Delighting in God's design for men and women
“I see clearly with the interior eye, that the sweet God loves with a pure love the creature that He has created, and has a hatred for nothing but sin, which is more opposed to Him than can be thought or imagined.” (St. Catherine of Genoa)
It would be bad news if one loved sin or hated God’s creation. It’s certainly good news for those who love God’s creatures because God made them and they reflect aspects of his goodness, truth and beauty. It’s good news too for those who desire the happiness of Heaven above all else. And, in light of the following words from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, this good news is also a word of wisdom and warning regarding one of the greatest needs of our time: “Disorder in the society is the result of disorder in the family.”
Who can deny that there’s disorder in our society? And who can deny that there’s disorder in the family? I’ve written in recent weeks on the spiritual and social attacks upon women as women and men as men. What’s the way out of the chaos that we find ourselves in?
The answer is as profound and comprehensive as it is simple. The answer is: “The love of God.” By that I mean the love that God has for his creation—the love from which and for which he made the universe, and especially the privilege and glory he offers us humans made in his image and likeness. And that love must be reciprocated. When we see that we are “wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), how can we not be grateful? When we come to understand that his wisdom and goodness are inscribed into the very fabric of creation (especially the human body and soul!), how can we do anything other than embrace our identity, dignity and destiny as men and women made by and for God?
In all creation, only the human body, the human soul, and human relations can serve as images of the relationship between Christ and his Church, and can serve as images of the very life of the Holy Trinity. These perennial truths are ably summarized and explained in the recently re-published book, The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality. There Jesuit Father Paul Quay makes clear that the sane and the wise will delight in humans being made as male or female, made for each other, made for indissoluble marriage, for the begetting and rearing of children. He also makes clear the dignity of the complementary calling of consecrated chastity.
Quay insists that the perfection of human life is the life of Jesus, and in association with him, his Blessed Mother Mary. Inspired by Dante’s cry in the Paradiso (canto 3, line 85), “In his will is our peace!,” Quay writes:
The symbolism of Christian marriage reaches even as far as the Beatific Vision—that absolute and perfect union of man with God that constitutes our utter happiness—that Scripture describes as the wedding feast of the Lamb and the final consummation of his marriage with his Church. The Church will then be united with her Spouse in a spiritual ecstasy as she enters the joy of her Lord … God, on his part, will rejoice totally in his creatures now made perfect, now fully his, now at last what he intended from the beginning, in every way in his image, Jesus our Lord, and according to the likeness that is his Spirit … If God has created marital union to signify these great mysteries of the faith, how great a responsibility, then lies on married couples (and, in their own way, on all the unmarried) so to act that this meaning and significance is fully preserved in their action and is meant and intended by them … Christ is the norm. His relations to his Father and to his Bride, the Church, form the norms for union among Christians in their marriages and families.
How much simpler life would be if we taught and lived clearly that “Christ is the norm!” and “In his will is our peace!” On the cross, Christ proved himself faithful unto death, trusting in the goodness and fidelity of his Father. Jesus Christ, in his humanity and divinity, is the Word of Wisdom spoken by the Father. Mary, the perfect icon of the Church, illustrates how that Word is to be received into the human soul and flesh. God has provided all that we need to live wisely and well, offering us both nature and grace to realize our dignity and fulfillment. As Christians, our privilege and duty is to tell and live that truth for all who have not received it or have rejected it.
When I write next, I’ll begin a series of Lenten meditations. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.