Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: TOB

TOB & Cardinal Rigali

Theology of the Body

A Register symposium examines Pope John Paul II’s rich catechesis.

by CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI, ARCHBISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA 03/06/2011
CNS PHOTO

Shortcuts can appear very enticing.

Society, particularly in the West, took a troubling shortcut in the middle of the 20th century.

The combination of secularism, materialism and hedonism led to a disturbing societal shift. At the time of the sexual revolution, society sidestepped the authentic meaning of both human life and married love. Dulled by sin and its effects, a lifestyle emerged that cast practical doubt on the meaning of the human body. Human meaning was equated with the mere satisfaction of appetites and cravings.

In the midst of this confusion, the catechesis of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II charted a new course. The theology of the body is his guide back from the shortcut, back to the inviolable dignity of human life and the beauty of married love. Pope John Paul II’s teaching is, in fact, a grammar of life and love, expressed in an original catechetical style. His words are a touchstone of pastoral effectiveness for the evangelization of culture.

The important series of articles on the theology of the body in the follow days is an effort to show the pastoral effectiveness that is within the Holy Father’s rich catechesis. The theology of the body is not over our heads. It is deep in our hearts.

Teachers do not take shortcuts. In fact, every great teacher patiently leads the student from the known to the unknown. Pope John Paul II began with the known, that is, the familiar teaching of Jesus as recounted in the 19th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. The Pharisees want to take a shortcut around Jesus. But there is no shortcut around Jesus, who is the beginning, the center and the goal of history. Nonetheless, the Pharisees pressure him with the question, “May a man divorce his wife for any reason whatever?” Jesus responds that there are no shortcuts when it comes to the meaning of marriage. In fact, Jesus insistently teaches that to understand the truth about marriage we must go back “to the beginning”; we must go back to the moment of creation. Jesus refuses the shortcut and firmly responds: “Have you not read that from the beginning ‘the Creator made them male and female’ (Genesis 1:26-27). … ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24)?”

Pope John Paul II proceeded step-by-step. He dedicated careful, thorough and extensive consideration to the words of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Book of Genesis and the teaching of St. Paul. John Paul offered a refreshing and new perception of the meaning of the human person as a gift. The teaching contained in the theology of the body corresponds to the deep hunger of the human person. In the 30 years since the Holy Father proclaimed this catechesis, there has been a strong and widespread grassroots reception of its content.

The careful expression of the theology of the body in everyday language must preserve the important nuances in the original teaching.

John Paul showed us that “from the beginning” man is a being with the capacity to know and to love. Man uses his capacity to know and to love as a search for the “other.” This search is not meant, however, to be self-centered. This search is not about us satisfying ourselves, but about fulfilling the authentic and genuine meaning of human life and love. This search has no shortcuts. There is only one way to find such real and legitimate fulfillment. Man can only find this other (and himself) through a total gift of self. This is because man is a gift. Since he is a gift, man can only be fulfilled by being a gift. His body is a gift and is meant to be a gift. A gift is never a shortcut.

Human nature exists as either male or female in an irreducible difference. The fundamental meaning of sexual difference, male to female and female to male, allows for a true union, that communion of persons which arises from the complete and total gift of self in marriage and also in virginity/celibacy. The gift of self can never be abbreviated or treated as a mere means to an end.

Pope John Paul II’s catechesis points out how sin is a false shortcut. It is a detour around the call to authentic communion of life and love. The Holy Father taught that sin and its effects weigh down and attack the image of God in man. Sin always seeks to sabotage the gift of self and to turn self-giving into self-seeking. Society offers many counterfeits to the gift of self. And at the center of them all is the attempt to falsify the meaning of the body.

Promiscuity, adultery, contraception, illicit means of human reproduction and pornography are not true paths to fulfillment. The proposal that persons of the same sex can “marry” disregards the spousal meaning of the body. These shortcuts always distort the true meaning of the gift of self and the gift of life.

Pope John Paul II showed us that the Holy Spirit is the wise guide who leads us back to the path of life. The Holy Spirit brings to each one of us the saving effects of Jesus’ sacrificial self-gift on the cross and in his glorious resurrection. The graces of the sacraments strengthen us to live the life of virtue so that we may truly be pure of heart. The Holy Spirit points us to hope for the redemption of the body.

Pope John Paul II gives extensive consideration to the teaching of St. Paul on the redemption of the body (Romans 8:32). The Holy Father does so to describe at least two central realities of the catechesis on the theology of the body. First, there is the final victory over death at the end of time. Second, there is the invitation of Jesus to overcome concupiscence even in the depths of our hearts and in our everyday choices and actions. To choose the path of Jesus is to answer his call to follow him for the long haul.

We know that there is no real shortcut around life and love. No matter how far we may have strayed onto a perilous shortcut, the grace of Jesus Christ has opened a road for us. The teaching of Pope John Paul II reveals all shortcuts as dead ends and redirects us to the way of Jesus. The guidepost for “the new evangelization” is found at the intersection of the inviolable dignity of the human person and marriage as the permanent, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman. These foundational teachings are the essential elements upon which all society rests.

I am happy to introduce this series of articles that seeks to further open this important teaching and gather us all onto the path to the civilization of love and the culture of life.

An “In the Flesh” Invitation

The first decoration that our family likes to display when preparing for the Advent and Christmas seasons is our creche. I am quite attached to our Fontanini Nativity set as it was a wedding gift from the parish that I was serving in the early 90’s. Since then, we have built up the collection and thus, we now have a small village to surround the central point of interest – the manager. The creche is in fact, one of the most recognizable symbols during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Sadly, many in our culture are opposed to this public display of religious devotion. I firmly believe though, they are scared because they have never considered the implications but intuitively know they exist.

St. Francis is credited with the first Nativity scene in 1250 at Greccio, Italy. He had worked all day and put together a living manager in a small cave. His goal was to refocus the town’s folk from the secularism and materialism that was creeping into this solemn celebration (sound familiar). As they gathered, some noticed that St. Francis was wrapped in ecstasy and suddenly, he was holding the Christ child. Within one hundred years, Nativity scenes were expected décor as part of the Advent and Christmas celebrations. I am sure many of you will be attending your local Christmas pageant sometime over the next week – if not this evening. But, for the Franciscans, the creche is much, much more than a seasonal decoration. Did you know that it is a common Franciscan tradition to keep a basic Nativity scene up all year round. Why? Because the Incarnation is central to  our Christian faith.

It is true that our greatest liturgical solemnity is the resurrection but really what does it celebrate? It not only celebrates that Jesus rose from the dead but He rose from the dead with His body. Thus, the Incarnation is vitally important to us because,

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. (CCC456)

What does this mean?

Yes, it means that Jesus “became like us in all ways but sin.” (Heb. 4:15). It means that he walked, talked, cried, laughed, and experienced the vast panoply of human emotions. Most importantly, it means that He came to redeem us, in our entirety – soul, mind and body. He sanctified our nature and with it all the operations proper to the human person (mind, body and spirit). He made holy the human experience. We should also remember that by taking on our flesh, He also sanctified all material creation. Once again, by His actions, He blesses creation and proclaims that it is good.

Many Catholics these days think that the body is a temporary state, of which, one day they will be free. Not so! Every Sunday in our profession of the Creed,

God’s creative, saving, and sanctifying action – culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting. (CCC 988)

Resurrection means we get our bodies back. We are not angels nor should we wish to be so (You will not get your wings when someone rings a bell). We forget that without our bodies we lack that which is essential to experience the world, each other and the Blessed Trinity itself. Angelic beings do not learn, all their knowledge was given to them at the moment of their creation. We on the other hand are designed to take in information through our bodily senses. Death does not mean an end to taking in information. It does mean that our bodies at the resurrection are glorified. Meaning, our senses and bodies are perfected.

We live in a world that is unhappy with(in) our own skin. As Catholics, we do believe in enhancing how God made us. This means that we assist in the natural qualities of the original design. But, we go beyond enhancing the natural qualities by changing them altogether, as if God made a mistake. I would rather be a blond! Why can’t I have curly hair? My feet are too big. I need to reduce my nose! My ears stick out too much. My teeth aren’t naturally white enough…And the complaints go on.

The Incarnation is a reminder that the body is good even with its imperfections and frailties. Jesus came to redeem us bodily by uniting us to Himself – body and soul:

He who is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man (GS 22, quotes in RH 8.2).

God don’t make junk. He also doesn’t make mistakes. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). Before you were knit in your mother’s womb, He knew you and called you by name (Jer. 1:5). We are precious in the eyes of the Lord (Ps. 116:15).

Many would say that God condescended Himself to save us by taking on our nature. Metaphysically that is true. But, it is no less true that He raised our nature and dignity to unspeakable heights because He loves wholly and completely. When we look into a mirror we should revel in the work of an artist. I mean really, which one of us would dare add to the landscape of Michaelagelo’s Sistine Chapel or a daffodil to Monet’s Water Lillies? Please! That would be absurd.

The Nativity is more than a Christmas decoration or a mystery that gives way to the glory of the resurrection. It is central to understanding our dignity and ourselves. We need to get comfortable in our bodies – it will be with us for eternity. I think that the creche could be a good remedy for all the psychological ills related to our bodies. It is also a reminder to all mankind that the material universe was not an after-thought but the glorious garden in which we will encounter the Living God.

My wife has always kept a Nativity up all year round. She sees it as a beautiful reminder that the God of heaven and earth loved humanity so much that He wanted to walk with us. As she passes by it every day in her curio cabinet, it reminds her that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Our daughters also keep their own sets up in their rooms. I use it to remind them that God don’t make junk and if they don’t like what they see in the mirror they should first look in the manager. It offers a better reflection.

I pray that this Christmas the manager will be a source of meditation on our own humanity. I, of course, like saying that it is a study in the Theology of the Body. And, when the season comes to a close, maybe you will keep a small creche displayed. Maybe, you display it just as a reminder that the Incarnation was not Plan B but an “in the flesh” invitation to glory in His creation.

For the Grooms

Okay, I have not done this in the past but today has been one of those days. I am just re-posting an article I wrote for a different blog. Sorry everyone…just tired

The Complementary Language of Love

Weddings are a joyous occasion to celebrate the mystery of a couple’s love and communion. My wife and I have the privilege of going to them regularly since we are involved in our parish’s marriage preparation program. Of course, that also means we have the occasion to purchase wedding cards frequently.

When you think of greeting cards, what company comes to mind first? Hallmark is what enters my mind. You know…that seasoned company that has a card for any occasion. They are the Mecca for all things poetic and romantic; it is the natural “go-to” retailer to pick the perfect card.

About two weeks ago, my wife went to pick up a wedding card. I find it hilarious to see some of the wacky sentimental poetry that is supposed to pass as the “perfect card” for the perfect occasion. This time, though, I received a text from my wife saying we had entered a new season in our country. Now, for some of you reading this blog what I am about to say is not news to you, Northern Virginia, though, – not so much.

I am sure you have guessed by now that the card was for, well, the picture that accompanies this blog tells the story. Scripture tells us that God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve – no matter what the nightly news tells you.

I bring this up not only because of the greeting card my wife found, but it was a topic of great discussion at the USCCB’s annual meeting this week.   Archbishop Kurtz, Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage and Family Life, stated that if Proposition 8 is struck down in California, the impact of defeating a traditional marriage initiative would be “akin to Roe vs. Wade.” The cultural impact would be devastating.

Over the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to work with and get to know a number of gay and lesbian individuals. It has been a privilege and a pleasure discussing the truths of our faith and sharing the love that Jesus has shared with me. My decision to discuss this is not to say any of them are bad people. They are not sons and daughters of anarchy waiting to overthrow the Church and her minions. These individuals who I call my friends and family, though, are many times deeply wounded and confused.

At the heart of those who struggle with same-sex attraction is the desire for communion. This is the desire of all our hearts. The challenge, of course, is two-fold: boundaries and expression.

Love, by its very nature, must have boundaries. It is what defines every human relationship. The depth and expression of love for my wife is not the same expression or type of love I have for my sons and daughters. Everyone would agree these boundaries are reasonable and certain. If I crossed those lines we would immediately, and rightfully so, observe that I have wrenched those relationships out of order. How do we know, though, what the boundaries are? Is it civil law that determines them?

Christianity has always recognized the right of the state to mediate social relationships and contracts of which marriage is the foremost. That being said, Christianity has also recognized that civil law proceeds from the Divine Law. The result – no civil law can contradict the Divine Law.

Divine Law, and its reasoned expression Natural Law, provides a good starting point. The most influential philosopher on natural law was St. Thomas Aquinas. While he did not write much about same-sex boundaries, he was quite prolific concerning sexual sins. For St. Thomas, the marital act always takes place within the bounds of marriage and helps to further the distinctive goods of marriage first elucidated by St. Augustine. Namely: love, companionship, and legitimate offspring (as in a child within wedlock). He did not argue that procreation was necessary to the marital embrace but that every encounter must be open to it. An innovation to his thought was that every marital act must be potentially of a generative kind meaning that the union of a husband and wife must be always be oriented to natural relations which will potentially result in natural reproduction even if a given embrace does not lead to pregnancy, and even if it is impossible due to infertility.

Until most recently, marriage and family law has also reflected this. The rights of marriage (historically conjugal rights have only been acknowledged within marriage) have been most closely guarded by every society and group. Reasoning? Family is the most essential building block of any society. Natural marriage has always had a place of primacy within societies for the following three reasons: 1. Unity of the couple provides a stable boundary for relationships in a society; 2. The procreative nature of the marriage is necessary for the continuation and economic viability of the community if not the human race in general; and 3. The education of youth in order to further the economic demands of the society – whether agrarian or industrial. That being said, natural law is being attacked and reasonable civil laws are being dismantled on a daily basis.

This, of course, brings us to expression. As we have discussed before, the body has a language all to itself. It is a language based on communion. This communion, while expressed through the body, is not a mere biological function or chemical reaction. One must admit, though, that there is a profound connection that exists between the bodily senses and the sexual vitality of the human body. This, however, is the domain of the biologist, physiologist or physician to research and explain this in detail. These professionals, though, must recognize where their expertise end.

The expression of communion is not within their purview.  At the heart of communion is an act of the will which is specifically personal and unique to the human being. It is a personal act which no other creature can make. A doe cannot be in communion with a buck. The natural urge the two animals experience is instinctual to ensure its survival. While we may choose to act like animals…we are not.

The language of communion is that of giving and receiving. Those expressions are stamped physically into our bodies. At the core of a man, beyond the flesh and bones is a person whose sexuality speaks the language of giving. At the core of a woman is a person who speaks the language receiving. Their languages are sexually complimentary and it is communicated most profoundly in the marital embrace. And, this is because the most intimate communion for a married couple is that one-flesh communion of love where the man gives himself to his wife and his wife reciprocates through the loving reception of her husband. “Deep calls unto deep.” (Ps 42:7) That creative love is so profound at times that is must be named. This is not possible within a same-sex relationship.

It is not that the love that two men or two women have for each other is wrong. Their love though is a chaste love because that is how best to communicate their love. We encourage loving, chaste relationships – it is a sign of future glory. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church places friendship within the virtue of chastity when it says,

2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.

Same-sex relationships find their natural expression in friendship which, too, can be life-changing.  Friendship is an end, and a good end, in itself. Whether you are family, friend, married or consecrated to the Lord, friendship must be the basis of all relationships. I am happy that Adam and Steve are friends. I would like to be their friends as well. But unlike the message that Hallmark is attempting to propagate, Adam and Steve can never be a married couple – they just don’t speak the same language.

Plan A: The Blessed Trinity Revealed in Marriage

For those of us who remember the Baltimore Catechism, you likely have those fond memories of Sr. Mary Margaret asking you:

  • “Who made us?”
  • “Why did God make us?”
  • “What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?”

We quickly answered with the appropriate memorized formula and saved our souls from parochial perdition. These are important questions because they address the most basic needs of what it means to be a human being. For us, married men and those who will be following in our footsteps, one of the most intriguing statements we should ask questions about is,

The LORD God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

But why?  The answer to this question seems to be hidden in the reason for our creation:

Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

Traditionally, we as Catholics, have understood that to be made in the image and likeness of God is to have a spiritual soul that is endowed with the powers of intellect and will: one power to know the truth and the other to choose the good. These powers alone neither sufficiently describe the human person nor explain what it means to be in God’s image and likeness. To answer these questions we need to see how our father, Adam, dealt with these questions.

We know that after Adam was created he experience what JPII termed the “Original Solitude.” This solitude was two-fold. It was first experienced after God led all the animals to Adam who then named them (Genesis 2:20) and found that “none were a suitable partner for him.” It was then Adam discovered that he was substantially different and alone, precisely because he was the only rational being around. Only he could name and till. He discovered that he was the only one who was self-aware. He knew what he was meant for. He knew and could talk with God.

The second experience was an ontological aloneness. We all have a need to share ourselves with an equal. Adam looked around and discovered that there was none like him. There was no one to share his life with. He was truly alone, he was the only human being.

We know the next part of the story…woman. The Lord gave Adam a suitable partner that we call Eve. Symbolized by God taking a rib from his side and forming it outside of Adam and not from dirt, the Lord teaches us that man and woman are equal in dignity. Suddenly, there was another that Adam could share his life with AND, he had no competition.

But, is this the meaning of what the Lord meant when He said that “it is not good for man to be alone.” – yes on one level. But, is there is a deeper truth that He wants us to see as well? The more profound truth is to see that “to be made in the image and likeness of God” and “it is not good for man to be alone” are two truths that find their meaning in each other. As it turns out, only Adam and Eve in their nuptial complimentarily can express the imago deo.

Man became the ‘image and likeness’ of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning…Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. Right ‘from the beginning,’ he is not only an image in which the solitude of a person who rules the world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons.(TOB[1], November 14, 1979)

This human communion of persons is specifically male and female. Only man and woman can consummate the meaning of communion. This communion described in Genesis 2:23-24 dispels original solitude and ushers in the original unity of mankind. They may be alone in a world of creatures, but they have each other. We hear this when Adam exclaims,

This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.

Communion is not just a spiritual or intellectual communion, but a bodily one as well.

Here we now begin to understand what the Lord meant when he formed us in His “image and likeness.” The Blessed Trinity is a communion of persons. In the nuptial act, Scripture teaches that the husband and wife become one flesh. Is this not how Jesus described his communion with the Father (John 10:30)? Isn’t this unity of persons how we describe the nature of the Trinity?

The Church teaches that the three Divine persons of the Trinity are consubstantial. The immanent[2] Trinity’s life is a relationship and life of eternal love. What do we know about this life of love? Revelation has unveiled for us that the Father and the Son’s eternal exchange of self-giving love is so complete that it is the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has also taught us through the Last discourses of the Gospel of John that the Trinity is the template and “ideal” (my tribute to Plato) for marriage. The spiritual is revealed through the material and material is giving its true purpose through the mystery unveiled.

It is for this reason that the Church zealously protects the union of spouses. Not just the institution and sacrament of marriage, but the fullest expression of that unity which is their nuptial union. Nothing on earth better describes (although all analogies fall short of the eternal truth) the Trinity than the nuptial union and communion of a husband and wife that needs to name their love.

The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God [God’s love for man], and thus to be a sign of it. (TOB, February 20, 1980)

All the sins we connect with sexuality are not just sins of the flesh against us or “the other.” They are also sins against the Most Holy Trinity. The marital gift is meant to point towards an eternal communion and provide that material for meditation to ponder the nature of who God is. The Culture of Death, on the other hand, twists this sacred act and thus who God is and what it means to love not only God but each other:

God created man and woman in such a way that through their bodies it would be self-evident to them that they are called to love, called to give themselves to one another. The very purpose and meaning of life is found in this imaging of God by becoming a gift to another. “God is love.” (1 Jn. 4:16) Therefore, we fulfill the reason for our existence by loving. Our physical bodies were made precisely to show us this and be the means by which we accomplish this. (Anastasia M. Northrop, “The Sincere Gift of Self: The Nuptial Meaning of the Body, October 16, 2003)

Husbands and fathers have an enormous opportunity to teach their children from an early age what marriage and marital communion is meant to point to. They need to hear and see (by word and deed) that our marriage and communion is not only meant to “incarnate” the Trinity, but prepare us to experience the eternal communion of the supper of the Lamb. This is the husband’s responsibility: first with our wives and then our children:

The husband is above all, he who loves and the wife, on the other hand is she who is loved. (TOB, September 1, 1982)

Our children (and the world) need to see we love our wives. And it must start in our hearts. We are meant to express that love first in all that we do and say. Do we hug our wives? Do we say I love you? Did you know that flowers are for more than apologizing or “buttering her up” for something?

From the all eternity the Eternal Father designed marriage to be the instrument to get our spouse to heaven. Pope John Paul II went to great pains to correct the common misunderstanding and attitude that Marriage was somehow inferior to Holy Orders as a means to heaven. He said in his Letter to Families (Familiaris Consortio):

The sacrament of marriage is the specific source and original means of sanctification for Christian married couples and families.

Marriage and the nuptial union are not at odds with celibacy and Holy Orders. In fact, they compliment and vivify each other. While marriage “incarnates” the Blessed Trinity here on earth, Holy Orders points to the consummation of our true marriage and experiencing the life of the Trinity in heaven. There is no marriage between human beings in heaven because we the bride are eternally wed to the heavenly Bridegroom.

The joys of marriage and heaven are too sublime to worthily treat on this blog or in all the tomes of the saints that have passed on to us. But hopefully, this will light a passion in our hearts to study more on the subject and provide a few tidbits for our minds to consider today. Happy Friday!


[1] TOB is a reference to Pope John Paul II’s Wednesday catechetical teachings known as the Theology of the Body.

[2] Immanent Trinity – The internal life of the Trinity; how the divine persons relate to and act within their interior communion.

Deconstructing the Person through Virtual Reality

Facing Reality

What does it mean to be in touch with reality? Is it possible to know something with certitude? More and more these days, these two questions become increasingly difficult to wrestle and provide an answer that is satisfactory to the masses. Not that the answer does not exist, but frankly, most do not want to take the time to walk through the steps and apply their intellect to delve deeper into this mystery we call life.

For over 400 years, Western philosophers have been struggling with this question. Why 400 years? Prior to the 1600s, more specifically Rene Descarte, western philosophy approached reality in the same systematic way.  When approach something to understand it, they first asked, “Is it?” THEN “”How do I know it exists?” Thomas his western philosopher contemporaries all the way back to Aristotle, state that the first two principles of philosophy must be asked, specifically, in the above order. Why? To not establish that something is real prior to asking how I know it is real will necessarily cause a reoccurring loop that always ends in uncertainty and an illusion in the mind. The consequence of this type of thought is that we determine reality – even how we perceive it. The fact is reality exists prior to our ability to perceive it.  Reality is contingent upon the Blessed Trinity sustaining the existence of all things (res)[1] not our ability to understand, know or perceive it.

Sidebar

Without restating Thomas’ argument on contingency, we should briefly review by way of analogy. Take a carpenter in his workshop working to carve a chair. The carpenter diligently applies his skills and abilities to craft a chair out of the various pieces of wood.  When the carpenter leaves the shop the chair does not fall apart or cease to be a chair because inherent in the properties of the wood, that which it was crafted from, is rigidity and thus it holds the shape it was “bent” to hold. That is an easy analogy to follow.  The second requires less imagination and more conception.

What was there before anything (work with it, work with it, okay come back)? It is impossible to imagine and frankly, frustrating to conceive. Our only frame of reference is that there always has been something. All of creation (material and time) suddenly leapt into existence. Logically, we should be able to conceive and understand that some being had to instigate that creative act. More to the point, since all things were created ex nihilo, what keeps it in existence?  The chair’s “existence” is stable because wood is rigid. Of course, it begs the question, “What keeps wood in existence if it is made from nothing?” Without jumping through all the hoops and proof (also don’t want to insult the readership) suffice it to say that all creation is contingent on a non-contingent being who we call God. God must continue to keep all things in being for them to continue to exist. It would be correct to say that God is always thinking about us even if only by necessity.

Back to the Story

Today we still live in a world in which certitude that something is true or even if it exists is still of great concern.  Notice I did not say debate.  The fact is that the tree will always prove to be real, whether you believe it or not when you decide to drive your car (at a high velocity) into a tree and wrap your car around.  Reality is a hard umpire. While others can continue this discussion I would like to look at a challenge that needs to be addressed.

Discussing reality is hard enough with individuals who are under the illusion that they form reality. One would think that the nature pains of life would quickly and easily convince someone that they are no more in control of reality and their lives[2] than the meteorologist willing a hurricane away from a populated area. But what about Virtual Reality? This is a little more challenging and it directly affects the understanding or what a person is.

To start we should agree that the term Virtual Reality is an oxymoron. In philosophy,[3] “virtual pertains to potential beings while reality referred to existent beings.” It cannot be both and. Technology has evolved so much that how we understand reality is becoming more and more blurred.

Take the simple example of the telephone. Sr. Timothy reflecting on a conversation in the 1960’s with Marshall McLuhan who was a forerunner in understanding the effect of media on the human person said:

…there is a serious sadness in his saying that telecommunications separated the human body from the message, sender from receiver, and scenario from reality. Then messages are sent into space and they are disembodied, said McLuhan.[4]

Not that technology is bad, but considerations should be made on the effect of who we are and what it means to be human.  Take for example the future of virtual persons. The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics (1943-1954) were instrumental in forming a new paradigm on how we should perceive human beings. N. Katherine Hayles writes,

Henceforth, humans were to be seen primarily as information-processing entities who are essentially similar to intelligent machines.[5]

Looking more towards a person-centered understanding and interaction we should consider games.  Marie-Laure Ryan discussed virtual centric interactive “genealogy of genres” created in the 1970’s to today beginning really with “Dungeons and Dragons” to “multi-user domains, object-oriented” (MOO’s) i.e., World of Warcraft, SIMs, etc. and considered

…MOO’s the apogee of creative make-believe, combining immersion and interactivity through role-playing in a fictional world.[6]

The consequences? Ryan concludes;

Once a make-believe identity is established, the user enters the virtual body of his character and plays its role for the inside. He encounters other users playing other characters, and they engage in a dialogue in real time. Most contributions are speech acts (x says), but the system also allows the performance of physical actions and even the building of virtual objects…and sometimes comes very close to goal-oriented dramatic action, such as flirting, spying, building castles, telling stories, engaging in love affairs, breaking up, and starting new relationships…  Sherry Turkle repots several cases of MOO users who regard their MOO identities as “more real” than their ROL (rest-of-life) selves.[7]

This was written in 2005 not even able to conceive where we would be but five years later. As we will discuss in future posts, the American Psychological Association (APA) has added additional diagnosis’s just for these issues. At the core what is the issue?

We are now battling a new form of Docetism.

Docetism is derived from the the Greek dokeo, “to seem,” and asserts that God did not actually become man in Jesus Christ. Instead, he only appeared to take on human flesh, and Jesus only appeared to die on the Cross. This then makes the humanity of Christ nothing more than a phantasm.

While it is important that we understand that Jesus truly became incarnate, it is just as important we understand that we as human beings are a true union of body and spirit. Today, many are looking to escape or deny their bodily existence or reject the fact that we are also spiritual. Many not intentionally.

In order to understand this trap we need to understand person, presence and interface – but that is in a future post.

Please help me by weighing on this subject. Help me consider the other issues that should be entertained and explored.


[1] For Latin students we understand that the word res means thing.  More specifically, in classical Latin and philosophy res means a “real” thing something that undoubtedly exists.

[2] This does not equate to predestined finalism. We are always able to choose.  How we choose does influence our reality and personal situation but it should not be confused with the person who thinks that they are in control of their life. We live in a world where we do not control nature or the choices of other rational beings. More importantly, we need to see that reality pre-exists us because we participate and contribute to reality but not control it.

[3] Sr. Mary Timothy. At the Interface: Theology and Virtual Reality (Tuscon, 2004), p. 9

[4] Sr. Mary Timothy Prokes, At the Interface: Theology and Virtual Reality, p. 36

[5] N. Katherin Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (Chicago, 1999) , p.7

[6] Marie-Laure Ryan, Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactive in Literature and Electronic Media (Baltimore, 2001), p. 310.

[7] Marie-Laure Ryan, Narrative as Virtual Reality, pp. 311-312



Alice von Hildebrand on Christopher West

Yesterday, the Catholic News Service published a story about Alice von Hildebrand and an essay written by her entitled, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Catholic Philosopher, and Christopher West, Modern Enthusiast: Two Very Different Approaches to Love, Marriage and Sex. The timing is interesting since the first National Theology of the Body Congress will be held in Philadelphia next week.

For those who cannot attend the Congress, you are able to view through live streaming for $75.

I would like to hear your thoughts on her essay – especially if you have attended any of Christopher Wests’ conferences or seminars. If you are uncomfortable posting your comments, please feel free to email them to me at marqueshof@gmail.com.  Look forward to your comments.

Mother’s Day: Let’s Celebrate the Pill

Today we celebrate the gift of mothers and implicitly their cooperation with the Most Blessed Trinity to bring the fruit of living love into the world.  While it is true that every child is not conceived in love and many unfortunately grow up in families that are not the loving environments they were designed to be, “It was not so in the beginning” (Matthew 19:8).

The Washington Post in an extraordinary display of amorality, published an article entitled, The Pill: Making motherhood better for 50 years which has to be one of the greatest abominations against motherhood and the sanctity of life  in years.  Opening paragraph? Check this out:

Forget the single girl and the sexual revolution. The pill was not anti‐mother; it was for mothers. And it changed motherhood more than it changed anything else. Its great accomplishment was not in preventing motherhood, but in making it better by allowing women to have children on their own terms.

The article continues by portraying Margaret Sanger as the champion of humanity and women.  It seemed to forget that Margaret Sanger was a racial bigot and eugenicist.  The author, Elaine Tyler May, failed to mention that all the research demonstrates a direct correlation between the Pill and divorce.  While mentioning Humane Vita she forgets to mention that Pope Paul VI predicted an increase in adultery, divorce, and the exploitation of women.

Having children on their own terms.  Seems to me that our Lord said in best in Romans 14:7-8,

None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Riddle me this?  How is it possible that the pill could be such a liberator and at the same time unleash the greatest destruction upon the family and thus society ever known to man? How can the Pill and her children (all derivative forms of contraceptives) be so good when it allows couples to give themselves completely to each other in a lie? How is it that when male contraceptives were create and in the test study one man died they rejected the drug as unsafe but when the female contraceptive was created and 10 women died they approved it and marketed to the general public?

The Pill has actually enslaved women more than they could have possibly imagines.  The only hope for women is the grace of Christ renewing His people through the Holy Spirit.  Pope John II’s gift of the Theology of the Body is the Father’s gift to us to proclaim the truth to the world.  We must engage the world and tell them the truth in love – with logical and culturally-relevant arguments.  Let us study hard and pray harder.

I suggest we write to the Washington Post editors and let mothers know that they have been viciously violated by society and the medical community.  Some articles worth reading as a response:

The Twisted Song(s) of the Lover

Usually during marriage preparation, the question inevitability arises about the wedding music.  Most forget that a wedding is not a secular rite that just takes place in a Church.  Equally delusional, is the belief that the wedding rite and liturgy belongs to the Bride in order to fulfill her childhood dream that Disney created.  A wedding is a sacred event.  It is the re-enactment of the original marriage in the Garden of Eden now found inside the Church (See The Garden of Eden 2.0: Coming to a Church Near You).  One of the great challenges is the lack of catechesis that the young couples have as they prepare for the celebration of this primordial sacrament. Still, all the more, are those responsible for the care of their souls who either ignore the Church’s guidelines or who choose not to educate themselves.  This celebration of the union of a man and a woman should not be desecrated by music that is a mockery of the Sacrament.  Two songs come to mind that have been forbidden to be used in the Catholic liturgy (although every once in while they rear their ugly heads) – The Bridal Chorus and The Wedding March.

“Here Comes the Bride,” is the  stereotypically wedding processional that for some reason brides dream of – Thanks Disney! There are some really good reasons why it should not be used in a wedding ceremony, Catholic or otherwise. This beautiful piece of music hails from Act III of Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. One of those reasons is that there is a fair amount of magic, deceit, trickery, superstition, perceived love and the death of the unhappy lover. Nothing about which speaks or reveals the sacred.

Frankly, Catholics are not alone in banning this musical score.  Jewish congregations ban its use because of Wagner’s blatant anti-Semitism. The Catholic Church in The Rite for Celebrating Marriage During Mass has a desire to elevate and “divinize ” this sacramental rite.  In paragraphs 19 and 20, the Rite states:

At the appointed time, the priest, vested for Mass, goes with the ministers to the door of the church, or if more suitable, to the altar. There he meets the bride and bridegroom in a friendly manner, showing that the Church shares their joy. Where it is desirable that the rite of welcome be omitted, the celebration of marriage begins at once with the Mass.

If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers [cross bearer, altar servers, lector(s)] go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses. Meanwhile, the entrance song is sung.

The Rite does not assume the bride to be hiding somewhere and to suddenly appear. In 1971 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments forbade the use of The Bridal Chorus in the Marriage Rite, but for reasons stated in the Rite itself (i.e. that the bride and groom should walk down the aisle with the priest and ministers, and that an Entrance Song is sung to accompany them).

Knowing, unfortunately, how this liturgically proper rubric will dash every girl’s Disney dream of being the center of attention (which I believe is the same sin that was committed in the original Garden of Eden – pride and vanity) in a solo walk down the aisle, this liturgical aberration won’t change any time soon. A Church’s defense for refusing to play The Bridal Chorus must always be an official document.

Mendelssohn’s recessional, The Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is even more diabolical when used in sacred ceremonies. If you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s comedy, you know it is a fantastically written plot surrounded by fairy tale and a fair amount of snarky humor. The Wedding March, accompanies a farcical union (And yet the marital embrace IS the most complete earthy symbol of the Holy Trinity) in the enchanted forest between the Fairy Queen Titania and Bottom (a man turned into a Jackass). Do we really need to explain this further?  It has no place in a liturgy though it is a “must see” rental from Netflix.  Any level-headed couple who has any desire not to make the implication that the  groom is an idiot or the marital embrace is a trivial joke, should immediately see the absurdity of using this music for their marriage ceremony. That is of course, if the Bride and Bridegroom remember that they are the living testament and witness of the Most Holy Trinity instead of a cheap advertisement for the latest Disney trailer.

Music is one of the most powerful gifts our Lord has provided humanity.  It is meant to inspire us and direct us to hear the eternal song that is in heaven.  Music is expresses the deepest sentiments of the soul.  For this reason, music is the expression or better yet, prayer of the individuals singing it or the ones accompanying it.  What are you hoping to communicate at your wedding?  What is your favorite musician trying to teach you?  That is a topic for a different day!

In the Garden Again: Death=Victory

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5

On Easter morning, we again find ourselves in a garden (Mt 28:8 and Mk 16:8).  The enemy believes that he has won. But Aslan’s words in C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrate a truth that the accuser of the brethren had not considered,

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”[1]

As we have been discussing, a covenant includes mediation of a single individual for the entire people – by a High Priest. All the former covenant curses the Christ absorbed for His bride.  Why? In order for the curses to be lifted, and the human race to continue, either God or all of Israel had to die.  Our Lord’s humanity, taken on by a divine person qualified to settle a divine debt.  It was always in His deliberate plan of attack – the enemy had no idea.  More importantly, he had no idea that our Lord would resurrect.  The Warrior’s game plan was to yield Himself completely, totally, and without reserve.  It is at this point that the Warrior became the Bridegroom.  That is what the Bridegroom does for His Bride.  He offers himself in a complete exchange of persons.  What our Lord experiences eternally in the Blessed Trinity He now brings to earth for us to participate in.

The Anastasis

Scriptures says that early on the morning of the first day of the week (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:1-2, Lk 24:1, and Jn 20:1) an earthquake took place (Mt 28:2-4) and rolled the stone away (Mt 28:4, Mk 16:4, Lk 24:2, and Jn 20:1).  The gospels recount that the ones who came into the garden to anoint the Lord were women.  Had Adam defended Eve, he too would have found his bride coming to anoint his body.  Many Rabbi’s even suspect that the Tree of Life, which was in the Garden of Eden, could have brought the First Adam back to life.  The Garden of Eden was also the primordial seed of all creation.  It was there the God gave all creation to Adam in order for him to adovah (work) and shamar (protect).  The Father also turned the garden into a temple by making it holy on that seventh day of creation. After a short slumber induced by God on day six, Adam awakens to find His bride before him in a temple (also known as a Church) on the Sabbath.

It is no wonder that the Christ finds more than one Eve in the garden this morning.  On Good Friday, the Church was birthed.  His bride was no longer one person but the Church in as a whole.  This is symbolically shown by the three women in the garden.  And how do we know it was love at first sight?  The women immediately run to the disciples to tell them that they have seen the Lord (Mt 28:8, Mk 24:9). They run to tell the disciples.  LOVE NEVER CONCEALS ITSELF!  Someone in love cannot help but share the love that they received through their words, actions and yes, their very person.  What is the message?  The Bridegroom is awake!

More importantly, two of the Gospels say that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9 and Jn 20:14-17) who ran to tell Peter and John (Jn 20:2).  Our Lord desires a spotless bride and Good Friday is proven effective in the person of Mary Magdalene.

Scripture then says Peter and John ran to the tomb. (Jn 20:3-4) John arrived first, knelt down, saw the linens, and believed.  He did not enter though. He waited for Peter. (Jn 20:4-8)  So it is with all true mystics of the Church.  They may arrive first at understanding what our Lord is saying or doing but wait for Peter and the Church to investigate and believe.

What did Peter and John see that made His resurrection so believable – besides that He foretold it?  The following are a few thoughts from Peter and John’s view.

The Sepulcher

The sepulcher was a newly carved tomb (Jn 19:31). Archeologists tell us that the Jews had some interesting beliefs about the dead and where they buried their dead.  In the Jewish burial ritual, the body is placed on a carved out rock table in the center of the cave.  Along the edges of the cave, boxes would be carved out where the bones of their ancestors were place.  The Jews would come back to view the body on four separate occasions over an eighteen month period.  The quicker the body decayed the more sin the individual committed in their lifetime.

So, what does it say that not only did Jesus’ body not decay but instead resurrected?  It confirms the belief from the earliest Christian times that Jesus not only did not sin but He did not possess Original Sin.  Not sinning would only mean His body would not decay. Resurrecting on the other hand, that would mean the chains of Original Sin that bound us to death did not bind Him at all.   Additionally, Jesus was laid in a tomb with no bones of His forefathers.  Scripture gives no indication that they planned to move His bones like Joseph (Gn 49:29-32) or David (1 Kings 2:10), to be put to rest with His forefathers.  This detail provides a two-fold meaning.  The first is that He had no ancestors.  It is true that Mary is His mother who determines His Jewish heritage but He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He is the Alpha and Omega the Beginning and the End (Rv 1:8) – the divine nature of the second person of the Blessed Trinity has no ancestors.  He always is.  The second relates to the new order of creation that Jesus established by His resurrection – He is the First-born of the Dead (Rv 1:5).  The new Adam (1Cor 15:45) has established a new race where all find their heritage in Him.

Our Lord also knew that He would have detractors who would claim grave-robbers.  St. John states:

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. (Jn 20:4-8)

Why is it so important that the cloth that covered the head was separate and rolled up and not with the other cloths?  Grave-robbers only broke in to steal the head cloth which was made of fine linen and could be sold for a large sum of money.  They also would leave the body in the tomb.  Rolled up is also an important detail.  We would say folded neatly.  Robbers do not fold and if they do, it is in haste. Our Lord wanted to make it clear that no grave robbers were here.

As we have noted in the past, gardens are only meant for the consummation of love between the Bridegroom and the Bride.  In times past, the enemy has been a source of division and fear within the garden.  Today is a new day and the enemy has everything to fear.  The reign of Christ the King has begun. Here today, the Warrior-Bridegroom appears perfectly healthy and the enemy and his minions, they find themselves defeated and cowering in fear.

The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. (Mt 28:4)

To add insult to injury, the Lord rises in with glorified wounds. Why? To remind the enemy that the mortal wounds he inflicted have begun the salvation of all mankind of course.  He had played right into the Father’s plan.

Again in this garden the daughters of Eve are found.  This time, unlike the original Eve, they trust and believe the Bridegroom.  They are the now the daughters of the New Eve – Our Lady and thus His Church.  So what is the battle cry of the Warrior-Bridegroom?  It is the ancient greeting and response that signals the defeat of the enemy:

Greeter: Surrexit Christus! (Christ is risen!)

Response: Surrexit Dominus vere! (The Lord has risen indeed!)

Every general has his standard or colors.  For the Christian, it is the Paschal candle that is lit at the Easter Vigil.  The ancient prayer that prepares the Easter (Paschal) Candle is all we need hear to understand St. Paul when he wrote,

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57)

Preparation and Raising the Easter Candle Standard

Christus heri et hódie. Princípium et Finis, Alpha et Omega. Ipsíus sunt témpora et sæcula. Ipsi glória et impérium per univérsa æternitátis sæcula. Amen.

Per sua sancta vúlnera gloriósa custódiat et consérvet nos Christus Dóminus. Amen.[2]

Lumen Christi glorióse resurgéntis díssipet ténebras cordis et mentis.

Christ yesterday and today.  The beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. His are the times and the ages. To Him be glory and dominion through all ages of eternity. Amen.

By His holy and glorious wounds may He guard and preserve us Christ the Lord. Amen.

May the light of Christ in glory rising again dispel the darkness of heart and mind.


[1] http://bittersweetblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/cs-lewis-narnia-atonement-theology.html. Captured April 3, 2010.

[2] The Easter Vigil: Preparation of the Candle, The Roman Missal Sacramentary, Catholic Book Publishing Company (New York, NY: 1985) p.172

The Lord is a Warrior and Bridegroom is His Name!

and the battle continues…

Paradise Lost

The mystics of the Church typically speak of five gardens: Eden, Gethsemane, the secret garden of the Beloved, the soul and the Holy Mass.  All of the gardens are meant to be sacred and set aside for the consummation of marriage.  As we continue our meditation, only two will concern us today on Good Friday.

Adam consummated his marriage in Eden and then let the nahash defile that garden with the entrance of Original Sin. Together Adam and Eve fell and ruptured their relationship with the Father while at the same time seriously wounded their relationship with each other.  They suddenly were alone.  This did not go beyond notice of the Father – He looked for them in the garden to keep Him company.  But they hid.  And so from this time forth in Sacred Scripture, the personal name of the Father is no longer uttered and we are expelled from Paradise.

Paradise being Re-established

The Lord knew they were coming for Him – He was totally in control. In fact, He went out to meet them. (Jn 18:4)  A lover always is open to reconciliation and that is why He came.  As He stood under the full moon’s light, He searched out and provoked the enemy by challenging a cohort to name the one they came for under stealth of darkness. He asked, “Who is it you want? Jesus of Nazareth, they answered.” (Jn 18:5)  Notice they did not say “You!” The darkened mind can never perceive Divine Love even when He stand before them.  (II Cor 4:3-4) And so, they arranged for a sign…a sign of love and affection.  A kiss.  The Divine Lover is betrayed by a kiss in a garden meant only for the consummation of love.  But tonight, that Divine Lover is also a Warrior (Exodus 15:3), the Captain of our Salvation (Heb 2:8-10), and a Might Man of War (Is 42:13).  A Lover fights (shamar – Gn 2:15) for his Beloved, or is supposed too…unlike Adam who handed his Bride over out of fear for his life.

So, our Lord looks and tells them, “I AM, he.” (Jn 15:8) And Scripture says that were paralyzed with fear and fell over backwards on the ground. (Ps 26:2)  This was the seventh and decisive “I AM” statement our Lord makes in the Gospel of St. John.  And again upon the earth, the personal name of God has re-entered the garden out of love and covenant.  Scripture then recounts a quick skirmish with Peter’s sword, the healing of a Malchus’ ear but the Lord is still in control.

Jesus had already begun is free sacrificial offering to atone for our sins at the Last Supper.  He now prepares to continue the liturgy and fulfill the rest of the covenantal curses from Adam through David as the High Priest.  But he cares first for His own, “If I am the man you want,let these others go” (Jn 18:8) His disciples flee…and all is still according to plan. For Jesus knew that in order to accomplish this sacrifice he must be alone:

Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary because of all the sinful defilements and faults of the Israelites. He shall do the same for the meeting tent, which is set up among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one else may be in the meeting tent from the time he enters the sanctuary to make atonement until he departs. When he has made atonement for himself and his household, as well as for the whole Israelite community, he shall come out to the altar before the LORD and make atonement for it also. (Lv 16:17)

The Warrior had been captured but that was all part of the plan.  He is about re-establishing His Kingdom with the unwitting help of the enemy.

A  New Tree of Life in the Garden

Crucifixion by Cosimo Rossetti

Fast forwarding …A kangaroo court takes place (Jewish trials are never permitted to take place under darkness) and handed over to the Gentiles to be executed.  The Jews believe that by handing over Jesus to the Romans that they will be responsible for His death.  Had that been so, we would never enter into eternal paradise.  Pilate finds no wrong in Jesus and washes his hands of this murder – skillfully recalling Deuteronomy 21:7-8.

When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” (Mt 27:24)

Then all assembled shout out with the verse of our salvation,

And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” (Mt 27:25)

They torture Him and then march him up to Golgotha to crucify Him…and He is still in control.  Jesus, knew that Golgotha was one of the peaks in the mountain range of Moriah.  He would fulfill the ancient promise made on Mt. Moriah by Abraham to Isaac, that God would provide a lamb. (Gn 22:8)  Jesus knew that He would be the perfect sacrifice fulfilling the Passover requirements of an unblemished lamb. (Ex 12:5). He was still adovah (ing) for His beloved.

Then they crucified Him upon a tree.  Taking our sins upon Him, he fulfilled the covenant requirement by offering Himself, as the High Priest, to make atonement for our transgressions:

If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his corpse hung on a tree… (Dt 21:23)

Now He looks to His mother and says, “Woman, behold your son.”  Shouldn’t He have said, “Mother…”?  In John’s Gospel, the first miracle of Jesus takes place on the day of the covenant, the seventh day, at which we find Jesus at a wedding.  In Genesis, Adam also meets and marries his wife on the seventh day.  Jesus calls Our Lady by the same name Adam called Eve, “isha”  The only other time we hear Him call her that is on the cross giving John to her as His son.  There too, he dies not say John but son.  A family is being born.  Here the Church finds our Lord reciting his wedding vows by His words and body to His Bride the Church found in Our Lady.  When we look upon Him can’t we hear Him say,

“I take you to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

The Church Fathers have always seen these last words of Jesus as His vows to His Bride the Church.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to always point towards the cross and shout out, “Nuptials, nuptials that what is going on here, Nuptials.”  But we all know that wedding vows are not complete until the vows are consummated.  Is it mentioned in Scripture?  John 19:34 says,

“but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”

And so the Church was born and given life.  Jesus gives Himself totally, completely, without reserve to His Bride.  To the mystics the cross is the marriage bed in which our Lord consummates His love for us.  It is no wonder that the saints say that when they unite their sufferings to Jesus on the cross they become blissful love.  Is that not the language the Bridegroom and Bride use when they describe their marital embrace?

And so the Lover plants a new tree in the garden watered by the blood of the divine and consummated in spirit and truth upon a cross.  The warrior lays down His life, unlike Adam, for His bride…and the serpent things that he has won.  But the story continues…on Holy Saturday.

«Continue Reading»