Deforming the Gift: Day 15
‘The human body in its original masculinity and femininity according to the mystery of creation—as we know from the analysis of Genesis 2:23-25--is not only a source of fruitfulness, that is procreation, but has ‘from the beginning” a spousal character, that is, it has the power to express love by which the human person becomes a gift, thus fulfilling the deep meaning of his or her being and existence. In this, its own distinctive character, the body is the expression of the spirit, and is called, in the very mystery of creation, to exist in the communion of persons “in the image of God.” Now, the concupiscence [lust, disordered desire] “that comes from the world”--the concupiscence at stake is directly that of the body--limits and deforms this objective mode of existing in the body, in which man has come to share. The human “heart” experiences the degree of this limitation or deformation above all else in the sphere of the reciprocal relations between man and woman. Precisely in the experience of the “heart,” femininity and masculinity in their mutual relations seem to be no longer the expression of the spirit that tends toward personal communion and are left only as an object of attraction…’ (TOB 32:1)
‘Concupiscence in general—and the concupiscence of the body in particular--attacks precisely this “sincere gift”: it deprives man, one could say, of the dignity of the gift, which is expressed by his body though femininity and masculinity, and in some sense ‘depersonalizes” man, making him an object “for the other.” Instead of being “together with the other”--a subject in unity, or better, in the sacramental “unity of the body”--man becomes an object for man, the female for the male and vice-versa. The words of Genesis 3:16 and before them of Genesis 3:7--bear witness to this change with full clarity by contrast when compared to Genesis 2:23-25.’ (TOB 32:4)
Another mouthful. Yet well worth chewing on, slowly, as to savor each word. You are getting a taste of why I read TOB over a 3-year period, writing down key phrases and meditating upon them. I still do. Digesting this tome is, like chastity itself, a lifelong goal.
‘Concupiscence’ is a big Catholic word that I reduce to ‘lust’, however inadequate that is. Let us extend lust to not only erotic passion but any disordered desire that compels us to worship the creature. East of Eden, we fractured souls long for disintegrated aspects of others—men’s more obvious ways in which we lust after a sexual ideal, women’s grasping for masculine confirmation. St. John Paul II points out how lust attacks the dignity of our sincere gift of self—that innate longing to show whole and holy love for another with our bodies. Lust divides that ‘spousal’ gift, fractures it, so that we give ourselves unevenly, too much here, too little there. We puff ourselves up then deflate in shame.
I love the way St. John Paul II distinguishes between sexual communion and attraction. He claims that lust splits God’s will for whole-hearted, full-bodied unity between a man and a woman; lust then reduces communion to attraction, a mere chemical pull, which signals a deformation of the human person. Instead of encountering a person, we long for body parts; instead of a person with mutual needs, we seek a savior. Eden is about seamless communion. Now we see the cracks. Even in the best of relationships, we divided ones can divide others and idealize fragments of them, which bars us from embracing whole persons.
Attraction versus communion. We at DSM/LW are asked often about ‘change’ of sexual attraction in the context of ‘healing’ sexual identity issues. It is fun to know that such a question reveals a cultural blind spot. Though physical desire for another is not unimportant, it is not all important. What matters to St. John Paul II and Jesus Himself is growing in communion with a whole person, body and spirit. We cannot define sexual wholeness any other way. It is madness to me that I am constantly derided as ‘false’ by persons driven by disordered desires who betray their marriages and families for sexy idols; these very souls accuse persons like me of not being ‘true’ precisely for staying true to our vows!
Attraction is a good beginning that must be redeemed by Jesus. He makes us true by training us to commune with another: the slow, moving in fits and starts process of cultivating desire through progressive disclosure. Lust, on the other hand, divides us. When we make gods and goddesses of our ‘attractions’--disordered desires and their objects--we deform His image. Reformer Jesus intercedes for us to lay aside childish things and proceed onto a more mature expression of the gifts we are.
‘Jesus, forgive us for our lusts. We all have them, and we all need to grow through and beyond them. Some of us have never known a real man or woman, just idealized, broken images. We have stalled in route to real engagement. Help us to resume that journey from lust and mere attraction to communion.’
'Jesus, thank You for confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, Your bright light in a dismal political season.'