Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Musing Upon
Pope Benedict's
Encyclical


I am sorry that posting has been so light recently. I have been under some pressure at work. Yesterday, I had to trek across multiple time zones, and today, I had to trek across multiple states. I didn't get back to the hotel and have dinner until late.

In fact, I have no idea at this point, what is going on in the world.

However, I did enjoy a lovely Pinot Noir with dinner, while I was reading an article from First Things magazine, about Pope Benedict's Encyclical. It is a profound meditation on the nature of Love, and on how Love is made of both Agape (self-sacrificing, altruistic love) and Eros, which is passionate and sexual in nature.

That's right, my friends, the Pope believes that our relationship with God is both self-sacrificing and erotic.

Just one more reason (see picture) that I love Pope Benedict.

Anyway, here is a short excerpt from the First Things article:


Benedict's purpose is to rehabilitate a Christian understanding of eros. He says that Friedrich Nietzsche and other moderns held that Christianity, with all its emphasis upon sin, sacrifice, and commandments, had "poisoned" the understanding of eros.

They asked, "Doesn't the church blow the whistle just when the joy that is the Creator's gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the divine?"

The pagan world, the Pope says, saw eros as a dkind of intoxicated longing, a "divine madness," that found expression in fertility cults and the "sacred" prostitution that flourished in their temples. The Old Testament rejected such cults as incompatible with monotheistic faith, but it did not reject eros as such: "An intoxicated and undisciplined eros is not an ascent in 'ecstacy' toward the divine but a fall, a degradation of man."

There is, Benedict says, a certain relationship between love and the divine. "Love promises infinity, eternity - a reality far greater and totally other than our eveyday experience." But the attainment of the promise is not through succumbing to instinct, but through a purification by renunciation that heals eros and restores its true grandeur.

Of critical importance is the understanding of human being as both body and soul. "Should he aspire to be pure spirit and reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he wold likewise lost his greatness."

The body should be neither denigrated nor exalted.

The latter is the cultural tendency when eros is reduced simply to sex and becomes a commodity, with the result that the person becomes a commodity. Thus, "the apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into hatred of bodliness."

The Song of Songs in the Old Testament shows the way in which love "becomes concern and care for the other." Love's growth advances as it becomes ever more definitive in the sense of exclusivity (this person alone) and is directed to the eternal (it is forever).

Such love is ecstacy, not as a moment of intoxication, but as a continuing journey, "an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self" and toward the other, and finally toward God.