Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ponderings about Marriage and Celibacy

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Megan, is getting married in November of this year, and I am one of her bridesmaids. Since she and I were both in the state for the first time in 6 months, we met at the bridal store on Saturday afternoon with her mom and younger sister (Bridget...another very old, very dear friend) to find me a bridesmaids dress. Bridget and their mom already had dresses, as did Meg, and they knew the designer they wanted, plus the color, fabric, and style. So the selection process was very easy. I tried on maybe ten dresses but it turned out to be the first dress I tried on that I finally chose today. I love the dress I chose. It's floor-length, deep purple satin with a sweetheart neckline, ruching on the whole midsection, and then the skirt flows out from the ruching. It's strapless, but has spaghetti straps which I will be using. My mom and I went back to the bridal store today, I tried on the dress again to show her, and we paid for it. In the car on the way home, my mom and I were talking about weddings and bridal parties and all that jazz. It's a subject that I haven't thought much about, ever...until I started seriously looking into religious life. I wasn't someone who had ever thought about her dress, or what the perfect guy would be like, or what the wedding colors would be. I thought about my bridesmaids enough to know that I wanted my group of close friends from Girl Scouts to be in the bridal party (two of those friends are Megan and Bridget). But really. That's all the attention I ever paid to that subject. I suspect that throughout high school and college my friends and I were too wrapped up in some very intense issues, and there wasn't any time to think about anything past college. Now I'm hitting that age where my friends are all in serious relationships, and more than a couple are engaged or have gotten married within the past year, and it has just got me thinking. Sometimes I worry that I'm making the wrong choice, that maybe I'm supposed to get married. After all, "everyone else is doing it." I guess I'm just not interested. It's not that I'm averse to marriage or that I hate men or think I'm better off on my own. I'm just not interested. I don't think about marriage and get excited...but when I think about religious life, there's that flutter of excitement inside me.

My idea of a good romance novel is Pope John Paul II the Great's "Theology of the Body." Early in my encounter with this collection, I came across the phrase "continence (virginity) for the Kingdom of Heaven." This is heavenly romantic bliss if ever I heard it.

"If the meaning of life consists in making a gift of self to others and living in a communion of persons, should not all people marry? The answer is that all are called to 'marriage,' but not necessarily in the physical sense. Some are called to marriage as we usually understand it. Others are called to be the spouse of Christ (women religious) or the spouse of the Church (male religious) and live a celibate life for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Men and woman who live this commitment are a sign to us that we are all made for union with God, which is the ultimate fulfillment of the human person. They remind us by their lives that we will all fully participate in this union in heaven. Their gift of self to the world bears spiritual fruit through the power of the Holy Spirit.

"Continence for the kingdom of heaven...is a charismatic sign. The human being...who, in the earthly situation where people usually marry, freely chooses continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, indicates that in that kingdom, which is the other world of the resurrection, people will no longer marry. This is because God will be 'everything to everyone.' In him [the risen man] there will be revealed, I would say, the absolute and eternal nuptuial meaning fo the body in union with God himself through the 'face to face' vision of him..." (TOB March 24, 1982; pp. 267)

"Earthly continence...is a sign that the body, whose end is not the grave, is directed to glorification. Already by this very fact, continence for the kingdom of heaven is a witness among men that anticipates the future resurrection...[It] bears, above all, the imprint of the likeness to Christ. In the work of redemption, he himself made this choice for the kingdom of heaven." (TOB March 24, 1982; pp.267-268)

Wow wow wow!!! JPII's work is incredible, I would suggest it to anyone. It's a very large compilation, covering so much beautiful subject matter. It started as a series of talks he gave weekly over a period of a few years in the beginning of his pontificate, and was eventually published as a book. Anyone who has ever read any of JPII's writings knows that they tend to be very theologically deep and rich...so there are people like Christopher West who create explanations of the Theology of the Body for those of us who want to understand but do not possess the knowledge and understanding that comes with many, many, many years in the study of theology and philosophy.

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