250. The Joyful Truth About Celibacy Pt. 4: Marriage and Celibacy Complement Each Other

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[NOTE: The posts that comprise this series are excerpted and adapted from Christopher West’s 2018 revised, updated and expanded edition of Theology of the Body for Beginners: Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex, & Gender (Wellspring 2018). Click here to order bulk copies of this book for your parish at just $3/copy or get your first copy for free using the checkout discount code DESIRE.]

Marriage and celibacy obviously differ in important ways. Yet these differences do not conflict. The values of one and the other vocation interpenetrate. In fact, marriage and celibacy “explain or complete each other” (Theology of the Body (TOB) audiences 78:2). Let me explain.

249. The Joyful Truth About Celibacy Pt. 3: Living In Freedom of the Gift

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[NOTE: The posts that comprise this series are excerpted and adapted from Christopher West’s 2018 revised, updated and expanded edition of Theology of the Body for Beginners: Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex, & Gender (Wellspring 2018). Click here to order bulk copies of this book for your parish at just $3/copy or get your first copy for free using the checkout discount code DESIRE.]

To a world bound by lust, lifelong celibacy seems absurd. The world’s general attitude toward Christian celibacy might be summarized like this: “Hey, marriage is the only ‘legitimate’ chance you Christians get to indulge your lusts. Why the heck would you ever want to give that up? You would be condemning yourself to a life of hopeless repression.”

The difference between marriage and celibacy must never be understood as the difference between having a “legitimate” outlet for sexual lust on the one hand and having to repress it on the other. Christ calls everyone—no matter his or her particular vocation—to experience redemption from the domination of lust. Only from this perspective do the Christian vocations (celibacy and marriage) make any sense. Both vocations—if they are to be lived as Christ intends—should flow from the experience of the redemption of the body.

COR THOUGHTS 269: God Is All Good Giving: Our Bodies Tell the Story

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In this weekend’s second reading we hear: “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17). To say “God is love” is the same as saying “God is gift.” For to love is not just to give a gift, but to be a gift: the gift that love gives is the gift of self. Of course, as John Paul II observes, “the concept of ‘giving’ cannot refer to nothing. It indicates the one who gives, and the one who receives the gift, as well as the relation established between them” (TOB 13:4). The one who gives the gift is God, the one who receives the gift is man (all of us, male and female), and the relationship that is established between them is “spousal.” In this relationship, God is always “masculine” and man (all of us, male and female) is always “feminine.” Why? Read the language of our bodies and we see readily that it is the masculine principle that first gives the gift and it’s the feminine principle that first receives it. We say “first” gives or “first” receives because, as John Paul II also observes, the giving and receiving of the gift interpenetrate in such a way that the very act of giving becomes receiving, and receiving becomes giving (see TOB 17:4). The sexual difference tells this story. It’s not just biology. It’s theology. Lord, give us eyes to see your Mystery revealed through our bodies!