Thursday, January 26, 2006

TOB for Pagans


In section 3 of Deus Caritas Est, Papa B offers a great insight about the difference in the words that are used for "love". He says that 2000 years ago "eros" was the predominant word used in the Greek speaking world. However, when folks like Saint John speak of the love of God, they did not use the common word but the obscure "agape" in hopes of showing that the Christian understand of love is new, fresh, and fulfilling.

However, I find it interesting that without the help of Revelation, but purely based on Natural Law, their instincts, and concupiscience, the Greeks saw sex as a sort of "fellowship with the Divine." In a certain sense it is- correctly understood, of course. For the pagan, they took that truth and turned it into a "counterfeit divinization" (cf. No. 4) by employing temple prostitutes who were supposed to assist in reaching the divine. However, the Holy Father points out that even though they might have been on the right track, this misuse of eros "actually strips it [love] of its dignity and dehumanizes it. Indeed, the prostitutes in the temple, who had to bestow this divine intoxication, were not treated as human beings and persons, but simply used as a means of arousing the 'divine madness': far from being goddesses, they were human persons being exploited." (ibid).

The Holy Father goes on the challenge the audience to use eros, that erotic desire that all of us have, as the foretaste to beatitude! If we stop at eros, we cheat our selves- we dehumanize ourselves and the beautiful act. However, if we "discipline and purify" that desire it can serve as a way actualize the meaning of our existence, which is to love God in this world so we might reign with Him in the world to come.

I think the most surprising thought about this insight is the fact that our culture has reverted, in more ways than one, into pagan Greece. It is time to take the Theology of the Body to the streets and reclaim this "anit-culture"!

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