Monday, March 26, 2012

Weird West World

"We believe as Christians, that there was a woman who walked this planet who opened herself so profoundly to the love of God that she literally conceived eternal life in her womb." --Christopher West in this radio interview

Before stating the above in the same interview West dis-incarnates the Eucharist, funnily enough, by saying if we open ourselves to the Sacrament of the Eucharist we conceive eternal life within us. As always, it is what West does not say, together with "the preoccupation of his subject" (in Fr. Angelo's words), that renders his statements...problematic. Christ is our eternal life and if we do not eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life within us - yes; and it is His flesh and His blood that we consume: our response is a response to that - to Him, to the Eucharist. In West's words, it's as though our response comes first. I'm not exactly sure how a response comes first.

What in actuality is Mary receiving the proclamation of the angel Gabriel, and then her assent, and then the Son of God being virginally conceived within her womb, and secondly, what is in actuality a person being told by the priest who he is about to receive, and then the recipient's fiat, and then Christ Himself being placed on his tongue - with West these instead begin and end with us. But they don't; they begin and end with Christ.

And the second Person of the Trinity who in reality identifies Himself with the most interior heart of our being such that we come to recognize Him in ourselves as our very selves is, in West world, our gestation of eternal life which is owing first to our opening to the love of God via our knowledge that our sexuality holds a key to the spousal meaning of the divine nuptials of the heavenly banquet that is there to inform our sexuality that we are to be married to God which is our sexual redemption, the key to which is found in our sexuality...

Elsewhere, as in Heaven's Song, West has stated that being immaculately conceived meant for Mary that she experienced her sexuality in its fullness as a deep yearning for communion with God, since our sexuality holds the key to understanding that God wants to marry us - and that's the reason God imprinted us with sexuality - it means that Mary's sexual fullness let her open herself so profoundly that she literally conceived eternal life within her womb.

In the annunciation the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and proclaims that she will bear the Son of the Most High in her womb. Being immaculately conceived without sin, her assent to this is totally free.

The Catechism states that it was necessary that she be conceived without original sin for this very reason:

In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace. (490, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Her immaculate conception also means of course that she is the ark of the covenant, the pure vessel worthy of bearing God Himself incarnate. Mary's assent to the annunciation brought by the angel Gabriel was not sexual but filial; it was of faith and obedience.

494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

In the wording of West, at the beginning of this post, it is unmistakably clear that he means that it was Mary's opening herself "so profoundly" to the love of God that it primarily caused Christ - nay, caused "eternal life" - to be conceived within her womb, as a result.

Do you see the difference? In actuality, it was Mary's filiality, Mary's obedience, her faith that gave assent, in the annunciation, to the Word being made flesh. The Word was made flesh in her total humility, her even expressing, "How can this be so?" In West world, it's the feminine sexual in its fullness of "spousal meaning" that makes for this "profound opening up", meaning that it is owing to its own fullness that resulted in the conception of eternal life, which is, in fact, quite the opposite to the opening up of total humility with which Our most Blessed Lady gave consent to the Son of God being conceived within her.

While our salvation very much depended on Mary's fiat, her fiat was not the causation of the Incarnation. The angel Gabriel appeared to her first; furthermore, she was preordained - hence her immaculate conception.

491 Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by the virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son." The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love." (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

In West world, the immaculate conception does not lead to the Incarnation as coming from Christ's redemption; rather, the immaculate conception points back to itself, because it is about sexual fullness and by itself draws to it by its profundity, eternal life.

This also divorces the immaculate conception from the work of God. Which is what West does with sexuality when he claims it as holding the key to union with God.


Dawn Eden said...

Very profound, Paul. Talk about a vicious circle!

I don't know if you realize it, but you seem to be channeling David L. Schindler, particularly this theologically rich article, which could be summarized in three words as "filiality precedes nuptiality":

Check out footnote 18:

"It is the dimension of filiality at the root of their love for each other (each spouse’s acknowledgment of the other as a gift from God and as capax Dei) that actually grounds their fruitfulness, that is, the transcendence of their union beyond the 'two'—and this may be blessed by God (in/through the order of nature) in the gift of a child that symbolizes the transcendent union. The interesting thing is that this is all written into the order of the body, so that 'literal fruitfulness' does not depend only on our actually behaving like or acknowledging the other as a gift or 'son.' The order of nature itself is structured filially, structured to crown filiality with fruitfulness."

I really like this point of Schindler's, because it knocks down the implication given by some TOB (mis)interpreters that spouses' gift of self to one another is repaid in the form of extra divine love packed into their child's soul in the soul's very creation. Of course, whether or not spouses love one another makes all the difference in their children's upbringing. But to hear some tell it, you'd think that the level of love inherent in their gift of self somehow becomes embedded in their kids' DNA. As a child of divorce, I can be forgiven for being a bit sensitive to this misunderstanding of metaphysics and Catholic dogma.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hi, Dawn. Hope you're well.

You have said that this post is "very profound."

I have to disagree, as I don't see how running amok with a sentence taken out of context qualifies as profound. Nor can I see how describing someone else's words as "stupid crazy talk" is profound. Nor can I see how Paul's making a "Lenten" (!) practice out of assailing a fellow Catholic's words and character is profound.

For anyone who may stumble here and wonder what the real context was of that one sentence, here is a trascription below with the sentence in context. It makes it quite clear that Paul is misled in his assertion that the author somehow claims that Mary's "openness" is the primary *cause* of the Incarnation. Rather, the author states clearly that it is *God* who wants to fill us each with eternal life.

Now *that's* profound.

God bless you,

Deacon Jim Russell

WEST: “John Paul II goes so far as to say that the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and the Bride. In the Eucharist the Bridegroom gives up His Body for His Bride, and the Church, the Bride, receives the Bridegroom, and if we open ourselves to the gift, here’s the glory, here’s where it comes all together—it’s so beautiful—if we open ourselves to the gift of the Eucharist, we conceive new life in us, we conceive eternal life in us. You see, with the spousal imagery, not only does God love us, not only does God want toe ‘marry’ us. Remember what we learned in second grade—first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. You see, God wants to fill His bride with eternal life. And you know what…this is not just a metaphor. We believe as Christians that there was a woman who walked this planet who opened herself so profoundly to the love of God that she literally conceived eternal life in her womb. This is the mystery at the heart of the Gospel itself, and, guess what…your body and my body and every body proclaims this mystery. Our bodies tell a story. Our bodies in fact proclaim the Gospel message itself.”

jvc said...

On a somewhat related note to Dawn’s point, my single biggest (personal) issue with West’s mis-interpretation of Catholic teaching is the insistence that God’s love is primarily communicated to us through sexual activity, suggesting that the quantity or quality of such activity is a direct correlation to God’s love. (And his followers wonder why no one can distinguish Westianism from Sex and the City).

The either spoken or unspoken consequence of this is that the disabled, the elderly or the unmarried are spiritually defective owing to their lack of sexual activity. They also become “defective” if unfruitful or childless. I guess it is not surprising to see the holier-than-thou attitude from the evangelical-types who get married very young, given this suggested correlation/causation.

It took discovering the Eden and Hildebrand papers to discover the Church’s real teachings on these matters, and for the real healing to begin of the scars caused by these errors, particularly the errors caused by Westian-enthusiast clergy.

Paul Stilwell said...

Thank you Dawn. Your last paragraph sheds light on something I did not know or think about concerning the TOB (mis)interpreters. I had not read Schindler's article, but I am now remedying that.

jvc said...

Jim, how on earth is that quote supposed to support your point? West explicitly states a causal relationship between openness and the Incarnation.

Paul Stilwell said...

First of all Deacon Jim, for those wanting the full context of the quote, I had already provided a direct link to the full interview along with the quote. I'm hiding nothing here, but thanks for trying to make it look like I am.

Second, I believe the profundity Dawn is referring to is the theology behind the assent given by Mary which I get into, and the true difference between her assent and what West makes it out to be.

Third, the other words you quote in your attempt to show that I was hiding something change absolutely nothing. In fact, they show the extent of the wrong to also include a profound disincarnating of God.

I said:

"In the wording of West, at the beginning of this post, it is unmistakably clear that he means that it was Mary's opening herself "so profoundly" to the love of God that it primarily caused Christ - nay, caused "eternal life" - to be conceived within her womb, as a result."

That is precisely what West is saying. Take a look at the word "THAT" in the sentence, "...there was a woman who walked this planet who opened herself so profoundly to the love of God that she literally conceived eternal life in her womb." (In reality the "love of God" prepared Mary, and the "love of God" announced to her God's special plan.)

But why did you use my word "primarily" and take it out of context and fuse it with "incarnation" Deacon Jim? Oh, is it because you did not want to direct readers attention to West's words that state: "...opened herself so profoundly to the love of God that she literally conceived eternal life in her womb."?

He is clearly putting the primary action of the conception of Christ upon her own "profound opening up" as a husband responding to the invitation of his wife (when in fact it was *first* the condescension of God meeting her with the annunciation and the perfectly free obedient fiat of Mary, preordained and immaculately conceived). This eschews the annunciation of the angel Gabriel and eschews God's work of conceiving her immaculately by preordaining her. In the case of the Incarnation "the love of God" had already had everything ready and done, it merely awaited the fiat of Mary. In West world "the love of God" is unincarnational divine sperm that we open ourselves up to, and to the person who opens most profoundly conceives eternal life.

The author states that God wants to fill us with eternal life. I do not attempt to hide this in my point as you, Deacon Jim, falsely claim. The point I made in my post is that in West world "incarnation" begins and ends with us, even though there is a God who "wants to fill us with eternal life".

The words about "God who wants to fill us each with eternal life" actually work against you Deacon Jim. Because in the Incarnation, it was not merely "God wanting to fill Mary" as "each of us".

By sexualizing Mary's immaculate conception, West renders her fiat into sexual opening up that causes gestation within her - "...opened herself so profoundly to the love of God that she literally conceived eternal life in her womb", (hey, there's that quote again that you don't like) when in fact, as I point out in my post, if you care to read it, her fiat is filial: it is not that she opened herself so profoundly (to the love of God) that she conceived eternal life; it is that the "love of God", the Incarnation was announced through the angel Gabriel and that Mary gave her full free consent - being totally free because she was totally immaculate - to what was spoken to her through the angel Gabriel; thus what the angel Gabriel announced came to pass, was made incarnate, and so she became the mother of Jesus.

And to ask again, what I asked in my post which takes nothing out of context: Do you see the difference?