Sunday, February 7, 2010

"You have judged rightly"

Sticking with a theme that emerged last week, in the last chapter of the third volume of Is It Possible to Live This Way? on charity, Giussani is discussing virginity. He asserts that whether one is called to a life of consecrated virginity or not, that "[t]o truly love a person you need detachment." He asks, "does a man adore his woman more when he looks at her from one metre away, in awe at the being he has before him, almost on his knees, even if he's standing, almost on his knees in front of her; or, when he takes her for himself?" No! No, when he takes her for himself , it's over." The key phrase is "takes her for himself." This is an act of selfishness, self-indulgence. I think he is referring primarily to pre-marital relations, but the same can be true in marital relations, too, though not necessarily and certainly not ideally.

This remark put me in mind of Genesis 2:21-24: "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

'This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.'

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Of course, verse twenty-four is the ur-Scripture for marriage. Here the man is detached, standing at a distance and marveling.

There is nothing inherent in the text of the Gospels to indicate that St. Mary Magdalene was the prostitute who entered the house of Simon the Pharisee and washed Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them with her hair apart from this coming immediately before the author of the Gospel identifying women who accompanied Jesus, some of whom "had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities" (Luke 8:2). One of these was "Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out" (ibid). Nonetheless, this connection is certainly part of the Tradition. Hence, Giussani, to make his point about detachment clear, says, "Who possessed Magdalene the prostitute more: Christ, who looked at her for an instant while she was passing in front of him, or all the men who had possessed her? When, a few days later, that woman washed his feet in tears, she answered this question" (Luke 7:36-50).

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