A brief essay into moral theology - please correct me if I err!
Incarnation literally means enfleshing. Carne (as in chili con carne) is Spanish for meat. Carnal pleasures are the pleasures of the flesh. Over at Two Sleepy Mommies (posted Wednesday, April 02, 2003 11:33 AM by Pansy - hotlinks not working right) is an excerpt from her diocesan newspaper. The article is about lust, and the comments are also pretty interesting. Some comments around the parish (St. Blog's, that is) recently had me thinking about just how incarnate our faith truly is. Over at The Mighty Barrister a comment was made (and continued in the comments box at Gospel Minefield) about celebrating the return of dylan with a good cigar while ensconced in a hot tub.
Catholics are not Puritans. Seems obvious to me. Catholics have somehow acquired a reputation, though, for that ancient heresy - rejection of the flesh and the pleasures thereof. (Jansenism was the Catholic puritanism, carried to truly horrific extremes). How on earth did this happen?
I think that part of the problem lies in a misunderstanding of the relationship of Creator and creation. In Genesis, when surveying His creation - what does God say? "It is good." Creation is good. True, since the fall we have original sin, and that tendency towards succumnbing to temptation, but that does not negate the essential goodness that God imbued into creation. That which God has created is a good thing. Another part of the problem lies in a misunderstanding of what constitutes sin. Sin is an action, a choice. It is a rejection of God. It is a perversion (in the broadest sense, a turning away from) of the plan that God has for us and for His creation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a 3 fold definition of sin that starts "Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."" (pp 1849)
God created us as fleshly beings. We are promised a resurrection not just of the spirit but of the body (see the Creed). Our flesh is not, in and of itself, evil. However, we can, and all too often do, sin by the misuse of our bodies.
Let us consider then a big occasion of sin in our culture, sexuality. >From the book of Genesis (birth)27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
Pretty clear that God intends sexuality as a good thing, and that it has a proper place in the order of things. God blessed THEM - as a couple. He commanded fertility, and replenishment. The God-given natural order of sexuality includes these things - the blessing of God on a couple (male and female - equal in dignity but different in biology and function) and the concept of fruitfullness. Note that God did not have anything to say about using His gift to sell merchandise. Pope Paul VI and John Paul II have said it so much better than I could ever, and I do highly recommend actually reading the encyclicals Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae, as well as reading about JP II's theology of the body.
Lust is a major sin. Lust objectifies persons - it sees other persons as objects of sexual desire to be acted upon. Lust and love can be easily confused in our wretched and confused culture. It is not a sin to look on a person(to whom you are not married) and have fleeting sexual thoughts - it is temptation that should be resisted and not encouraged. In marriage, it is not a sin to have sexual thoughts about one's spouse - it is one of the blessings of the married state. Sin comes in if the sexual thoughts are encouraged or acted on in a manner contrary to the natural law that God gave us. It is also sin to reject the goodness that God has made.
Chastity is the opposite of lust. Chastity is the ordering of one's sexuality to God's law. For the unmarried, this means celibacy. For the married, it means exercising sexuality in a loving and responsible manner. There can be unchastity in marriage even if there is no adultery. Any time a spouse uses sexual intimacy as a power play through demanding or rejecting behavior, I think it is a form of marital unchastity. Lust is a sin, even (especially?) if the object of that lust is one's spouse. Sexual intimacy is expressed in marriage through a multitude of behaviours, and should always be a giving and receiving, rather than a seizing and taking. Our bodies are not our own - they are God's - and they were purchased at a great price on the cross. We owe it to Him Who paid the price to treat the precious gift of incarnation with respect for our bodies and for those of others.
In closing, let me also say that the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) makes great night prayer for married couples. And I also highly recommend reading Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 - in their entirety. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church - love them to the point of ultimate self-sacrifice. Any man that will love me that much I am willing to try my human best to obey and to submit my will to his.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on April 3, 2003 3:02 PM.

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