By: Christopher West
Authors often compare writing a book to giving birth. I can relate. I remember feeling the “after glow” of having delivered my “fifth child” (coincidentally, my wife was really and truly about to deliver our fifth child). Heaven’s Song: Sexual Love as It Was Meant to Be was released in September of 2008 by Ascension Press. It’s based on the “hidden talks” of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB). Let me explain. In the summer of 2005, Dr. Michael Waldstein of the International Theological Institute in Austria (now a professor at Ave Maria University in Florida) contacted me to ask for my assistance with a very exciting project he was working on — a fresh English translation of John Paul II’s TOB. Having worked with the existing English editions for nearly a dozen years at that point, I was well aware of various shortcomings in the translation. News of Waldstein’s project was music to my ears. But, as a TOB devotee, what I was about to learn knocked me off my chair.
The Hidden Treasure of JPII’s Undelivered Talks
During his research for the project, Waldstein discovered John Paul II’s original manuscript in the archives in Rome. The text, Waldstein told me, was written as a lengthy book and had been divided by John Paul II into 135 talks. But, as I knew well, he had only delivered 129. Are you kidding me?! New undelivered material from John Paul II’s theology of the body!? To what shall I compare my astonishment and delight? It’s like a die-hard Beatles fan finding out that some unknown tracks from the fab-four had just been discovered in an obscure closet at Abbey Road studios. And not only that — when I finally got my hands on this new material, I realized these lost songs were not “b-sides.” This material had not fallen by the wayside because it wasn’t up to par. This material contained some of the most beautiful tracks that John Paul (the Pope, not Lennon and McCartney) had ever laid down.
These “hidden talks” provide deeply moving reflections on the intimacy of the lovers in the Song of Songs; penetrating insights into the spiritual battle that accompanied the marriage of Tobias and Sarah in the book of Tobit; and new illuminations on the “spousal” nature of the Church’s liturgy gleaned from St. Paul’s teaching on the “great mystery” of marital union in Ephesians 5. John Paul had delivered four addresses on these themes as part of his 129 talks. I was quite familiar with those. But Waldstein discovered that there were actually ten prepared talks in this section of the catechesis which the Pope had condensed into four. The ten unabridged talks unearthed for the English speaking world for the first time by Waldstein offer a much fuller vision.
The Authentic Soundtrack of Christianity
Heaven’s Song zooms in on this section of John Paul II’s catechesis, unfolding the hidden treasures of these unabridged addresses in an extended form for the first time. Although I’ve touched on these themes elsewhere it seemed not only appropriate, but necessary, to give this new content — tucked away all these years in the John Paul II archives — a fuller exposition. Why is it called Heaven’s Song? Because the erotic poetry of the Song of Songs transposes heaven’s music into a human key, helping us to understand sexual love as it was meant to be. It was meant to be a foretaste here on earth of the joys that await us in heaven.
Why is the Song of Songs the favorite biblical book of the mystics? Why have the saints written more commentaries on this seemingly obscure and wildly erotic love poetry than on any other book in the Bible? Hmmm…. What do they know that most Christians seem not to? If this is “heaven’s song” transposed into a human key, then, as the saints and mystics know, the Song of Songs is the authentic soundtrack of Christianity. My new book seeks to bring the divine secrets of John Paul’s “spousal mysticism” to all those “with ears to hear.” If you are already familiar with John Paul’s TOB, you will delight in this new material. If you’ve not been exposed to the genius of John Paul’s catechesis, this book will serve as a good introduction and whet your appetite for more.
You can get a copy at any book store, or go to Ascensionpress.com.