Radical Wholeness: Day 40
‘Aquinas assigns intemperance to the “roving unrest of spirit”, which he says is the first-born daughter of acedia (or sloth)…Acedia is the dreary sadness of a heart unwilling to accept the greatness to which man is called by God; this inertia raises its paralyzing face wherever man is trying to shake off the obligatory nobility of being that belongs to his essential dignity as a person, and in particular the nobility of the sonship of God, thus denying his true self.’ (The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper, p. 200)
‘It may be the sign of complete rootlessness. It may mean that man has lost his capacity for living with himself, nauseated and bored by the void of an interior life gutted by despair, he is seeking with selfish anxiety and on a thousand futile paths that which is given only to the noble stillness of heart held ready for sacrifice and thus in possession of itself, namely, the fullness of being.’
(The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper, p. 201)
‘Not only is temperance beautiful in itself, it also renders men beautiful. Beauty, however, must be understood in its original meaning: as the glow of the true and the good irradiating from every ordered state of being, and not in the patent significance of immediate, sensual appeal. The beauty of temperance has a more spiritual, more austere, more virile aspect. It is of the essence of this beauty that it does not conflict with true virility, but rather has an affinity to it. Temperance, as the wellspring and premise of fortitude, is the virtue of mature manliness.’
(The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper, p. 203)
Have we found chastity yet? We’ve fought through (but not conquered) prudence, justice, and fortitude; we are now engaging temperance and its daughter chastity. My take is not unfamiliar to anyone who follows Desert Stream Ministries.
Integrating our sexual humanity with our most noble spiritual aspirations requires reaching for more. We who have been foolish and damaged in our sexual selves can be re-envisioned by the God who made us and who redeems us according to the fullness of His being. According to St. Paul, we can know this fullness at the very center of our humanity (Eph. 3: 16-19). That means whatever the Designer has in store for our sexual humanity, He can help us realize.
Of course, we’ve a hand in this. We can respond to His stirrings or not. As He awakens dormant parts of us, we can rise or go back to sleep. As He reunites formerly disjointed aspects of our humanity, we can start to exercise our new coordination with others or stay indoors and play it safe. The virtues of temperance and chastity are about cultivating the good habits of aspiration--knowing Whose (the Father of all living) we are and what He calls us to realize this side of heaven. At the very least that means becoming aligned with our powers of life and love.
We’ve two obstacles here. The greater secular culture urges us to splice our humanity up according to whatever ‘feeling state’ we possess; this is now one of the great planks of today’s civil rights. Instead of recognizing our weakened personal identities and the disturbing sexual ‘symptoms’ that arise from them, the world of politics, academia, and popular media reframe them as our ‘true selves,’ and urge us to parade them. All in the name of freedom. Anyone who resists is deemed criminal, abetting ‘conversion therapists’ in their quest to coerce young persons into fake ‘change’ efforts.
At a recent nearby City Council meeting in which a dour and disheveled LGBTQ+ activist expounded on the horrors of ‘change’ (though he had no personal experience with it nor could name a practitioner in town), I saw a glimpse of what Pieper describes as a soul driven by ‘a roving unrest of spirit’, one ‘gutted by despair, seeking with selfish anxiety and on a thousand futile paths’ that which is only granted one who can quiet himself before the Source of our nobility.
One might think that the Church is the counterpoint to our impoverished culture, the Source of our ‘fullness of being.’ She fundamentally is. My freedom today as a husband, father, and grandfather is based wholly on her faithfulness to her Bridegroom. But sadly, her pastoral application can seem at odds with her convictions; she is often animated by a compassion so Jesus-free that it is indistinguishable from the world’s.
Much of the Church struggles to believe that Jesus died to break sin’s grip and rose to raise us with Him. Can the Gospel, should the Gospel, restore the LGBTQ+ identified? Uncertain, we ‘accompany’ sexual sinners to their doom. Agents of sloth, asleep in the Light, we have lost sight of human nobility in the sexual realm, what Pieper describes as the temperance that ‘irradiates the true and the good,’ and reveals something of mature virility in men trained by her.
Pieper is prophetic. He urges us to shake off that ‘dreary sadness of heart’ and to live like persons raised from the dead, able and willing through Jesus and Bride to become noble, creative, true-to-form. We can know that form because we are made in His image. And we know the One who assumed our haggard efforts at creating ourselves, who with Almighty mercy invites us to rise and exercise the form of our new, true humanity of which He never lost sight. He will stop at nothing to envision and help us realize the radical wholeness for which He died. To stop reaching for more is to trample underfoot the blood He shed.
‘Jesus, thank You for Your vision for our lives. Your sight is true and Your unfailing love sure. You invite us to not settle, and instead to reach for more. Help us to forego worldly consolations and plateaus; empower us to exercise the sight and strength we have, to see beyond our stingy, disappointing world to the bigger one You won for us. You made us to become good gifts--help us to give our gifts. Our freedom hinges on it. You gave all, that we might give all. Free us for that great adventure.’
‘Jesus, thank You that we are first and foremost citizens of Your Kingdom. Your saving purposes, the plans of Your heart, endure forever (Ps. 33:11). Patriotism and its partisan interests must bow before “Your will be done.” “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, who trust in His unfailing love” (Ps. 33:18).’