See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

"Have a carnal love for Christ."

The Sacred Heart of Jesus.

A novice master* once recommended that I have a carnal love for Christ - he said he was quoting St. Bernard of Clairvaux  I believe he was referencing Bernard's Treatise On the Love of God or his Commentary on the Song of Songs.  I think Father took the quote out of context, since Bernard discusses carnal love in a much different manner than what the monk was communicating to me.  I think I realized then, as I understand better today, that his idea of a carnal love would fit rather well with some of Chris West's confusing views on Theology of the Body.  One needs to be cautious when it comes to spiritual lust and spiritual directors who interpret mystical doctrines in a far too sensual manner.  In making use of the imagery contained within the Songs, Bernard always stressed the experiences were totally spiritual and produced by grace.  Referring to mystical union, the Saint writes: "Be careful to think of nothing corporal or sensible in this union of the Word with the soul. Let us call to mind here what the Apostle says: `He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him' (I Cor. 6:17).
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One can witness the sensualization or sexualization, if you will, of the mystical experiences of St. Bernard in the manner by which they are sometimes depicted in art.  The images themselves are edifying and evocative of deep spirituality, ideally moving the soul to devotion, yet to the more sensual person, infected by contemporary culture's obsession with sexuality, or his own passions, the sacred images can be misinterpreted or misreprepresented.  I dare say, often appealing - consciously or unconsciously - to a 'gay spirituality' of sorts.  This may sound prudish, but I think I speak from experience.  Sadly, that is one reason why Bernard is sometimes referred to as a 'gay saint'.  (Aelred and John of the Cross have been likewise misunderstood, and misrepresented.)
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However, devotion to the sacred Humanity of Christ is indispensable for the Christian, as all of the saints attest - perhaps none more than Teresa of Avila, who certainly understood the mysticism of St. Bernard.  The Sacred Humanity was Teresa's 'constant companion'.  Indeed, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the perfect devotion which encompasses a chaste 'carnal love' leading to the highest mystical love.  I mention this because not a few men with homosexual attraction long for an intimacy with Christ that can be corrupted by modern 'homsexualist' spiritual directors, who tend to emphasize sensuality in direct opposition to authentic spirituality.
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To avoid these errors, I believe devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the proper antidote, as well as the source of healing for disordered passions, affections and especially movements to lust.  The Heart of Jesus attracts all the affections of our soul and purifies them in the burning furnace of charity that is His Heart.
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Divine Love, A Gift of the Heart of Jesus.
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The infusion of this divine charity also has its origin in the Heart of the Savior, 'in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.'  For this charity is the gift of Jesus Christ and of His spirit; for he is indeed the spirit of the Father and the Son from whom the origin of the Church and its marvelous extension is revealed to all the pagan races which have been defiled by idolatry, family hatred, corrupt morals, and violence.
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Divine Love, the Source of All Graces.
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This divine charity is the most precious gift of the Heart of Christ and of His Spirit:  It is this which imparted to the Apostles and martyrs that fortitude, by the strength of which they fought their battles like heroes till death in order to preach the truth of the Gospel and bear witness to it by the shedding of their blood.  [...]  This finally, moved the virgins to a free and joyful withdrawal from the pleasures of the senses and to the complete dedication of themselves to the love of their heavenly Spouse." - Pius XII: Haurietis Aquas 
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(And I'll share with you a secret to insure your personal, intimate devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is pure and chaste and true.  Go to him through the Immaculate Heart of Mary...  He will perhaps lead you there anyway.  "I will lead you, bring you in to the home of my mother." Songs 8  There he will teach you true and pure and chaste love... and heal you.)
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*Note:  Strangely enough, that particular novice master discouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

17 comments:

  1. Terry,

    What do you think about expressions either in words or images where, I think anyway, the spirituality or link between the individual and Christ or Mary is perhaps not solely corporal, but it is corporal nonetheless. We see pictures of Christ holding someone, for instance. In words, I've heard it put that "Sometimes, I just want to lie in Mary's arms".

    I don't think there is anything necessarily unchaste in this, but I wonder if its helpful regardless.

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  2. Also, can you explain a bit how to go to Him through the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

    I try to do things (like pray to Mary, recall her sorrows, etc.) and live concretely in such a way to honor her and hopefully place trust in her guidance and protection, but sometimes devotion seems abstract and I wonder what it all means if that makes any sense.

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  3. Good post, Terry. There isn't much creepier than "my boyfriend Jesus" and as you pointed out - "gay spirituality." I still feel kind of creepy when Father exorts us to fall in love with Jesus during homilies. I know the men are going, "ewwwww."

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  4. Terr, you are a gem. May God bless you for sharing your reflections with the world. I know you help so many. This post is a perfect example. I tell you this cuz you often think you should quit. But that's what the devil wants. Remember that.

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  5. Anonymous6:12 PM

    Angela, I agree with your attitude toward "Jesus is my Boyfriend" -- have actually heard some women say this -- and I think it's actually sacrilegious to put Jesus on a level similar to our favourite movie star or some such fantasy figure. Jesus is more real than any of them! Good comments, folks.

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  6. Patrick: Keep praying in simple words like "Immaculate Heart of Mary, lead me to Your Son". It doesn't need to be complex. That's all I've got for you. But, keep at it. A daily Rosary helps as well.

    Terry: Superb

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  7. A couple of inputs I have on this has to do with Carmelite spirituality, what I call "divine intimacy" or "basking in the Holy Spirit". This is a higher level of contemplative prayer. (our monastics here can probably relate). I have experienced it a few times during contemplative prayer and it is an incredible experience..hard to describe--but it is a feeling of totally "letting go" and being surrounded and embraced by the presence of God..it's similar to sexual intimacy in the fact that you are 100 percent totally surrendering, in this case to God, every feeling, every sensation, every emotion, and maybe that's what St Bernard was referring to. For me it was like being surrounded in a big warm fuzzy blanket, oblivious to anything and everything aorund me, and just BEING inthe presence of God.

    Patrick--you ask how to get there?? Start out small...Jesus I trust in you prayer....sit five minutes quietly, no distraction--I know hard in this world:) Quiet time with you and Jesus. If you can't do 5 minutes that is ok..St Teresa used to complain of her mind "racing like wild horses." Jesus loves even 10 seconds you can spend thinking only of Him. And yes Our Blessed Mother can help too. A picture of th eSacred Heart is a wonderful picture ot meditate on.

    God Bless.. Sara

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  8. Upon thinking more of this as I was watering my pansies this evening...

    Perhaps we should not be so quick to criticize those who refer Jesus as "boyfriend" or other endearing term...a boyfriend or other beloved individual in our lives is someone we love deeply, can talk freely with, share our hopes and dreams, laugh over a funny joke or cry over a dead puppy. Those people invite Jesus to be a part of their daily lives, every aspect. I think their faith is much more wholesome than those whose only interaction with God is a hastly mumbled blessing at lunch in a low voice so no one hears, maybe a daily OF or Ave, or "I meet God in church on Sunday." God really wants to be deeply involved in our lives, and will if we invite Him in..

    I remember years ago speaking to an acquaintance as to why he did not attend church. He said he was a sinner, God send sinners to Hell, where the Devil welcomes them with opens arms. Then he said "At least the Devil will be happy to see me." Too many of us I think have the impression of God with a big white beard, sitting on a golden throne, with His finger on the Hell button..and if we sneeze wrong there we go..That's why it is so important to spread the devotion of the Divine Mercy, and all its love, graces and promises to us poor sinners.

    Sara

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  9. I don't think "Jesus is my boyfriend" is endearing. I think it speaks to the tendency by many to make Jesus all soft and cuddly. You know - the Jesus that forgives the adulterous woman but NEVER says "go and sin NO MORE." I think "Jesus is my boyfriend" indicates a watered down faith (not to be confused with a simple faith.) Give me bloody Jesus hanging from the Cross - now THAT is real MAN and REAL God that gives up His life for His friends.

    ps...I apologize if my tone sounds snarky - it's not meant that way.

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  10. Some say Jesus is this, and some say Jesus is that. But Jesus looks at each one of us, and says "Who do YOU say that I AM?

    To me, it's how He chooses to reveal Himself to the individual, and I wouldn't presume to know what goes on between two people. It is, after all, one's own personal encounter/relationship that is hopefully being formed. Not robotic liturgical observance. Sorry if my comment sounds snarky. I am in a bit of a snarky mood, these last couple of days.....life etc..

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  11. I do like your comment about "robotic liturgical observance" - I know a few people like that! They claim to love Jesus and have a relationship with Him but I always feel they have a "checklist" with Him.

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  12. +JMJ+

    In defense of "robotic liturgical observance": it was the only thing that got me through a time when my main question was, "Who is this Jesus dude anyway?"

    When my heart and mind can't pray, thank God that my body can.

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  13. I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't have posted this.

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  14. Aw, c'mon, Terry! We're not throwing things at one another (yet). I have to get in my two cents worth if you are thinking of taking the post down.
    While I think it is true that people can take an overly-literal interpretation of mystical union and Jesus-is-my-boyfriend and go over the top with it, I have to agree with Sara and Shadowlands that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all spirituality. Imagery which is helpful to one person may be repellant to another. The test is if it is faithful to Church teaching and draws us closer to God. As Sara said, "God really wants to be deeply involved in our lives, and will if we invite Him in.."

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  15. Terry...NO, NO, NO!!!
    You are absolutely right in posting this...
    the "spouse of Christ" imagery in nun's spirituality can get outright crazy...the gay thing is kinda gross...the "Jesus as my boyfriend" is just, well, immature...and the refusal to embrace the Incarnation, God made man for us, God with us, making Him some kind of "avatar" (and if I'm not using this word correctly, please, somebody, correct me...I have no idea, other than a cursary idea of what this means...)
    Leon Podles has written very good work on the whole aspect of masculine spirituality (I cannot remember the name of his books, I am so sorry)...but the point of what he makes, which I think is "spot on", is that men, especially celibate men, need to relate to Jesus as those men in combat do ..."
    comrade in arms...whole love one another tenderly, completely, without any question, without being sexually involved...brothers in arms...they would die for one another, they hold one another in their arms as the other is wounded and dies, they "have one another's back"...they are completely, chastely, but in a sense "spousally" committed to one another without the genital/homsex aspect (which, in reality, is very superficial, selfish, and just against the whole notion of "self-giving love").
    Jesus as my "Saviour", Jesus as my "other" (in the sense of complete and constant friend)...Jesus as the One that all reality points to...THAT'S it!
    I, as a religious and priest, am called to be a spouse of the Church and a "comrade-in-arms" with Jesus, my Lord, my Savior, my God.
    And He IS my compadre; He holds me in His arms, He admonishes me, He helps me out...it's a masculine spirituality kinda thing...
    hope this helps...I'm just kinda "consciousness streaming" on this:<)!

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  16. Father - that does help a lot. I was asking about this in adoration today and it seems to me the Eucharist is the very best way for anyone to find the right intimacy with Christ - if they find other methods troublesome. I also think with today's emphasis on eros - erotic love-making - the deepest meaning of love is very much lost. I haven't the time to eloborate. But thanks for your contribution Father.

    Shadowlands and Melody - excellent points. Shadow - your comment didn't sound snarky.

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  17. Terry: Thank you.
    And I must tell you that I was touched very deeply when I visited our Cistercian monastery (in our Diocese) when their chapel was a simple "trailer"some twenty-five years ago...and the picture of St. Bernard being embraced by our Crucified Jesus greeted me as I entered that very poor and simple "temple of God"...it made me want to enter there; that is not my vocation, but I was very drawn by that simple image of being "embraced" by the Lord, covered with wounds, on the Cross, Who loved me before time began and beckoned me to His Heart...God bless the Sparta Cistercians...they are ever in my thoughts and prayers.
    They are our "brothers" in this Diocese (our other 'contemplative community').

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