Better, but not the whole (yet)

-The doctrine of the Mystical Body seems to be a repudiation of the idea that the whole spiritual good could ever be present in a single sort of spiritual life. Some spiritual lives are better than others, and some are even ideals, but all come at some sort of spiritual cost.

-All the opportunities for holiness in marriage seem to be at the same time impediments to holiness. I am both baffled how anyone could ever be holy or know their own weakness unless they had to raise a child, and yet am completely aware that the process requires sacrificing an attention that could be directed entirely to God. I reject all the easy attempts to resolve the paradox, as though it were just a matter of focusing entirely on the element of self-knowledge and sanctification and making that one’s divine attention; or else saying that the renunciation of family life comes at no real spiritual cost, even if it is a cost that, if paid, will yield a hundred-fold return.

-The resurrected self in some way overcomes the essential partiality of the spiritual life and allows the individual to be a whole while at the same time a citizen of a new Jerusalem. But this sort of self is outside of history, and all the encounters with the resurrected Christ in Scripture point to an uncanny presence that no one can make sense of in the present categories of understanding. Those on the road to Emmeus see Christ but are forbidden from recognizing him (???) The disciples get various orders from the Christ about where to fish and yet don’t recognize him until they catch something (not from his voice?) John makes the telling but incoherent comment that “No one asked if it was Christ, for they knew he was” (???) And Thomas responds to Christ not with relief or surprise or joy or even more doubt – all understandable human responses – but with the left-field profession of Christ’s divinity. This is before we deal with Christ’s appearing in locked rooms, being transfigured, or doing things at different places (this is taken as a sign the Gospels are incoherent – whereas it seems to fit better with the overall picture to think that Christ’s body just had a less rigid connection to being in place). And all of this is before we try to make sense of Paul’s idea of a “spiritual body”, which, by our present categories, seems to be a contradictio in adjecto.

-“In the Resurrection, there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage, but they live like angels in heaven.” By getting bodies, one becomes like the bodiless; by ceasing to be immaterial (the soul in separation) we become more like spirits.



  1. October 2, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I think one can see the same paradox from the other side as well; people trying to convey how to be holy in the consecrated life are constantly having to put it in terms of a spiritual marriage.

    • October 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Now that you mention it, this seems to go back to the beginning: The Song of Songs, or the wedding feast of the lamb in Revelation. The peculiar status of the Holy Family also problematizes the neat division into the familial and the celibate.

  2. Kristor said,

    October 4, 2014 at 2:22 am

    It’s the paradox of the sacrament, that works in both marital order and the monastic and priestly orders. In all these different sorts of marriage – marriage in the broadest sense, as in “the marriage of two minds” – there is a sacrament at work: the marriage is what it is, and also signifies something quite other and larger, and yet at the same time is an instance of what it signifies.

    The same thing is operative in Creation and Incarnation: the utterly Transcendent is most intimately, inwardly Immanent.

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