Sunday, 29 April 2007

'A garden closed, a fountain sealed'

Professor Waldstein gave his talk on JPII's Theology of the Body yesterday to a small but attentive and relatively younger crowd. He had some important points to make in his address, starting out with the Song of Songs and explaining how it best reveals the sacrament of marriage. In it there is the amazement of each for the other ('how beautiful you are, my beloved,/ How beautiful you are!'), yet filial tenderness towards one another ('my sister, my promised bride' and 'Ah, why are you not my brother'). Both are masters of their own mystery, like 'a garden closed, a fountain sealed' and because they have this freedom to possess themselves they have the freedom to give themselves: 'I shall give you/ The gift of my love.' Professor Waldstein made it clear that in the Song of Songs we see the theology primarily of the body, not the soul, because it is through the body that the mutual attraction of the lovers is felt.
Professor Waldstein went on to look at the two main enemies of the vision illustrated in the Song of Songs. The first, he said, is biology, meaning by that a purely scientific way of viewing the body, in which we are just complex biological machines. The second enemy is concupiscence, the look at another by which we objectify and dehumanise another person. Professor Waldstein interestingly reiterated what one of our previous T of the B speakers said (Fr. Mark Withoos), which is that painted nudes such as those in the Sistine Chapel reveal the soul in the body - JPII called the chapel a shrine of the Theology of the Body - whereas it is difficult for photographs to capture effectively anything beyond the body. Professor Waldstein said that the problem with pornography is not that it reveals too much, but that it reveals too little, and those who view it see too little, i.e. they do not see the soul of a person.

Finally, Professor Waldstein touched on Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI''s landmark encyclical which spoke against the use of contraception in marriage. We heard how the sexual act is both unitive and procreative, and one aspect cannot exist without the other. The unitive aspect of sex depends upon the procreative aspect, because in procreation the man and woman are saying they want to have visible signs of their union and that they want to share together the responsibility of bringing up these visible signs, their children. But Professor Waldstein also said there can be no procreation without union, which sounds a little odd when we are used to seeing procreation as a merely biological act. He said that procreation isn't just biological, but also entails the rearing of a child in a loving and healthy environment, forming their individual personhood beyond birth, and this requires a united relationship in marriage.
Whew! That's a lot to take in, sorry to bombard you with my notes. I figured these posts could use a bit more academic rigour every once in a while.

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