Redeeming the Erotic

By: Christopher West


Someone recently sent me a link to a blog offering a review of one of my latest books.   The book, called Heaven’s Song, provides a guided tour of the undelivered and long-hidden talks of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body which consist primarily of reflections on the erotic poetry of the Song of Songs.  This blogger found my book “dirty and immodest to the core,” adding that that “which is erotic is simply not appropriate for Christian consumption.”   Then he asks, “Where can we find this type of thing in Scripture or Tradition?”   Never mind that my book itself is a reflection on the most commented-on book in all of Scripture (the Song of Songs).   Never mind that I draw extensively from the writings of St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Louis deMontfort.   For this blogger, I might as well be writing on behalf of Lucifer himself.

Sex & Our Union with Christ

There are layers of errors in this bloggers thinking that I don’t have time to get into in this article.   But one serious error is a failure to see how Lucifer actually works and why  he is so intent on perverting our sexuality.   Odd as it may seem to some, a proper vision of our sexuality provides the clearest window for catching a glimpse of the “great mystery” of God’s plan to unite all things in Christ (see Eph 5:31-32). Conversely, a distorted vision of our sexuality — including a fearful, puritanical view of the body — serves as one of the most effective blocks  to understanding who God really is, who we really are, and what the “great mystery” of Christianity is really all about.

Christianity is all about Holy Communion with Christ.   And, as we learn so clearly from John Paul II, the call to Holy Communion with Christ is stamped right in our bodies and in the call of man and woman to a holy communion.  Lucifer hates  this plan, and aims all his arrows straight at it.   He is the great plagiarizer.   He takes what belongs to Christ and puts his own name on it, claiming the erotic realm for himself.   Tragically, it seems many Christians are content to let him have it.   It is not uncommon to encounter people who — in the name of a supposed “piety” — find the very idea of linking erotic love and Christ’s love unconscionable.   Adopting this attitude, however, we do not overcome the deceiver’s lies; we unwittingly buy into them.

Reclaiming  Erotic Love for Christ

We must not surrender the erotic realm to the enemy!   We must not let his distortions bind us to our own lusts and blind us to the “great mystery” revealed through our bodies!   Precarious as it is, we must be courageous in reclaiming the erotic sphere for Christ and his Church.   For, as both Old and New Testaments teach us — and as we see especially in the Song of Songs — the erotic sphere is the privileged realm of a divine revelation.  Reclaiming the erotic sphere for Christ does not  mean, of course, that we bring eros back “as is” from the enemy’s turf.   Rightly do the pious recoil at this idea.   For appealing to the lustful distortions of our sexuality as images of divine realities would be blasphemy.   Rather, in the process of reclaiming the erotic realm for Christ, we must submit all that is “erotic” to a radical transformation.

We are often prone to what John Paul II called “the interpretation of suspicion” (see TOB 46), an attitude that can’t imagine any prism other than lust through which to see or discuss erotic matters.   Lust is certainly a powerful force that can cloud and even dominate our thinking.   However, as John Paul II insisted, we “cannot stop at casting the ‘heart’ into a state of continual and irreversible suspicion due to the manifestations of [lust] ….   Redemption is a truth, a reality, in the name of which man must feel himself called, and ‘called with effectiveness’” (TOB 46:4).  This means that God’s grace, through its power to heal and transform us inwardly, can lead us to a pure way of seeing and thinking about our bodies and the gift of our sexuality.   We can come to see, as countless saints and mystics have, that the boldly erotic poetry of the Song of Songs is not only not “inappropriate for Christians,” but offers a bright illumination into what Christianity is.

To experience  Heaven’s Song for yourself, click here.

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