Is Our Sexuality Repressed In Our Relationship With God, Or Are We Receptive Bride?
SOME WOULD THINK OUR SEXUALITY SHOULD BE REPRESSED when it comes to our spirituality and our prayer life. And that the two should not be together “in one room.” In fact a wife once told me that her husband didn’t want a Sacred Heart of Jesus picture in their bedroom because he didn’t think Jesus should be a part of their sexual encounters. (Whereas, God is meant to be at the center of nuptial union between spouses.)
As well, I’ve known religious and priests who, in entering the consecrated life, have closed off with lock and key their sexuality; lest it rear its ugly head in a disordered fashion. And, we see where that has gotten many: the pedophile scandal; other hetero and homosexual scandals; a lack of joy in vocation; a prudish, self-righteous or judgmental attitude…
Well, in fact, our brilliant Pope St. John Paul II knew of this “dualism;” and of the great need for Catholics to fully expose to God who we are in our sexual make-up; that He might redeem and restore anything that is out of order, and satisfy our deepest “eros” longings in a holy and sacred way, with His infinite love, sensitivity and attentiveness to every part of us.
ST. TERESA OF AVILA
And, in fact, her full openness to God is what allowed St. Teresa of Avila’s transverberation to take place:
“I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form… He was not large, but small of stature, and most beautiful—his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire…
“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God…” (St. Teresa of Avila, The Book of Her Life, Chapter XXIX.)
ST. CATHERINE OF SIENNA
St. Catherine of Sienna’s vulnerable disposition before God is what drew Jesus to appear to her and allow her to nurse at the wound in His side, when she was so thirsting for communion with Him. Keep in mind in the below sharing, however, that in St. Catherine’s time daily receiving of Holy Communion was not allowed; even if one were to attend Mass.
St. Catherine’s spiritual director says:
“One day during Mass, Catherine was weeping so loudly (in ecstasy) that the priest told her to move away from the altar because she was so distracting. While she remained there, a long way from the altar, thirsting for the adorable Sacrament, saying in a low voice, but loud in spirit: ‘I want the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ,’ lo, as so often happened, the Lord Himself appeared to her, determined to satisfy her, and, drawing her mouth towards the wound in His side, made a sign to her to sate herself to her heart’s content on His body and blood. She did not need to be invited twice, and drank long from the rivers of life at their source in the holy side; and such sweetness ascended into her soul that she thought she must die of love” (Raymond, Life, 149).
Another Sharing about Catherine:
“The image of the nursing Christ is one of her favorite metaphors and is closely associated with the Eucharist. …” (Bynum, Holy Feast, 173).
Such sharings may seem odd, but Catherine was seen as a very holy woman, who lived off of the Eucharist alone for 7 years. She was eventually given permission to receive the Eucharist whenever she wanted.
ST. BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX
St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s pure and receptive disposition before God is what allowed Mary to expose her breast to him in a holy and maternal way, allowing a stream of milk to flow into his mouth in a supernatural vision; symbolizing the Scripture, “Oh that you may suck fully of the milk of her* comfort; that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts” (Is 66:10). (*her refers to Mary and Mother Church)
The following gives a little more detail:
“In 1174, St. Bernard was canonized by Pope Alexander III, and in 1830, declared “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Pius VII.
Exact details of the vision(s) known as the “Lactation of St. Bernard” are unclear. One account indicates a statue of the Virgin Mary came to life while Bernard was praying. The animated statue of Mary sprayed milk from her breast onto the parched lips of
Bernard, forever proving her status as the Virgin Mother of God. Another account tells of a dream in which the Virgin Mary came to Bernard after he fell asleep between prayers. In this vision, Mary pressed her breast against his lips in order that he may receive the Wisdom of God, (or Divine Enlightenment). ” (La Virgen de la Leche fb)
Again, such an analogy could seem odd, but let us not forget what St. Peter tells us:
“Be as eager for the spirit as new born children for milk,” (2Pet 2).
(for more on “suck[ing] fully of the milk of comfort” GO HERE )
THESE THREE EXAMPLES COULD SEEM SCANDALOUS, if one were not seeing them through the filter of a pure heart. But the very exciting news being conveyed in this sharing, is that God has set a banquet before us as Christians, if we but dispose ourselves to receive it.
And, I didn’t mention the many other stories of canonized saints in the Church, who experienced profound intimacy with God; which pierced to the core of their “eros” longing, sating them with His infinite love. I can think of St. Thomas Aquinas who wrote such lofty theology; and then experienced God in a deeply profound way, and said of all of his writings, “all is straw” compared to who God really is and his love for us.
Another story I’d like to share, is of St. Clare of Assisi. This dream was found in the collection of testimonies used for her beatification. It is from Sr. Philippi, from the 13th century, and confirmed by 3 others who gave testimony as well. It is said that St. Clare didn’t want this dream to be shared until after her death.
“Lady Clare also related how once, in a vision, it seemed to her she brought a bowl of hot water to Saint Francis along with a towel for drying his hands. She was climbing a very high stairway, but was going very quickly, almost as though she were going on a level ground. When she reached St Francis, the saint bared his breast and said to the Lady Clare: ‘Come, take, and drink.’ After she had sucked from it, the same admonished her to imbibe once again. After she did so what she had tasted was so sweet and delightful she in no way could describe it. After she had imbibed, the nipple or opening of the breast from which the milk comes remained between the lips of blessed Clare. After she took what remained in her mouth in her hands, it seemed to her it was gold so clear and bright that she saw herself totally in it as in a mirror.”
Some scholars have said the golden nugget represents Jesus in the Eucharist; which seems a good possibility. In my own experience, gazing upon the Consecrated Host has been as though gazing into a mirror, and coming to know my true identity in Christ.
In summary, it seems this mystical dream confirms the key role St. Francis played in St. Clare’s life, in drawing her into a deep bond and intimacy of life with Christ; which allowed her to know her true identity.
Some may find it odd that Saint Francis would be in a motherly role with Saint Clare. But even St Paul says of his ministry,
“We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” (1Thes 2:7,8)
AND EVEN AFTER SHARING ALL OF THIS, I still haven’t mentioned the most famous of all acts of one fully disposed and receptive bride to our Divine Lover.
“Mary said to the angel, ‘how can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’…
Mary said, ‘behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.'” (Lk 1)
Mary opened and surrendered the Garden of her womb, the Garden of her whole being and sexuality as woman, to God. And thus we have the Incarnation of Christ; Emmanuel – “God is with us.”
“In the fullness of time” Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb through her nuptial union with God. This is why the church speaks of Mary as “Spotless Bride.”
This mystery of what took place at the Annunciation, could seem to have similarities to what St Teresa of Avila mentioned earlier, “it was not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it, even a large one.”
Mary was sated in her soul during her life here on Earth, because she allowed God the Trinity to permeate and possess her totally throughout every moment of her life. This doesn’t mean she was constantly experiencing consolation. She suffered much in a way we can’t even imagine. And yet she was in profound communion of life with God, and this sated her soul.
WE ARE ALL CALLED AS WELL
AS SCRIPTURE TELLS US, we are called to:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mk 12:30)
“We love because He first love(s) us.” (1Jn 4:19)
Thus, we must first become receptive to His Love… Not just in our spiritual life, but in every area and aspect of who we are: Our physical makeup, our psychological makeup, our personality with all it’s quirks and qualms, and, last but not least, our sexual makeup.
IN MY OWN LIFE GROWING UP, I OFTEN FELT THE NEED TO HIDE THINGS ABOUT MYSELF that weren’t perfect or were disordered, or that just had to do with my sexual make-up in general; because I would be embarrassed or ashamed of them. And, as well, I didn’t feel worthy of being loved, unless I had a reason for others to love me: if I was pretty, smart, funny, good at something I did, etc. It was all about externals, I didn’t know that I was loved at the core of who I was created to be.
My identity was clearly dependent on what others thought of me. But, then I discovered the Gospel, the Good News that Christ had come to bring… That I am unconditionally loved and accepted by God just for who I am.
I no longer had to keep a mask on, sharing only the good things about myself, to try to gain the love and approval of others (though much of this was done subconsciously). I had come to realize the heart of the Gospel message — of God’s great and tender love and mercy.
And, so began my journey toward healing and wholeness. And, up till today, I continue to strive to be real with God about who I am; and I invite Him in, to love and embrace me there. The “there” that I might share with Him could be feelings of consolation and love for Him; or disordered inclinations that might be stirring; or aches and longings for something more, which have surfaced; or just the burden of being my own greatest cross, due to the various ways I can feel lacking in my love for God and neighbor.
I now understand the deeper meaning of the Scripture: “I will take you from your foreign land and bring you back to your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24). Because this is what Jesus has been doing with me through the years… taking me from the “foreign land”: of trying to be someone other than I am, and being enslaved by the spirit of the world, flesh and devil — and bringing me back to my “own land” of resting in my deeper heart of who I am, and who I am created to be, with Jesus.
I’m reminded of what Leanne Payne would say, that many people are “walking beside themselves” and not living from the core of who they are. That was me before, in the “foreign land.” The key is, though, that when we return to our own land, it must be with God and in the fullness of His Truth, or, it isn’t truly our own land.
ALWAYS, WHEN I AM REAL WITH JESUS and invite Him into the room in which I find myself, in the end I experience joy and peace. And, what a beautiful, tender and sensitive lover He is. He is always faithful in filling me with His redeeming graces, and satisfying any of my deepest aches and longings; including those that flow from my sexual make-up.
We were all created with a deep “eros longing” as Pope Benedict wrote about in “God is Love;” from which our prayer and communion with God must flow, in order to truly encounter God in our deeper heart.
We were all created with a deep ache for communion: to be deeply known and loved by another; to have another be present to us in the deepest most sensitive parts of who we are.
And, this ache is at the heart of our sexual make-up. It is not created ugly or impure. It is not created to be hidden from God. It is a legitimate longing within each of us that very often either gets repressed, or comes out sideways (disordered) – in ways that we seek its fulfillment in the finite natural realm by other creatures or things.
In Genesis we read, “male and female He created [us]…and He saw that it was very Good.” We were created for communion… not primarily with one another, but with God, and with one another in God.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were in communion with God and thus their relationship with one another was in Divine Order. When we fell, we lost that Divine Order, but in Christ, the “New Adam” and Mary the “New Eve”, we find it again.
There are so many divorces, and there’s so much disordered sexual promiscuity in our world today. And, this is because we all have those deep, legitimate, “eros” longings, which we often close off to God, and seek to have fulfilled in finite ways. And, never the two shall meet. Our deepest core hunger can only be sated by God’s infinite Love, not any finite creature or thing.
There are those who aren’t acting out in disordered ways of sexual sin, but doing the opposite; repressing their sexuality, as St. John Paul II says. They are saying, spirit good, body bad, and repressing their humanity; trying to “suck it up,” and pull themselves up by the boot straps… to become holy with willpower alone. And, in so doing, it comes out sideways in a self-righteous, judgmental or prudish disposition, as I mentioned earlier; which lacks joy and a true living of the following Scripture:
“I came that you may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10).
In my own life, I have been in both camps to varying degrees, at different times and seasons of my life. And thus I can give testimony to His grace and mercy.
SOME OF US HAVE DISCOVERED the “Pearl of great price,” and invited Him in as our Divine Lover, to sate our deepest “eros” longings that surface throughout our journey of life. And, this is our true calling. For, Jesus is alive and in our midst, and He is longing to draw us back to the Divine Order that we had before the fall; but also, to something even greater still. Because He who is God has become “our Husband;” and, we the Church are His Bride, invited to begin living the Wedding Feast of the Lamb here on earth. Are we receptive Bride? Opening ourselves to nuptial union with God?
I was speaking to a young man recently, with a homosexual orientation, who was living with his “lover”. He was very open to healthy dialogue with me, as, he was grappling with it all. And, so I shared with him a revelation that has come to me, to get his thoughts on it. And it is this:
What men with homosexual orientations are really longing for in their deepest core, is to live out their role as the “bride of Christ.”
After pausing for a moment of reflection, his response to me was,
“that could work!”
ON THE OTHER HAND, SO MANY MEN HAVE “man-ed up” so much that they have lost sight of the sensitive heart of Christ, and their call to be receptive bride to God. I really can understand those in the gay community in their struggle with having a place to share the sensitive parts of their heart. I see a need for integration on both sides.
Many of the “manly”, “Alfa” men, who don’t struggle with homosexual orientations, are either deeply into pornography, masturbation or some other sexual impurity; and/or, they are self-righteous, judgmental and/or insensitive. Certainly there are as well many holy men who have a human/spiritual integration.
Pope John Paul II said of the hierarchical leaders of the Church that they must be “Marian” before “Patristic”. They must be receptive be-ers, before active do-ers. This is often harder for men to do than women, because they are meant to be the “head”.
But, Mary is the way. “Behold your Mother!” Mary (and all women who seek to emulate her) is the one who teaches men to take on their role as receptive bride before God – “and your maker will be your husband.”
Certainly such a role transcends the consensual sexual union that is limited to earthly marriage. But it is meant to engage the deep eros longing at the core of us all, with an encounter with the sensitive, loving hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Christ and our Heavenly Father are meant to aid men and women in coming to know the love of a perfect Father, brother, or lover; to heal any wounds brought on by fathers or other men.
And as well, God has ordained that Mary, the New Eve, would be the “Woman” that would sate our deepest needs and longings for the love of a perfect mother, sister or lover. This is why the Most Holy Trinity crowned her as Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is all holy, pure and beautiful and only leads one to the infinite, unconditional love and acceptance of the Trinity, and in a special way, the Eucharist, through her maternal Heart.
Women who struggle with homosexual orientations are no doubt longing for the tender, motherly (or sisterly) love of a woman; and then this legitimate longing and need so often becomes distorted by the deception of the evil one.
Men who struggle with heterosexual pornography, masturbation, and promiscuity, are really longing to enter into the “womb” of a perfect mother, a perfect woman; to experience profound bonding of the deeper heart. And, again, they are often deceived by the evil one as to where they will find their fulfillment.
This is one of the many reasons why Jesus said “behold your mother.” He knew of our great need for the love of a perfect mother. Our bond with our earthly mother is the deepest, most fundamental relationship in our lives (our relationship with our fathers is there as well); and none of our earthly mothers have been perfect. So we all have mother wounds to varying degrees (and father wounds).
Is this possibly one key reason why God sent Mary to Fatima; and why Jesus told us through Lucia in 1925, “I want my Mother’s Immaculate Heart placed beside my Sacred Heart?”
Are we allowing the deepest cries and longings of our hearts to surface before God? Or, have we pushed them down, due to a faulty formation in our so broken world, that is molded by a Manichean spirit, and that of the world, the flesh and the devil?
“GOD HAS PLACED IN HUMAN HEARTS A ‘HUNGER’”
POPE JOHN PAUL II SAID TO US, in one of his latest writings:
“Is this not the greatest of human longings?…[for] a profound and mutual abiding [with Jesus].”
In full he tells us,
“Receiving the Eucharist means entering into a profound communion with Jesus. ‘Abide in me, and I in you’ (Jn 15:4). This relationship of profound and mutual ‘abiding’ enables us to have a certain foretaste of heaven on earth. Is this not the greatest of human yearnings? Is this not what God had in mind when he brought about in history his plan of salvation? God has placed in human hearts a “hunger” for his word (cf. Am 8:11), a hunger which will be satisfied only by full union with him. Eucharistic communion was given so that we might be “sated” with God here on earth, in expectation of our complete fulfilment in heaven ” (Mane Nobiscum Domini, 19).
May it be so! May we as “Bride the Church” have the grace to become one with Mary, Spotless Bride, spoken of in Revelation, in order that we can be “sated” here on earth and beyond by God’s espousal love; that all will be drawn to Mother Church, to eat from the banquet at the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” (Rev 19:7)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away,… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev 21:1-4).
And, “the spirit and the bride say come!…come Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22: 17,21)