Thursday, June 23, 2011
Human Intimacy Must Imitate Divine Intimacy
Missa Cibávít eos
Epistle: I Cor. 11:23-29 [St. Paul's Last Supper.]
Gospel: Jn. 6:56-59 ["He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him."]
Full Latin-English propers here.
When most people think of sex, the last thing they think of is the Eucharist and when they think of the Eucharist the last thing they think of is sex. OK, maybe they're thinking of sex anyway, but they see the two as contrary to each other. Now, if you're talking about sex as the world sees it, that is, sex which exists for pleasure and procreation is a part of it only if you really want it to be, then yes sex and the Eucharist really are contrary to that degree. Simply because the notion of sex being about pleasure is contrary to God, the Eucharist is God, and you can do the rest of the math. Now, the Eucharist is the intimacy between Christ and His Bride the Church. Therefore it stands to reason that holy sex, sex done in accordance with God's plan, will share a number of similarities with the Eucharist and will be, to a certain extent, modeled on it. After all, the love of Christ for His Bride is the original love and couples are called to imitate that love: the groom loves and cares for his bride as Christ loves and cares for His, and the bride is submissive to her husband as the Church is to hers. The more a couple's marriage imitates the Holy Marriage of Christ and the Church, the happier and healthier that couple's marriage will be: their love is then just a reflection of the supreme love.
So then, how is Christ intimate with His Bride, that the married couple may imitate that union and have their intimacy be more virtuous? Christ loves His Bride, but God the Father always comes first. Christ offers Himself to the Father to provide for the needs of the Bride, which in this case is the forgiveness of her sins. The Father then in turn gives His Son to the Bride (and indeed the Canon of the Mass, by which Christ is made present before us, is addressed entirely to the Father). After all, it is the Father, through the working of the Holy Ghost, who is trying to unite Son and Church together in the first place. Similarly, the Church and her members offer themselves up to the Father to provide for the needs of Christ. What need could He as God possibly have? His Kingdom needs to be spread. The communicants offer themselves to God to be used to spread that Kingdom. The Father then dutifully unites those souls to His Son, with that union finding it's place in the Eucharist. Indeed, Christ Himself said that none can come to Him unless the Father call Him. Now, this union with Christ does not exist only through the duration of Holy Communion, but it exists all the time. The Communion exists continuously, serving as the fuel and basis for everything done in life and it finds it's outward physical expression during the Mass. The union in and of itself transmits life, specifically, spiritual life. As we will soon see, this is where sex and the Eucharist differ, but they do act as counterparts to one another here.
Se we can see already that sex cannot be an act of pleasure. Such a mentality, one of seeking pleasure from the spouse's body (or indeed anyone's body) is foreign to God and cannot exist. We could simply say that sex exists for procreation, and we'd be right, but that doesn't give the complete picture. Each spouse is called to love and serve God first and each other second. The groom offers himself up to God to be used to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of the bride. God then in turn gives the groom to the bride. The inverse happens with the bride offering herself as well. God must be kept between them like this as He is the one uniting them to begin with. The love they have for each other is not some human emotion that they have of themselves. The love they have for each other is a grace from God: it is God's presence in their lives uniting them together. God is the one who created this union and continuously draws them together. Thus they can either cooperate with this grace and be united according to God's will, which leads to joy, or they can not cooperate and do things their own way, which leads to misery. If they decide to reject each other entirely, that creates an even bigger mess.
Now, this union with each other that God creates does not exist only through the duration of the conjugal act, but it exists all the time. The union of love exists continuously, serving as the fuel and basis for everything done in life and it finds it's outward physical expression during the conjugal act. The union transmits life, specifically, physical life. In this, it is a counterpart to the Most Holy Sacrament. At this point we start seeing a number of differences. Unlike the Eucharist, it does not transmit life of itself. Conception is not necessary for the conjugal act to be complete, rather only the emission of semen. This union of love merely serves as an environment for God to create life, whenever He so chooses. This environment is the one designed by God for the creation of new life. However, even a sinful environment can be sufficient if the physical act is properly intact.
So we can see what sex is and what sex isn't. To the world, in all its error, sex is no more than mutual manipulation for pleasure. That is exactly what human intimacy degrades into if it does not imitate Divine Intimacy. As long as the manipulation is mutual, it is seen as acceptable. However, sex, when done in a holy manner, is an imitation of Christ and the Church's intimacy. In both, God the Father is recognized as the most important: both spouses serve Him before each other and love Him above each other. each spouse offers him/herself up to the Father for the greater good of the spouse. The Father then joins them to each other, which is what He has been trying to do the entire time. Each union of love exists continuously, but finds its expression in it's proper act, be it Holy Communion or the conjugal union and each is a source of strength for everything done in life. The two unions also transmit life: the Eucharist transmits spiritual life and marital union transmits physical life. They do this in manners that contrast with each other, but are complimentary to each other. The union of Christ and His Bride the Church is the marriage par excellence. The more marriage imitates that union, the happier and healthier it will be. The more a relationship deviates from the union of Christ and the Church, the more miserable it will be. After all, that's what marriage is: a call to imitate the love of Christ for His Bride.