Friday, October 28, 2011

4. Celibates skip earthly marriage and point to heaven

This post is about the third section of Theology of the Body (highlighted):    
      Part 1: Who Are We? Establishing an Adequate Anthropology
         Cycle 1: Original Man
         Cycle 2: Historical Man  
         Cycle 3: Eschatological Man (Catecheses 64-86)    
      Part 2: How Are We to Live? Applying an Adequate Anthropology
         Cycle 4: Christ and the Church
         Cycle 5: The Dimension of Sign
         Cycle 6: Love and Fruitfulness

     We are called to communion with others, but the truth is a human relationship will never satisfy us completely. Adam was created first alone, and he was worthy of being called to communion with God. Christ came to give us the power to live the way we were created to be in the beginning, but we won't go back to that state of original innocence. We're actually destined for something greater and Christ's resurrection confirmed it: the resurrection of the body.
     In this section, John Paul II looks at the resurrection of the body, with Christ's answer to the Sadducees (Mt 22:24-30; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40) as his starting point. The Sadducees ask about marriage in heaven, but by Christ's answer we see that "marriage and procreation do not definitely determine the original and fundamental meaning of being a body nor of being, as a body, male and female. Marriage and procreation only give concrete reality to that meaning in the dimensions of history. The resurrection indicates the closure of the historical dimension" (69:4).
     The resurrection of the body is connected to the communion of saints. On earth, the sacrament of marriage points out that we are made for communion, and in heaven that communion will be consummated. The perfect union with God will also make possible a perfect union among people: there will be a "rediscovery of a new, perfect intersubjectivity of all" (68:4).
     It will be a "wholly new state of human life itself" (66:3). Body and spirit will be one again, without opposition between the two. No longer will the law of "I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate" (Rm 7:15) be at war in man, but instead there will be a new submission of the body to the spirit. This is not to say by any means that the spirit is "better" than the body! This is not a "victory" of the spirit over the body, but a "perfect participation of all that is bodily in man and all that is spiritual in him" (67:2).
     For this to happen, for body and spirit to be in perfect cooperation, a radical transformation has to occur. Man is in tension between the weakness he discovered in himself after the fall ("For you are dust, and to dust you shall return" Gn 3:19) and the redemption at work in him. John Paul II reflects on the passage from 1 Cor 15:42-49 in more detail to say that his "weak" or "natural" body carries the aspiration to become "full of power" and "spiritual", which happens in the resurrection of the body. 
     Marriage shows us what God's love is like. It shows us that we are made for communion, in the image of the trinity. Celibates point us to heaven and show us that this is not our final resting point. To be married here on earth is not our ultimate goal: to accept marriage with God is.... and this will be consummated in the banquet of heaven. The celibate show us this with the amazing decision he/she makes to skip marriage and procreation here on earth and live completely pointed toward the heavenly marriage. Christ explains this when he says some will choose "continence for the kingdom" (Mt 19:12). He says FOR the kingdom and not IN the kingdom, thereby defining celibacy as an anticipation and a charismatic sign of the end times.
     Christ's words in this passage, and his own example of celibacy, mark a radical change of direction, even from the Old Testament tradition. Celibacy and virginity simply do not exist in the Old Testament. In fact, when a young girl by the name of Jephthah is condemned to die, she asks to be able to first go mourn her virginity... mourn the fact that she wasn't able to do the most worthwhile thing in life: marry and have children (Judg 11:37). Christ points to a completely new reality and celibacy in this way has the feature of being distinctly Christlike. The apostles must have associated this new concept of celibacy with a certain likeness to Christ.
     Celibacy and marriage explain and complete each other, they are two sides of the same coin. They both point to love, but one more to what we were created for and the other to what we are destined for. In both vocations, man is called to become a "sincere gift for others" (Gaudium et Spes, 24:3). Celibacy and marriage are different, but complementary, and they are each a gift from God: "Each has his own gift from God, one in one way and another in another" (1 Cor 7:7). How do celibates help those who are married and vice versa? Here are some quotes to explain:
  • "Perfect conjugal love must be marked by the faithfulness and the gift to the one and only Bridegroom (and also by the faithfulness and the gift of the Bridegroom to the one and only Bride) on which religious profession and priestly celibacy are based" (78:4).
  • "We do not forget that the one and only key for understanding the sacramentality of marriage is the spousal love of Christ for the Church (see Eph 5:22-23), of Christ who was son of the Virgin, who himself was a virgin, that is, 'a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven' in the most perfect sense of the term" (81:4).
  • "Continence indirectly serves to highlight what is most lasting and most profoundly personal in the conjugal vocation, what corresponds in the dimensions of temporality (and at the same time in the perspective of the 'other world') to the dignity of the personal gift connected with the spousal meaning of the body in its masculinity or femininity" (81:6).
  • "On the other hand, spousal love that finds its expression in continence 'for the kingdom of heaven' must lead in its normal development to 'fatherhood' or 'motherhood' in the spiritual sense..." (78:5).
     Celibacy shows us that the body's end is not death, but glorification. Does it include sacrifice? Yes, just as much as marriage does. The celibate answers in a particular way the Redeemer's spousal love, and the greatness of his decision lies in a mature answer to a particular gift of the Spirit. John Paul II reminds us that the human heart seems wired to accept difficult demands in the name of love, above all in the name of love for a person. For the celibate this person is Christ, and he/she is oriented by the "love of Christ himself as the Bridegroom of the Church, Bridegroom of souls, to whom he has given himself to the end (cf. Jn 13:1; 19:30) in the mystery of his Passover and of the Eucharist" (79:9).

Frodo, a great example of celibacy for the kingdom

     This sacrifice of love, this acceptance of Christ as the ultimate Bridegroom, this pointing toward heaven is an incredible sign of hope for all of mankind. Sin came into the world and still has its mark on all of creation, but hope is also implanted in the human heart. The celibate points to this hope which all of creation cherishes that "it itself will be set free from the slavery of corruption to enter into the freedom of the children of God" (Rm 8:21). "We await precisely the eschatalogical victory over death, to which Christ gave witness above all with his resurrection" (86:5).

And some music:

1 comment:

  1. An informative and interesting posting.