Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pope St John Paul II on piety and purity

Reading the next, that is, the fifty-seventh installment of Pope St John Paul II's series of Wednesday catecheses on Theology of the Body this morning in Michael Waldstein's masterful presentation of it in his book Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (352-355), I was delightfully surprised. Before getting to the source of my surprise, once again, I found it heartening that the Instrumentum Laboris (i.e., "working instrument," or working document) for the upcoming Synod on Marriage and the Family pointed to the use of John Paul II's Theology of the Body (par 18) as a fruitful way to help people better understand their sexuality and human sexuality in general by deepening their understanding of what it means to be human in light of the Paschal mystery, that is, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday, in my reflection on the readings for this Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, I used a bit from John Paul II's fifty-sixth installment of his Theology of the Body and identified the charism of egkrateia, best translated as "self-control," as the fruit of the Holy Spirit that best enables a Christian to maintain the kind of purity St Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 6 (verses 12-20).

This morning, turning to installment fifty-seven in Waldstein's Theology of the Body compendium, I discovered that the charism of the Holy Spirit that Pope St John Paul II identified as "the one most congenial to the virtue of purity seems to be the gift of 'piety' (eusebia; donum pietas)."

Here's his reasoning: "If purity disposes man to 'keep his own body with holiness and reverence,' as we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, piety as the gift of the Holy Spirit seems to serve purity in a particular way by making the human subject sensitive to the dignity that belongs to the human body in virtue of the mystery of creation and redemption. Thanks to the gift of piety, Paul's words "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you... and the you do not belong to yourselves? (1 Cor 6:19) take on the convincing power of an experience and become a living and lived truth in actions" (Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body 352-353).

It not only because I am loathe to admit making a mistake that I see this as a classic both/and instead of a stark either/or. It is really all of the charismata working together in us, especially given and continually re-given to us in the Eucharist and through the Sacrament of Penance, that "the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:6).

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