Nuptials . . . the union of the Bridegroom and the Bride . . . It’s what Christmas is all about. And the start of Advent means these divine-human nuptials are soon upon us. What are you doing to prepare?
Advent, of course, means “coming.” It’s a time set aside for the Bride (the Church) to prepare herself for the coming of the Bridegroom (Christ). To help you enter more deeply into the Christmas nuptials, The Cor Project is offering a free series of Advent reflections called “Open Up Your Hearts.” Through the written word, through videos, music, and sacred art, these reflections are meant to prepare you for Christmas by helping you direct the deepest yearnings of your heart towards its true satisfaction: the coming of Infinite love into the womb of Mary.
This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: the Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: the Bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her Bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”
“Open Up Your Hearts” is a series of reflections that will run from Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent, through Jan. 1, 2018. They are all about hope — hope that there is a banquet of life and love that corresponds to our yearning. And that banquet is coming in the flesh!
— Christopher West, Founder and President of The Cor Project
Image: Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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For such a time as this have we been given Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. By taking us beyond the alternatives of prudish repression and damaging indulgence, the Theology of the Body opens the path to the redemption of sexuality and the real healing of our wounds. Learn more by watching my short film, The Cry of the Heart. Watch the trailer below.
Watch the Short Film
A friend of mine recently asked me if I had a blog post I could send him on why only a man can be a priest. I have touched on this in previous posts, but I realized I’ve never devoted a post specifically to this question, so here goes.
Without a doubt, the differences of men and women have been exaggerated in the past – typically in favor of men and to the disadvantage of women. The sexual and feminist revolutions of the 20th century were right to challenge certain roles conventionally limited to one or the other gender. However, we’ve now gone from one imbalance to the other: from wanting to exaggerate the differences of men and women to wanting to eliminate them.
This weekend’s first reading provides important insight into the difference between what we might call “surface-love” and “heart-love.” Addressed to men, Proverbs presents this just warning: “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Our culture today is fixated on the deceptive and the fleeting, molding us to prize a person’s outward charm and beauty above all, but it’s a failing prize. While it’s true that such “surface-love” can mature into a deeper “heart-love,” if love stops at outward charm and beauty, it too will be deceptive and fleeting. Only the inner values of the person can sustain a stable relationship. To get to those inner values, lovers have to learn how to entrust their hearts to one another; they have to learn how to take their walls down, let their masks fall, and entrust their real humanity, warts and all, to each other. The value of a wife who loves her husband in this way is “far beyond pearls,” Proverbs tells us. “Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.”
“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God,” as we sing in this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm. The Church calls that thirst eros. Tragically, because we so rarely connect the dots between eros and God, “man unknowingly stretches out in search of the Infinite, but in misguided directions: in drugs, in sexuality lived in a disordered manner, in all-encompassing technologies, in success at any cost, and even in deceptive forms of religiosity,” says Pope Benedict XVI. Jesus refers to one of these deceptive forms of religiosity in this Sunday’s gospel, namely, those virgins who, while supposedly devoting their whole lives to God, “have no oil for their lamps.” Father Raniero Cantalamessa describes these unwise virgins as those who offer the counter witness of a “cold love.” He compares them to “poor lovers who write to the beloved letters copied from a handbook.” If the affections and desires of the heart connected with eros are “systematically denied or repressed” in the name of celibacy, states Fr. Cantalamessa, “the result will be double: either one goes on in a tired way, out of a sense of duty, to defend one’s image, or more or less licit compensations are sought, to the point of the very painful cases that are afflicting the Church.” Wise virgins do not repress eros. Rather, they allow their eros to become what it truly is: a pure, burning, wild, aching longing for God. In other words, their lamps are lit on fire and they are witnesses to the whole world of the eternal marriage that awaits us in heaven.