Monday, January 24, 2011

Finding our way back to the Garden of Eden

"The beauty of the female is the root joy to the female as well as to the male, and it is no accident that the goddess of Love is older and stronger than the god. To desire the desiring of her own beauty is the vanity of Lilith, but to desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve, and to both it is in the lover that the beloved tastes her own delightfulness." C.S. Lewis

Catholic theologian Ronald Rolheiser points out the..."fundamental task of spirituality is to help us understand and channel our sexuality." The word Sex comes from the Latin root = and the verb "secare" literally means to "cut off", "to sever", to "disconnect from the whole." Therefore to be "sexed" essentially means to be cut off, severed from, to be amputated from the whole.

He goes on to remind us that sexuality is an all encompassing energy inside each of us creating a drive for love, communion, community, friendship, family, affection, wholeness, consummation, creativity, self-perpetuation, immortality, joy, delight, humor, and self-transcendence. Sex becomes an energy inside us that works incessantly against our being alone.

Sex is an expansive energy and we are healthy sexually when we have all these things, not just when we are sleeping with someone. A person can have a lot of sex and still lack true love. We can be celibate and still have community, family, friendship and creativity. Sexuality is as much about having friendships as it is about having lovers. Indeed as Rolheiser states, "It may be painful to sleep alone, but it is perhaps even more painful to sleep alone when you are not sleeping alone."

The Greeks did not ask one aspect of love to carry all the others. Their understanding of "Eros" had six systemic dimensions:

1. Ludens - love's playfulness, teasing, and humor
2. Erotic Attraction - sexual attractiveness and desire to have physical union
3. Mania - obsessiveness, falling in love, romance
4. Pragma - sensible arrangement in view of family, life, home and community
5. Philia - friendship, soulmates
6. Agape - altruism, selfishness, sacrifice

"Mature sexuality is not simply about finding a lover or even finding a friend, its about overcoming separateness by giving life and blessing it. Its about giving oneself over to community, friendship, family, service, creativity, humor, delight, and martyrdom so that God can help bring life into the world. It is also the pulse to celebrate, to give and to receive delight, to find our way back to the Garden of Eden where we can be naked, shameless, and without worry and work as we make love in the moon light."

Rolheiser explains that..."all these hungers, in their full maturity, culminate in one thing: they make us into co-creators with God. Mothers and fathers, artisans and creators, big brothers and big sisters, nurses, and healers, teachers, and farmers and producers, administrators and community builders....Co-responsible with God for the planet, standing with God and smiling and blessing the world."

Here are four of his fundamental principles that I strive to live by and hope to pass on to the next generation:

1. Sex is sacred and never simply a casual, neutral act, it needs respect and it thus builds the soul as a sacrament and brings God's physical touch to us...conversely if not respected it becomes a perverse thing that begins to disintegrate the soul. In a committed, loving and covenantal relationship sex is sacramental and part of the couples Eucharist. A privileged vehicle of grace. (Casual sex is often destructive of true community, and often of the individual soul as well. It can never be casual, but it is either a sacrament or a destructive act.)

2. Sex by its nature needs to be linked to marriage, monogamy, and a covental commitment that is by definition, all-embracing and permanent. Sex outside of marriage is a schizophrenic act. By its nature it speaks of total giving, total trust, and total commitment. Thus, if real trust, commitment, permanency, and unconditionality are not present within the wider relationship, sex is partly a pretends to give a gift that it does not really give and it asks for a gift that it can't respectfully reciprocate.

3. Sex has an inner dynamic that, if followed faithfully, will lead its partners to sanctity = God's energy within leads people to sanctity. Young people initially want sex, yet love creates a new desire, and sexuality demands not just sex but intimacy, exclusivity and commitment as well, leading to marriage and children and how much they change our outlook! Children grow and community expands and adults continue to mature, mellow and ultimately bless...Sex followed in fidelity leads to sanctity. Desire, working through us, if followed faithfully, keeps opening us up further and further to gracious adulthood.

4. Sex requires a healthy chastity - which is not the same thing as celibacy. It doesn't mean that one does not have sex, nor that one is a prude. Chastity is first of all, not even primarily a sexual concept, though, given the power and urgency of sex, faults in chastity are often within the area of sexuality. It has to deal with all experiences - it is about the appropriateness of any experience...ultimately chastity is reverence and sin, all sin, is irreverence. To be chaste is to experience people, things, places, entertainment, the phase of our lives, and sex in a way that does not violate them or ourselves. To be chaste is to experience things reverently, in such a way that the experience leaves both them and ourselves more, not less, integrated. Conversely, we lack chastity when we cross boundaries prematurely or irrevently, when we violate anything and somehow reduce what is. Sex, because it is such a powerful fire always needs the protection of chastity.

Amen....enjoy the challenge!

Adapted from Ronald Rolheiser's great book - The Holy Longing.

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