Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reflection on July 23, 1980

As we have seen, the fall has distorted the communion of persons from what JPII calls an authentic subjectivity, a fully receptacle gift between giver and receiver. What we have instead is a the giving and receiving of an object, a deterioration of the human to a worldly object on par with the rest of creation, not above it as God created in the beginning. This loss and distortion and trying to combat that is one of the main foundational reasons, I see, that NFP is promoted by the Catholic Church. NFP is focused on getting rid of the barriers that prevent this full reciprocity that was there in the beginning. In NFP, the husband and wife give to each other the gift of themselves fully and receive the other fully. It is meant to be a method that opens up a couple to the fullness of communion that was meant to be at the beginning.

Yes, as with everything, it can be abused. It can be used as a method of not having children for no particular reason, but it is not taught for that reason or is it intended for that purpose. Its purpose is to help a couple get back to that original communion, to push back against the view that the other is an object of pleasure, that the union of husband and wife is a special and unique thing, that the two becoming one flesh (with no barriers) is meant to be one of our strongest experiences in understanding our own humanity and seeing the mystery of God.

Artificial birth control, at it very foundation, seeks to destroy that original idea. It says to the other, “You are not a gift I want to receive. I want the bodily pleasure you can give me, but not the communion, the commitment. You are not a gift, you are an object.” Everything that artificial birth control promotes pushes a view of this distorted communion of persons that we see after the fall. It relies on us seeking physical pleasure, of using the other as an object. It relies on our lack of commitment, our shielding ourselves from the other, our longing to “cover” ourselves and not be fully given or to fully receive. Think about the vows we hear at a wedding. “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” In the small print you don’t see, “Accept in the bedroom where I will shield you away from who I really am, keep a barrier between us because I don’t trust you or I don’t trust God, I will never fully give myself to you because I am afraid, and I will never fully receive you because we will choose to hold ourselves back.” Sounds like true love to me, but that is what we are saying when we choose artificial birth control.

“It deprives man of the dignity of giving, which is expressed by his body through femininity and masculinity. In a way it depersonalizes man, making him an object "for the other." Instead of being "together with the other".

“in the sense that these relations become almost incapable of accepting the mutual gift of the person.”

I really don’t have anything to say about the court case going on right now about this subject. I think there are strong religious and moral and reasonable reasons that artificial birth control is wrong. I don’t know how the court will fall on this issue. Regardless, the issue won’t be settled. If the court does find that we must pay for birth control, I think it is within our right to ask them to pay for a couple to have an NFP class, which when followed can be more effective than any artificial birth control. It has also always made me curious how the same liberals who do not want pesticides on their tomatoes or coal smoke in their rain jump up and down for the right to put something that is lethal to a fetus in their body. You would think they would be the strongest proponents for a NATURAL method. But the world is a mystery to me.

Words I looked up.

Appropriation – (Relationship of Appropriation) - to take to or for oneself; take possession of.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reflection on June 25, 1980

I thought it was interesting that he talks about shame as something positive in a way. When you think about it, it isn’t that hard to see. Shame makes you cover yourself, keep yourself from tempting others, protects them from others eyes and their motivations. At the same time, that was not the intent of the body. We struggle against two competing emotions. One emotion is to seek a union with others and the other is to hide ourselves, to protect ourselves. You often hear that in a relationship, you must make yourself vulnerable, let the other person in. This is the exactly what JPII is talking about here. Before you can be with someone in an intimate way, you have to bring down that shield you use to protect yourself against the prying eyes of the world. When you let it down, you allow the person to see you in a new way. There is a danger there because they are fallen and they have the tendency to use that vulnerability to make you an object, but that is the risk you take in seeking out a unique communion with another in our fallen state.

Our bodies do not cease to arouse desire, but concupiscence distorts this desire, it turns desire into an appeasement to the body, a longing for physical fulfillment, at a cost to the full communion that was intended. Is there a more accurate statement about the worldly view of love and desire? The world wants us to appease or ease all our physical desires, really at any cost. There is no price too high for the fulfillment of all your physical urges. It has always shocked me that we spend so much time telling young people to not use drugs but insist on giving them condoms so that they can fulfill those urges. Perhaps we are moving away from that with the legalization of marijuana, but DARE is still a powerful group. But we are basically encouraging premarital sex and appears to encourage homosexual activity if you have the urge to do that. These actions are promoted at the cost of this authentic union that we were made for. That is why lent and sacrifice are such an important time and lesson that need to be taught and practiced. When the world is saying give in, we need to be building up our strength to hold back.

We have looked at the language in Genesis that man will dominate the woman. I thought last time that this bleeds into the idea of making the female an object. I didn’t connect it with the command given to man about the rest of the world, that he should have dominion over it. Not only does dominance objectify the female, it lowers her humanity down to that of the animals and other worldly things. Maybe that is the same as thinking of here as an object, but I hadn’t made the connection with man’s relationship to the rest of the world. This fits again with the way the world wants us to see us.

Words I looked up.

Appeasement - to bring to a state of peace, quiet, ease, calm, or contentment; pacify; soothe: to appease an angry king.

Impetus - a moving force; impulse; stimulus: The grant for building the opera house gave impetus to the city's cultural life.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reflection on June 18, 1980

Shame just doesn’t join the human person after the fall but JPII says that it “replaces the absolute trust” that we had with original innocence. He has reflected on that trust and the experience and what that meant to understanding, and now that trust just isn’t clouded, but replaced by a sense of shame. As deep as that trust was meant to be to be experienced, that is how deep shame digs in and effects our experience and what we understand it means to be human. We may get a sense that shame is only skin deep because it causes us to “cover” ourselves, but if you see it as replacing the absolute trust foundational in original innocence, shame effects so much more than what we see with our eyes.

JPII goes into a discussion of Genesis 3:16 (anytime you write a verse that is 3:16 you are drawn to John 3:16 but it is not the only important 3:16 in the Bible) which talks about male dominance of female. He says that this is a distortion of the communion that was to be fully given and received before the fall. Now, what is given and received will not be fully given or fully received in a way that was meant to be. He says that the warning or lesson is actually for both, which makes sense because the fall effects both, but only given to the woman. But there is a difference between male and female, so I think it is important that it was given to the female, or it means something that is was given to her. When you look at the conjugal act, when the two become one flesh, the image of God, the female is the main physical receiver. That is the physical difference. 3:16 says she will look on the man with desire, she will look on him and desire a gift fully given, in secular terms, she will look for her Prince Charming. Isn’t that the image girls grow up with? God is telling her that is what she will be longing for. But the male will dominate you, he will never fully give you what you want, he cannot be what you desire, there is no Prince Charming. But because you long for that, you will give in to a lesser prince in the hopes he is what he can never be and therefore, you will be dominated. I don’t know if that is exactly what JPII meant, but that is where reflecting on it led me.

The male side of that, I guess, is that we are told we are to be dominate, a woman wants a strong man, a protector, a Prince Charming. How we manifest that, in a fallen state, is through dominance and control. You may be more familiar with the idea of protecting your children by sheltering them, but I think that equates somewhat with what males may see. Protect your wife by keeping her home, not getting a job, in some generations not letting women learn to read. That is protection in a fallen state, and it turns into dominance, as God foretells.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reflection on June 4, 1980

Man was made in the image of God. This “image” was formed in the union of the male and female. Together in original innocence they get a view of God through this experience. After the fall, this view is blocked or clouded. We cannot get a true vision of this “image” of God because we cannot experience the other they way it was meant to be, the way it was originally intended, through authentic subjectivity. Until we get back to that original innocence, until we are fully redeemed, we are not able to view God. You can follow that understanding into a discussion on purgatory. A person that dies with sin, a clouded view of this image, but not completely separated from God, must somehow get back to the original innocence so that they can view God. The Beatific Vision, the image of God, is viewed by those that have cleared away their sin, been transformed from what became because of the fall, able to experience that authentic subjectivity. Purgatory is a preparation to get back to that original innocence.

The fall cuts us off from the innocent reciprocal nature of the body and all that this communicates. JPII has wanted to express the importance of experience in our understanding of what it means to be human, which leads to a misunderstanding of what it means to be human if we cannot fully experience the other because we lose this reciprocal nature. We get a mistrust of the other. The covering up by Adam and Eve is twofold. We cover up because we are ashamed of our nakedness, but we also cover up because we do not trust those that look upon us and their motivation. Our full trust and self donation disappear along with the understanding of the gift we were meant to be, both given and received.

This new sense or shame in sexuality becomes a barrier to experience and understanding. Before, the experience of the difference between male and female in their sexuality was the very foundation to human understanding. We wonder about the confusion, but it is easy to see that when a piece of the very foundation of knowledge becomes a barrier to knowledge, the human race becomes lost to the most fundamental ideas and reasons for life.

Words I looked up.

Insatiability - not satiable; incapable of being satisfied or appeased

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reflection on May 28, 1980

We talked the last couple times about the “cosmic shame”. That seems to be what is used to label the shame that was felt when Adam hid from God. The shame that was felt between Adam and Eve, why they wore fig leaves, is a different type of shame that is talked about here. The fall brings about this concupiscence of a sexual nature at its very beginning, the first experience of shame is shame of their sexuality. JPII laid a foundation for the importance of this by showing how integral human sexuality is to understanding who we are, what we experience, how we understand ourselves. Because it is so foundational, the very understanding we have of who we are is distorted by the shame we have because of this break from original innocence in experiencing our sexuality. It becomes clear that this sexual concupiscence and its hindrance on our own understanding by Christ command in regards to adultery. Christ knows that in order to experience each other with a authentic subjectivity, we must not have this concupiscence in our heart, not just our actions, but deep inside our very being. Until we can see the world and, specifically the opposite sex, in a way that reflects how they did in the beginning, we cannot know ourselves.

One way to help get back to that is to practice controlling our bodily desires. JPII talks about the fall being causing immanent shame, a break within us, a split between the body and soul. In the beginning they were united. After the fall they are at war. This separation, this war between our body and soul is what St. Paul writes about. We are in the middle of Lent. The practice of giving things up for Lent is a practice in strengthening our mind and soul against the bodily desires that it wants. The last several years I have fasted (no food) from Holy Thursday to evening of Saturday night. I have really enjoyed the experience and think it has helped me in strengthening myself against temptations. The world makes it so easy to fulfill desires and frowns on any type of unfulfilled want that it is refreshing to just deprive yourself of something because you are willing it. We have made that Saturday evening meal a big deal, usually a nice roast and potatoes, a real feast, to celebrate Easter and a spiritual accomplishment. If you have never fasted, really fasted, I encourage you to try it and see what you don’t actually need, what you can do without, and how strong your will can actually be.

I thought it was interesting that they discussed the different ways of defining desire. The world defines it as a lack that needs to be appeased. The Biblical definition states “the state of the human spirit removed from the original simplicity and the fullness of values that man and the world possess in the dimensions of God.” They are very close to each other. The Bible sees it as the separation from God and the simplicity of what man was created for, caused by the fall, and that gap that exist in us. The world sees it as a lack that needs filled. But anything that you desire, the gap that you feel is there, is only there because you haven’t let God fill it. All the worldly things that we desire are things that we are trying to use to replace God. The world’s definition is so close, accept the object that people desire is God, whether they realize it or not. Before the fall, there was no lust, no concupiscence, no desire, because there was no gap. After the fall, that separation causes the distance that brings a new desire, a desire the world can never satisfy.

Words I looked up.

Immanent (shame) - remaining within; indwelling; inherent.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reflection on May 14, 1980

In the beginning man has a full and total acceptance of the gifts God has given in creation and humanity. When he hides himself for God, it shows a lack or incomplete acceptance of this gift. I mentioned last time that the hiding from God was something more than putting on the fig leafs that they did for each other, but in thinking about the fig leaves, I thought of another question. What does it mean when we put clothing on animals? Is it more that we are trying to elevate them to the level of humanity (could also be seen as lowering humanity down to the level of animal) or is it a reaction to shame and wanting to cover them up, like Adam and Eve with the fig leaves. Animals do not have the “knowledge” that man does, so they so need to cover up. I have to think that it is more the former because even most the outfits for animals (shirt for a dog) don’t actual cover up the private areas that would require fig leaves.

As I was typing that, I thought the better question is whether it is us trying to bring animals to our level or degrading humans down to the level of animal. Before you totally disregard the latter, think about what is said about gay marriages effect on heterosexual marriage. They tell us that gay marriage has no effect on traditional marriage and that it only adds to it. But that just isn’t the case. By allowing gay marriage, you totally and substantially change the definition of what it means to be married, thus effecting anybody that is married. When you change the definition of a thing, it can’t but effect all of those things. Putting clothing on an animal, where it doesn’t belong, changes the nature (for our example, the definition) of what clothing is. Perhaps putting it on something that doesn’t need it leads to a belief that it isn’t needed where it does belong. (changing definition of marriage from one woman, one man, for life may lead to heterosexual couples to thinking it isn’t something necessary) It might be interesting to see whether the increase in clothing on animals has coincided with a decrease in the modesty in clothing on humans.

Words I looked up.

Preternatural - out of the ordinary course of nature; exceptional or abnormal:

Determinism - the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Reflection on April 30, 1980

I don’t recall ever hearing or reading about “threefold” concupiscence. 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” Obviously, they are slightly different translations here, but you can see the threefold concupiscence there. Because we are in lent, I found myself reflecting on the verse following them and how they will all pass away but only God remains forever. The Homily of Ash Wednesday focused on a similar lessen in regards to the world. You can think of all 3 of them with this limitation. Sensual lust can be physically satisfied through many avenues, but none last and only urge the person to seek another outlet hoping that it will satisfy. Enticement for the eyes, we can all see that physical looks will not last and even those that we think exist in reality are actually only photo shopped computerized illusions. The honors that the world gives a person are based on a “what have you done for me lately” attitude and fade quickly as your usefulness to them fades. All you have to do is look at one hit wonder celebrities to know how fragile a pretentious life can be.

The following is me trying to untangle the idea of the world. When I was reading this, I couldn’t get past the fact that the world before the fall was “good” in the eyes of God, but after the fall is the source of the threefold concupiscence. Hopefully by trying to explain it, I can better understand it myself.

We start with the idea of “authentic human experience”. It is the pure experience of man to the world and to each other. This is what we are to strive for and what God had in mind from the beginning. God is fully united with man before the fall and fills his heart. The fall causes man to reject God and essential detach himself from God or expel God from his heart. (when I thought of that, I thought of Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden in recompense) Man rejects God’s gift, His love, and doubts God because of his selfish desire. When man expels God from his heart, there is a vacuum that remains. Man looks to the world to fill the vacuum.

I don’t think the world changes after the fall, but it is the way that man sees and experiences the world. The world was never meant to fill the “God hole” in our heart, but when we look to the world to do that, when we look to anything other than God to fill it, we reject God, as Adam and Eve did, and follow a path to sin. The threefold concupiscence of the world are not the world’s fault, at least not the world God made, but our longing to fill that hole in our heart with the world, a place it was never meant to fill. That is why the more you fill this hole with God, the more you are able to see the world the way God meant for it. I don’t think any saint rejected the created world as something evil or full of concupiscence. Look to St. Francis of Assisi and how he interacted with the world. That is because they have filled that hole with God and are not looking to the world to do something it isn’t meant for.

I don’t know if I have ever thought about this, but after the fall, Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves”. This was, we assume, to hide their private parts from each other. But, when God comes into the garden, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden”. The shame they felt to each other and what they wanted to hide was physical. But from God, they wanted to hide themselves. The shame went beyond physical; it ran through their entire being. They wanted to hide all that they were from God. I was thinking about what that means to us. We hide ourselves physically from others, at least those with modesty do. But, do we hide ourselves from God? Does this refer to those that don’t pray, don’t go to Mass, don’t go to confession, or all of the above? And like Adam and Eve, do you think you can really hide from God? He found them, He can find you, He knows what you have done before you did it. Not just that He will find you, but we must understand that He is looking for us, and the sooner we come out, humbly confess our sins, we can be clothed with His light and love, “The LORD God made for the man and his wife garments of skin, with which he clothed them”, because He does not sent us away from Eden without His protection.

Words I looked up.

Concupiscence - sexual desire; lust.

Pretentious - characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved:

Substratum - something that underlies or serves as a basis or foundation.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Reflections on April 23, 1980

I like the image that when Christ is speaking to the man on the mount, He is speaking to every man, to historical man, to us included. We may take that for granted many times when we read the words of Christ, take for granted that He was speaking to the crowds or to His Apostles and not really speaking to us. I think that JPII, in saying that Christ was speaking to historical man, wants us to dissect that into what we have discovered about historical man and what that entails. Historical man is not just the physical man that we see, although that is part, but the sum of his experience, the inner being, more specifically in this use, the “heart”. What man holds in his heart is part of him, part of his experience, and part of what he is and who he will be. We are more than what people see and what is inside is a large part of who we are.

When you think of that, that Christ is talking to historical man, not just the physical man in front of Him, and historical man is made up of his experience and what he experiences in his heart, you read His words in a different and deeper context. “Whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her IN HIS HEART”. What happens in the heart is part of the experience that makes us who we are as human. It is not innocent. We are not sinless as long as we do not physically act. We sin in our heart, which effects us as a human because our experiences, physical and non-physical, make us who we are.

Putting what Christ said in another way in light of this reflection, “If you look at any other woman the way to look at your wife, you commit adultery in your heart.” I think that is correct, unless you look at your wife in a way of desire that reduces her, which is a bad desire. But the way you are to look at your wife is unique to her and looking at any other in the same way, a way of desiring to become one flesh, is sinful.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Reflection on April 16, 1980

I always have loved the idea that Christ did not come to change any of the Jewish law but to fulfill it. It is just so un-revolutionary. When you think of someone that will change the course of human history, He states that He isn’t there to change anything, but only to fulfill what was already started and laid out from the beginning. And we have seen that He points back to the beginning, before the fall. The Jews and all their laws and traditions could never get back to what they had lost. Christ is needed; His death and resurrection are needed, to bridge that gap.

I thought it was interesting to think that the laws trying to define what adultery were led to loopholes for those wanting to get away with as much as they could without violating the law. When I read that I thought of the Clinton affairs and the “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” line. Technically and physically, he may have been telling the truth, but that is Christ point. The command of adultery is about your heart and your soul. If you go through with the act, you actually sinned and committed adultery in your heart well before then. No one blindly falls into the act of adultery. Christ command puts us on guard to stop us from even starting down that road. You can almost hear Him say “you were told to not commit adultery, but in the beginning it was not so”. We see how much the foundation of understanding original innocence and reflecting on creation before the fall is and how it will be the premise to lean on for many other questions on morality, especially those dealing with sexuality and the body.

I thought the footnote in regards to desire was worth reflecting on. JPII talks of desire and the fact that desire, in and of itself, is not bad but necessary. Adam and Eve, in their original innocence, desired the other in a pure sense when they saw each other. Without this desire, procreation would not occur. There must be that desire to lead to a want to join together. When desire becomes harmful is whenever it reduces the person. When this desire reduces a person to an object of pleasure, the pleasure, not the person, becomes the desire and the person merely a means to achieve that end. Then desire becomes sinful.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Reflection on April 2, 1980

Christ is questioned about marriage and divorce, but JPII wants to show us, and I think we have seen in these reflections, that Christ answer in pointing back to the beginning brings us to the answer of many questions, many that would not have occurred to Christ interlocutors. Today, we do have to answer these questions, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, co-habitation, etc are all issues that are brought up and in which the Catholic view deviates strongly against the world’s theology. We have to imagine what Christ’s answers would be to these issues if He were asked today. JPII believes that His answer would be very close to what He gave the Pharisees during their exchange. Why? Because the beginning gets us to the fundamental Truth about what it means to be human and Truth does not change. Regardless if it is the year 30, the year 2014, or the year 3014, when you ask a question about the human body and its relationship to the world around, to the opposite sex, and participation in creation, the answer will always point us back to the beginning when we were not fallen. That is because that is what we are meant for, what we strive for, what Christ came to help us achieve, and that original human nature will be the standard foundation for any answer to the world’s questions.

“This subject decides his own actions in the light of the complete truth about himself”. I was reflecting on this line and thinking about the problem with our actions. It seems to me that you cannot have any confidence in your actions if you do not know who you are. We decide our actions based on the truth we see in ourselves. But can we have any confidence in knowing who we are. We have seen that knowing ourselves requires seeing the world as God wants us to see it and others as God sees them, authentic subjectivity. Until we can see the world this way, we can never have a full understanding of who we are. I liked how JPII said the ideas of the world have partial truths in them, but the world cannot give us a full vision. The same can be said of the many different Christian denominations having partial truths but always missing the fullness of Truth. I think it is a positive thing for them to get some partial truth, but I found myself thinking more about those that actively seek to ignore truth in their views and belief. The former can be somewhat excused, but the latter is where many of the attacks on the Catholic view come from.

I think it is obvious that Genesis is not a biology book. There is nothing about why a heart has 4 main sections or why there are 2 sides to your brain. But it is important to realize that biology is never going to be able to tell you why man is able to reason as opposed to all other animals. Technology is limited on what it is going to be able to explain to us about the fundamental human nature. Genesis, written over 3000 years ago is able to explain this in a way that the most modern biology cannot. Yet many scientist strive to do everything they can to search for answers in the hopes that they can make the Bible irrelevant. But JPII does not discount or deny that science and technology cannot be used or improve life or the following of Christ. I think a very good example of this is the advancements in NFP technology over the last several decades. The science that goes into these techniques, when followed properly, have basically surpassed any type of artificial birth control without the harm those bring to marriages and the temptation they bring to those outside of marriage.

Before I started these reflections, if you had told me that the goal of a married couple was to help each other retrieve each other’s dignity, I would have thought that sounded great, but really have no idea what you were talking about. Now we see that the relationship between how close we are to dignity and how that effects the way we view the world, and specifically our spouse, is completely intertwined. The closer we strive to view each other in dignity, the closer we get to an authentic subjectivity, the better we accept the gift they are, the more open we are to giving ourselves to them, the closer we are to how God planned it, closer to how it was “in the beginning”.