated by the Holy Spirit.

[8] Edith Stein ‘The Science of the Cross’