Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Erotic and Godly?

"There is a certain relationship between love and the divine: love promises infinity, eternity--a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence." Deus Caritas Est 5

This quote is within the context of the Holy Father's explication of eros. He refers back to the Greek understanding of an intoxication transcending into the divine so as to experience supreme happiness. He goes on to say this was enacted through various fertility cults, where men would go to a shrine and unleash their passionate desire upon a woman whose sole purpose was to be mediators of divine intoxication as objects of sexual pleasure. They were treated not as human beings, not as persons, but as objects for those men, objects for the sole purpose of pleasure.

This should sound familiar to us today. Pornography is not much different. Neither is prostitution. Pornography, though, seems to be exponentially more dangerous, if not for the sole reason of being much more accessible, but also from Matthew 5 where Jesus tells us that anyone who lusts after a woman already commits adultery in his heart. Pornography degrades, perverts, and deconstructs the idea and truth of eros. It divinizes eros instead of letting eros be a means to the divine. Furthermore, it destroys the God given dignity of the human person, who is himself an end (c.f. Love and Responsibility Karol Wojtyla).

Pope Benedict goes on to mention the Old Testament's rejection of this cult because it is, as shown earlier, "a perversion of religiosity." However, eros was not rejected, rather, its idea and enaction needed to be purified and tempered.

This desire, ultimately, for God is within us. Eros desires to transcend finite reality to be in union with the infinite, namely God. Aristotle had this concept in his cosmology. The umoved mover, whom he referred to as god, moved all things to itself. Everything moved in its own path back toward the unmoved mover. This can easily be translated into Christian terms. God moves "all creation together in Himself." "Father, I pray that they may be one as You and I are one." In the greatest sense, eros can be seen in this light.

However, "eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but also a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns," (Deus Caritas Est 4). The tendency in our culture today is to direct this desire for the infinite, for beatitude, (happiness), toward finite things. These things, or persons, offer fleeting pleasure. Through a temperate direction of eros, we can experience a "foretaste" of eternal life in love. It is like tasting a crumb of the greatest cake ever to be made, and this crumb springs your yearning on ever greater for the whole cake. This foretaste, directed and mediated through temperance, incites full throttle the desire to be in union with our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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