Friday, November 21, 2014

Reflection on July 11, 1984

We move from looking at Scripture to looking at the encyclical Humane Vitae. SJPII looks at the structure of a very small part (only a couple of lines) of the entire encyclical, but very important, and controversial, lines. "The Church teaches as absolutely required that in any use whatever of marriage there must be no impairment of its natural capacity to procreate human life … This particular doctrine, often expounded by the Magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act … The reason is that the marriage act, because of its fundamental structure, while it unites husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also brings into operation laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman for the generation of new life". These few lines give a great over view of the Theology of the Body and SJPII understands that what he has done is dig into this encyclicals instruction and further proven its Truth through his reflections.

I was not around for the release of Humane Vitae, but it is my understanding that leading up to its release it was the general consensus that the Pope was going to release an encyclical that changed Church teaching and allowed contraception or at least became more flexible on the subject. Its release, preaching just the opposite, was met with hostility from a world that saw the Catholic teaching on these types of issues as behind the times. I have mentioned it before in relation to the issue of divorce, remarriage, gay marriage, etc, that the world either thinks or hopes that the Catholic teaching is going to change. I am not sure if a serious and diligent reading of Theology of the Body leaves any doubt that Catholic teaching on marriage is firm and grounded in the teachings of Christ and will not change.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reflection on July 4, 1984

I am having some trouble with this one. “This seems to be the integral significance of the sacramental sign of marriage.” This makes me think that what he is explaining is very important and yet I do not feel like I am seeing the picture he is trying to paint. It feels like staring at one of those hologram pictures, squinting very hard, but just seeing colors and dots.

I think my confusion comes from SJPII use of the word liturgy in these talks. The only way I understand liturgy is the celebration of the Mass or a celebration or getting together for some organized and structured prayer. Marriage as a liturgy, I am not grasping. I understand that a couple gets married during a liturgy, that this is a liturgy, but I don’t think that is the message. How is marriage a liturgy.

I am going to type out what I am grasping, then reread it again and see if I feel I have anything. We have seen that the marriage of 2 people speaks to the world. This union is itself prophesying to the world about God and His relationship with us. The unity of these two is both physical and spiritual. If we take Mass as our base form or basic definition of liturgy, I can see several connections with what we just said of a marriage. At Mass, we have both a physical and spiritual union with God. Physical in the Eucharist, Spiritual in the sense that Mass is Heaven on Earth, God is present in the readings. There are both physical and spiritual parts of the liturgy that allow that union. In Mass, God speaks to the world through the Scriptures and readings. That doesn’t have as much to do with the union, but we are called, after every Mass, to go out into the world and bring Christ. The union we have with God in Mass allows us to speak to the world about God. In the liturgy, God gives Himself fully to us as gift and we are called to receive Him fully and to fully give ourselves. Same language we have seen in our discussions on Marriage. So if these ideas are ways of describing both liturgy and marriage, you can say that marriage is a liturgy, a form of public worship.

Although I don’t think any of what I said above is wrong, I also don’t believe it is what is being talked about in this talk. It does appear that SJPII is focused specifically on the liturgy of the marriage, the marriage ceremony, and the language used. The language used, the vows from one to the other, are meant to put into words the non-verbal language of the body. I think we have already discussed the vows can be seen as that, I may have just been trying to dig to deep when the answer was right on the surface or merely expanding on a topic already discussed, which SJPII does a lot of.

“I, (name), take you, (name), 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.” A complete and full gift of self for life.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reflection on June 27, 1984 – (Paragraph 4-5)

The prayer of Tobias brings the couple into the context of where they are in the history of creation. They understand themselves as another link in the chain that began with Adam and Eve. You often hear about family trees, but thinking about it, isn’t a chain a better analogy. Just think about what a chain is if it is missing one link. It is nothing. Each link is vital. Now think of yourself as a link in a chain that goes back to Adam and Eve. Yes, it is a very complicated chain and goes off in many different directions, but there is that link back, connecting you to the very beginning. That is the context Tobias prayer puts them in. They look back to the beginning, both of the stories. The look at man (male/female) being created and man created and woman created as a helper for him. Both tell us about our nature, both tell us about our union with the other, both are where our chain starts and a link that they are becoming.

They ask for purification before uniting. They understand the importance of uniting fully, fully giving and fully receiving. They are well aware of the meaning of their unity and why it is meant to a full gift of self. They also know they are not sinless, that they need God in order to give a gift that is pure. They are aware what sin has taken away from them, but fully rely on God to help restore that ability to be a gift fully given. We get the same language of the body from this prayer as we do from Song of Songs, but it seems a much more practical scripture for us. It is much more meaningful because we are sinners and can relate to their situation. It is more practical because we are in their shoes. Song of Songs is a relationship that teaches us what we might have been in the beginning, but Tobias gives us a prayer we can use in our marriages today.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reflection on June 27, 1984 – (Paragraph 3)

“The spouses of the Song live and express themselves in an ideal or abstract world, in which it is as though the struggle of the objective forces between good and evil did not exist.” I thought about this while we were going through the Song of Songs, that it was written or that the couple was Adam and Eve before the fall. The couple was two that were able to see each other and their union in a way in which evil or sin had no taint. Tobias and their prayer are not in that world. They are in a world where they understand evil is real and powerful, as known in the deaths of her previous spouses. Although we see a sign of what this spousal union is supposed to look like in the beginning from Song of Songs, in Tobit we receive a lesson in how we are to behave in this union in a fallen world, a more practical example as opposed to the abstract of Song of Songs.

I like the image of love stepping in between good and evil. “The truth and the power of love are shown in the ability to place oneself between the forces of good and evil which are fighting in man and around him, because love is confident in the victory of good and is ready to do everything so that good may conquer.” The confidence of love in the victory of good reminds me of my reflection on the advice of Raphael. I mentioned my struggle with hope vs mercy and discussed it with a friend and he pointed to it all coming to a trust in God’s will. That seems to point us in the same direction that this image of love surrounding us and being confident in the good, because God’s will is for our good, not our woe. The evil of the world is out there, but love is there to shield us, to help us, and the source of all love is God. Seeking God, seeking Love, is going to lead you to seek His will, which will all work towards our good. Seeking and accepting God’s will, whatever that may be, is our goal and we can better achieve that by opening ourselves to Love. Maybe the confidence we see in Raphael here, or Daniel and the lions before, is just a gift of knowledge in God’s will that allowed them the grace of that confidence, whereas her father, not having that, prayed for God’s will, but was focused on God’s mercy because of his lack of supernatural foresight.

The union of husband and wife speaks to the world, which is the language of the body. A marriage lived according to God’s will speaks the language of love, this is the prophesy we have seen before. And love is the force that stands against evil with confidence in victory. We are called to live our marriage vocation with that confidence of the victory of good. How do we live out that loving marriage? Where is this language of the body spoken? Our children see it, our families, friends, the parish. This is where we prophesy love, this is where we need to speak this true marriage, God’s language of the body, God’s language of love, to the world with confidence in the victory of good. We are called to live our marriage with the confidence of Raphael and have no fear.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Reflection on June 27, 1984 – (Paragraphs 1-2)

In looking at Tobias’s prayer, SJPII looks at 2 distinct things involved. First, the idea of calling his bride his sister; and second the attitudes of the 2 people giving advice or offering prayers for the couple. The sister aspect takes us right back to Song of Songs. This person that you are taking as your bride is your Eve. She is one like you, a helper, yet different than you. We discussed this more in the sections on Song of Songs.

The second idea is the one that sparked interest for me. The father of the bride offers prayers for the couple. He offers them a farewell and seeks God’s intercession. He calls on mercy for Tobias. He has seen 7 other suitors come and marry his daughter and all of them have died on the wedding night. He seems to have little hope that Tobias will survive and, therefore, what he seeks is mercy on the young man about to die.

Raphael, on the other hand, offers prayers of hope. He tells Tobias to pray and not to worry. There is a complete confidence that this is all meant to be and that God will save Tobias and he will not be harmed. There is no advice of seeking mercy, only confidence in God that things will be fine. Hope abounds in Raphael.

This got me thinking about how we approach dire situations, even if we have God, are prayerful. We can go into them two different ways. We can believe that the worst will happen or we can hope for the best. I was thinking of Daniel and the Lions. You don’t get the sense that Daniel ever prayed for God’s mercy or said the prayers you would say on death’s doorstep. He doesn’t seek forgiveness because he is about to die. He goes into the lion’s den with complete confidence that God will save him, complete trust that he will survive.

It seems there is a line there that I am not clear on personally. When something comes up, do I pray for mercy because the situation is dire, or do I pray with hope that the situation will just change or not happen? I know several people dealing with cancer now and I wonder about praying for mercy or praying with hope. I also wonder if you pray with such faith and hope for a miracle, like Daniel walking into the den, like Raphael told Tobias, “not to worry”, does the mercy take care of itself if the miracle doesn’t happen. Or, if you pray with such confidence in the miracle, when it doesn’t happen, are you shattered? Where is that line, where is that balance, when do you pray for mercy, when do you focus all your faith in the miracle? I don’t know if SJPII was hoping for that type of thinking, but I have never thought about that difference until I thought about the two attitudes of the father and Raphael.