Monday, April 23, 2012

Mexico, Volcanos, and the Scope of Human Love

It was a grace last week to travel to Mexico and share Pope John Paul II's teaching on "human love in the divine plan." This teaching commonly called a theology of the body has been interpreted by some as a teaching specifically intended for the married, as it touches so beautifully on the relationship between spouses and the intimacy of human love. But I spoke last week in Mexico to over 120 consecrated women... Women who have freely chosen to sacrifice the intimacy of married affection, children, and all the "joys" the catechism says God gives spouses "as a foretaste of Heaven" for something more (CCC 1642). So what did this "Theology of the Body" have to say to them? Everything.

The Theology of the Body holds within it the full truth and meaning of sexuality and therefore conjugal and consecrated love. After all, it is a reflection rooted in Scripture offered by a celibate man and priest of God, Pope John Paul II, grounded in his prayerful dialogue with those celibate, married or aspiring to marriage over the course of his entire life. It is an understanding of human love in the Divine plan; in other words, it is Christianity reloaded, and reincarnated for the modern world. It's not something new, as much as it's something renewed for modern man. In essence, it addresses the human ache for the infinite, and in this regard can speak volumes to the hearts of every man and woman on the planet; single, married, celibate, widowed, divorced, disenchanted and dysfunctional (which is actually all of us).

Fr. Cantalamessa once wrote... "The primary object of our eros, of our search, desire, attraction, passion must be Christ." 

 The God-given desire for intimacy, expressed so beautifully in the marital embrace is really a kind of foreshadowing of a Love that will and already can fill every hole in the heart. Ask any married person and in all honesty they should answer you that their spouse isn't their savior. We really can't, in our fallenness and imperfection, fully "complete each other." We must look for a Higher Love, one that can flood every human vessel with Divine Mercy. A Love which can lead us up and out of ourselves, through others to the Source of all Love. Think how often human couples speak of "falling in love" as if it actually is a separate reality, distinct from the two of them. And marital love not only can create a third person, but it truly IS the presence of a Third Person. Love is the Holy Spirit, Eternal Bond of the Father and the Son! Love is truly a Trinity. And the Catechism again reveals to us this connection of the human to the Divine: God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. - CCC, 221

In Mexico, we pondered these truths, in a beautiful retreat center, nestled in a mountainous gap between two massive volcanos. One was aptly named for a warrior (still actively spewing plumes of ash like a smokey sword into the sky) and the other called the "Sleeping Maiden" - the warrior's treasured beloved, a reclining snow-covered range of mountain peaks. In their shadows, we pondered the significance of masculinity and femininity in the world. We saw just as the ancient indigenous of the region did in those mountains, something cosmic in man and woman, something that earthly signs were here to point towards. In our separate and distinct vocations, we taught each other and learned from each other. I prayed that my marriage witnessed the tenderness and service needed to make love present in the family. And for me, I learned from these beautiful, consecrated spouses of Christ, that my married love must open itself to the tenderness and service poured out in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Such is the sweet complimentarity of the calls to conjugal and consecrated love. One day when the Spirit comes to flood the world again and return us all to the Father, we shall all be wrapped up in that heavenly embrace where "totality embraces totality." (Pope Benedict XVI) And in Heaven it is said that all men and women will "rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end." (St. Teresa of Avila)

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