The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Saturday, November 17, 2007

De Corpore



Part I- This Body of Death

Recently I have read some rather interesting articles on the supposed belittling of the body in the modern world. One article in particular, The Theology of the Bawdy by Richard & Elizabeth Gerbracht in the most recent issue of the New Oxford Review (you know, the magazine that is like, "we're so reactionary it's cute and hip") puts it in rather drastic and dare I say apocalyptic terms. There is a sense the the human body is being devalued, that we are on the verge of an anti-human age. I have heard this from many circles, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, and while I agree with many of their concerns, I cannot condone some of their errors in thinking and rhetorical exaggerations.

I guess this article in particular struck a nerve since it laid part of the blame on the divine Plato. And since Plato is the shot caller in my philosophical belief system, it is almost a knee-jerk reaction on my part to raise an objection. For according to this article, the genius of the Peripatetic system is the distinction between matter and form that Aristotle formulated supposedly against the Platonic idea that the material world is nothing but a shadow of the spiritual one. To put it bluntly, with some Christian corrections the Aristotilian system is seen as more incarnational and Platonists and we wannabe Platonists are seen as crypto-Gnostics(though Plotinus fought against the Gnostics in the Enneads)since we think that the body is all but dross.

To the extent that this intersects with that "theological time-bomb" set to go off any second now called the theology of the body, I don't know. Truth be told, I started reading John Paul II's talks on this, got about half way through, and all I could think before I finally stopped was, "where is he getting this from?" Granted, these were less than formal catechetical talks, but Patristic citations were few and far between, and I found the prose far too muddled to get any definitive answers out of it. I am willing to concede that I may just be a poor reader in this regard.

When I passed on the above article to someone much more intelligent, this is the response I got:

The author is missing a further explanation here - we are of course not united (at the final Resurrection) to our bodies as they are now, but to some "perfected" version of our bodies, whatever that may be. That again does suggest some separation (perhaps permanent) between our souls and bodies here on earth, even if after the Fall, we now have a bad copy of our bodies...

If I were him, this is not the way I would have argued for this point - there are two major problems. Problem 1): He contends "we will have these bodies after the resurrection, in order to perfectly see God, therefore we cannot separate mind from body" and yet we can safely say we do not have THESE bodies to do that. I'm probably not going to need to breathe oxygen, have sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals, etc, to keep my resurrected body functioning properly. And if my body isn't going to be made up of cells as we know it, then what is it? Christ's resurrected body certainly seemed to have strange properties unknown to our earthly, human bodies. One can too easily argue the gnostic point with his statements. Problem 2): He is ignoring the multitude of choices that can be made about artificially extending the life of the body. E.g., Schiavo would have been dead a long time ago if not for modern medicine. What does it mean that the body can go on without conscious control/a soul?



So when the authors blame Platonism for somehow denigrating the body, I think it is an acceptable criticism precisely because the body is a less than pleasant thing in this fallen world. There is a theology when it comes to "flesh", but there is nothing theological about warts or mucus, other than the fact that they are results of a fallen world.

I guess my main problem is that of privileging one metaphor about union with God without greatly nuancing that metaphor. It is true that in the Patristic and medieval mind the Song of Songs, an erotic book, was the song of union with God par excellence. But notice how every classical Christian author is quick to allegorize everything in that book, from breasts, to hair, to eyes, etc. Marriage is and is not a symbol of our union with God, precisely because, in the Dionysian tradition, all things participate in God's glory but not in His Being. Everything is an imperfect symbol, and to think that the actual carnal act that we do in our bedrooms has a lot to do with the mystery of the Trinity is slightly off in my opinion. Even Aquinas in the Summa said that we would procreate and defecate in the same way we would not if there had been no Fall, but all of the unpleasantness would have been taken out of it.

What seems most unsettling to me about the theology of the body as advocated by some, however, is not any of its theoretical components, but rather its attitude on the necessity of "re-packaging" the Christian message for the postmodern man. Christianity does not need a "sexy makeover". In my opinion, what made Christianity triumph in the first place was the conquering of the body, that is, the witness of martyrdom. From my own experience with the texts of the Byzantine liturgy, the fact that women and children could stand up to torture and be triumphant, or that everyday men could live without sexual intercourse profoundly astounded many of the ancients. I remember an anecdote we were told about the life of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as a missionary in Africa, where men and women of the villages would try to sneak up on the missionary priest's hut thinking that they were finally going to see the wife that he was hiding. They were astounded by the fact that she never materialized.

While it is important to point out that the sexuality of the twenty-first century is greatly disordered, I don't think it very believable for us Catholics to tell this society how to be "authentically sexual". I think what has worked in the past will work again. The problem is inherently supernatural: Christianity will not be proven right by rational or utilitarian arguments, but rather by the showing of its other-worldly nature. Christianity is neither useful, nor better, nor necessary for a society. True, if everyone behaved like Christians, things would be a lot better. At the core of our beliefs, however, is one which says that such a thing will never happen. Only the Parousia, the coming of Christ in glory, will solve all of our problems. This does not mean that we can have no social doctrine in the Catholic Church, but it does mean that we can't expect a whole lot from the application of that doctrine. The world is fallen, and it will continue to be so.

(I must say here that even the dreaded "same-sex marriage" is not a new thing. As another article in the New Oxford Review put it, such things occurred in Rome under Nero. Cabeza de Vaca witnessed it among American Indians during his years wandering through what is now the southern United States. And of course there is that rather odd ceremony in the Orthodox Church's liturgical books called the Adelphopoiia Rite, which Nicodemos the Hagiorite in the Pedalion implied was used as a rite of same-sex carnal union.)

But back to the real issue at hand: what then are we to think of the body? Is the Platonic tradition really that denigrating of the body? And what is the real meaning, the real symbolism behind our fallen carnality? That is the subject of Part II of this post.

25 Comments:

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Michael Seraphim said...

I think you contradict yourself (but more on that later)

Of the internet Traditionalists, the Lion and the Cardinal says he is reading Pope John Paul II and admits the caveot he does not like him (the Pope) very much, the Eastern Orthodox convert the Ochlophobist also criticizes
"Wojtylianism" (sic?) and talks very frequently about "Pansexualism, you while perhaps a Traditionalist are the most ecclectic and perhaps even eccentric and more than one commenter (that likes you but won't link back to your site) has commented you are heterodox.

You have also been critical of Pope John Paul II but dare I say I have seen more emotion and residual SSPX attitude rather than logic. You have also agreed with the Ochlophobist (and sound like him in this essay).

I have read Pope John Paul the II's theology of the body originally in copied essay form given to me by a member of Opus Dei (who since left Opus Dei and became married--super educated man)
I later read it in book form from a Indult Traditionalist priest in an order that has the TLM and he was positive for it.
I am not as ardous as the Ocholohobist, not as great an artist as the Lion and the Cardinal, nor as well read or as great a poet as you--but I do have read and have some other skills--that being said I do not have the same negative impression that you did of Pope John Paul the II nor the Theology of the Body.

I can agree that the Theology of the Body is not "new" (as it is based on reflections on the Gospels even if you think the Patristic references are lacking) and some of the comments to sell books are rhetoric.
I can also agree with you that Martyrdom is a Christian testimony of a certain theology of the body (but it is not proof of a unified body and soul that will be united or re-united at the end of time as Buddhist monks lit themselves on fire and some Hindus forced there live wives into the funeraly pyhre of their husbands)but more of faith rather than the body. The Ochlophobist correctly notes that Monastacism can be a model for celibacy and chastity depending on one's place in life.

However, a theology of the body that encourages marital sex (I could be wrong but I think Pope John Paul the II goes as far as encouraging men to pleasure women to the point of going into technical detail of how to give them an orgasm and that it is the duty of the husband for to give the woman an orgasm and pleasure generally--I am not sure if this is PPJ2 or his commentators but do not have the text in front of me.

You and the Ochlophobist have a dreary view of marital sex and stating that marital sex is good is something attractive to young people who have a natural attraction to sex and married couples that may have a difficult time. It is unrealistic to think everyone is going to be a monastic.

The New Oxford Review (which I agree has some brilliant essays but is far to uncharitable, not correct on details, and one could come away with problems recognized accurately but no solution--the New Oxford Review certainly can demoralize you--the link to the website only has negative news stories on the Catholic Church never a positive one (or rarely) usually stories that have some nuance, other side or explanation although many times accurate news stories that are very sad but true)
One article from the New Oxford Review talks about how the Mother and daughter look like prostitutes (because the mother blow dries her pants to make them look tight and puts on makeup in graphic almost some erotic letters detail and than the father and son are peter pan playboys but these are the Catholic Mass goers--not that there might not be some reality but it also may be exxagerrated and does not provide a solution)

The Ochlophobist talks about pansexuality frequently and this applies to Roman Catholic schools Halloween costumes to promotion of the Theology of the Body (which to him it seems innacurate and dangerous)

I think, without theological writing or social studies, that the best view of the Catholic Church is with families, children, and married couples having sex (it may be implicit with the children)
The Traditionalist website Fisheaters (owner I believe) states that frank discussions on pleasuring women (in a discrete environment) are not sin nor unhealthy. Married couples should be having sex and to learn to better pleasure a woman (specifically your wife) is not bad)

In terms of the Plato v. Aristotle or that Plato provides a philosophical basis or framework for Manicheasm or Gnostics--I don't know. There is a legitimate reading of Plato (and I am certainly not an expert--read it in English and not in Greek like you--and am not familiar with all the commentators as you) that could view it as dualistic, or pantehistic or denying matter. The allegory of the cave and implication that this physical reality is illusion is a theme common in Hinduism that we are living in an illusion.
I have heard from different people that I respect but not necessarily agree with that:
CS Lewis was overly influenced by Plato and that is why he did not convert to Catholicism because he had a view of matter as negative (as some Protestants do) and was somewhat dualistic.
That the Irish (I don't know how) were influenced by Copts and influenced by Gnosticism or Manicheans and that is why they have a negative view of the body.
Whether the above is true it seems no doubt that the Eastern Monacistism as you used to like and that of the Ochlophobist have influences that may not be admitted but seem obvious (as you state) of Greek and other thought of the regions (not that that is bad per se)
Again, I am not an expert on Plato but certainly it is not impossible to interpret Plato the way that you are disagreeing with.

The Ochlophobist readily admits that in his Protestant Church days he was "cruising" for chicks. He seems to have a rejection of his own womanizing. You are very influenced by your SSPX days and your associations with Traditionalists at least via the internet that already have a bias against Pope John Paul II and many of them in practice (that I have met)(and many neo Traditionalists tend to be young and some converts) seem to have (at least some) a very reactionary view of human sexuality (perhaps justifiably with images of beautiful women everywhere on billboards, internet and a view of homosexuality and seeming promotion of homosexuality that has changed even since I was a youngster with a very physical and sensually (ugly in my opinion) focus that is certainly not in keeping with Christianity)

Boswell is not the best source for the Orthodox rite of union of "same sex"-- I think it was your internet compatriot the Conservative Blog for Peace fogey had a different view (that the rite was not for same sex marriage with links although again I am not an expert)

Pope John Paul II is not new nor going from an unrealistic view of human sexuality (as happy married life is not something bad and can be compared to as an alternative to the hedonistic cornucopia that seems to be present today)
His reflections from my past and probably weak reading are on the Gospel and the part on Marriage and the permanent aspect of it and that marriage from a Catholic point of view is not dissolvable but by implication is also heterosexual and monogamous.
You and the Ochlophobist seem to think that the PJP2 Catholics are saying to the world that are married sex and the theology of the body are better (which they are) than multiple partners, girls gone wild, sex vacations, permutations galore--and that in that comparison people will not choose Catholicism and that the antidote is celibacy and monastacism (I may have this wrong or truncated) but I disagree MANY people are interested in monogamous relationships and marriages because it is simpler and can possibly protect from disease but also because they want to practice their Faith and fave children. They are not pansexual. They did choose Catholicism over hedonism or epicurianism etc.

Arturo, your essays are brilliant but sometimes are convuluted (as is my response) and all over the place and have too much information for just one post. But certainly are thought provoking and interesting.

Some points:

1. Pope John Paul II was a great Pope and brilliant writer.

2. Married sex is good and we can recognize and promote that.

3. Plato may have had a negative influence and could be interpreted positively by dualists or gnostics.

4. You have a bias positive to Plato.

5. You have a bias against Pope John Paul II.

6. You seem to have a contradiction between a more earthy Mexican practical approach to sexuality and than this Traditionalist and reactionary approach at the same time (or at least in a different post)

7. Same sex marriage is sin and bad for society (perhaps not the downfall of the West like Dr. Dobson says but nonetheless not positive nor right)(Only the New Oxford Review could go into detail of the different male marriages of Nero and the changing of the male and female roles--I know from your previous posts that you are nor of the Ernie and Bert school (your implied comment) and you like beautiful women or at least one beautiful woman)
There is at least a different possible view of the Eastern Orthodox rite and the New Oxford Review seems like salacious non sequitor.
Gay "marriage" is wrong and cannot happen and should not happen and is bad for society.

Yes, the pagan Meditteranean world was more sensual and decadent than our own (temple prostitues, pedophilia, mystery religions with beautiful priestesses)and it was converted to Christianity perhaps by the Martyrdom and Celibacy but certain natural inclinations do not change (and are not necessarily bad) and most Christians were married people with children. Again, the vast majority of Christians were families with children who thus had sex and not celibates or martyrs as great as that testimony is

 
At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Andre said...

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At 9:15 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Dear Michael Seraphim,

You make some interesting points. You may be on to something when you say I am a bit bias against the last Pontiff. I suppose I have my own reasons, but I think the papalotry around his figure (and I don't think I am exaggerating here by calling it that) is profoundly unhealthy. Nevertheless, I can concede that he was an extraordinary and saintly man who probably did the best he could at governing the Church with mixed results. I do think the cult of personality around this or any Pope, however, is a very modern phenomenon that, in my opinion, seeks to avoid real discussions about the changing nature of our Faith.

I think you misunderstood: I am not saying that marriage is not sacred or anything of that nature. I am merely saying that it is wise to keep in mind the "old views" of the Church Fathers about a guarded attitude towards the carnality of man. I remember one anecdote in the Fathers of the Desert where a husband and a wife separated in order to become monastics. When the husband was dying, the wife asked for a blessing to go see him on his death bed. When she saw her dying husband after years and years of separation, she went to embrace him, but the man said: "Stay away from me, woman, for I have not won the struggle yet." Even on his death bed, he was afraid of the burning desires of our flesh.

Some proponents of the theology of the body would have us turn up our noses at this and other examples of extreme asceticism, saying that they are remnants of a Manichean, anti-incarnational attituude towards sex and procreation. I am not saying definitively that they aren't, but I am saying that we dismiss them as such at our own peril. As in all things, this comes out of a "we know better than they did" attitude of innovation with which our society seems feverishly infected. If the Fathers had such a "negative" attitude towards the things of the flesh, they probably had their reasons. And I think I know what they are and I respect them. God knows my grandparents probably know more about sex than anyone in my generation: they grew up in the countryside for crying out loud! You didn't have to give them lectures about vaginal mucus!

The only reason I brought up the issue of same-sex marriage is to posit that perhaps the sexual decadence which many have said is the raison d'etre of the timely emergence of this "new theology" is nothing new at all. The only difference now is that we don't force people with these inclinations to marry against their will or remain celibate. And I am pretty sure that the Adelphopoiia rite is what it says it is since I have read the Pedalion myself and the insinuation is quite clear. Nor do I think it should suprise us.

As for Owen, I respect him, but I think we are doing two different things in our writing. At times I think he is trying to hearken back to a day when middle class white men had all the power, privilege, and say in everything, and Orthodoxy just happens to be the prefered vehicle of that nostalgia. I think nostalgia and the constant wringing of hands over the evils of this society are noxious, embittering, and counter-productive. That doesn't mean that I like everything in this society. It simply means that I look for the Kingdom here and now, and I am not nostalgic for a time when I would have been a peon picking cotton in a dry desert in Mexico, which is what my mother did before she came to this country. Along with all the things I like about this country are things I don't like, and more often than not one cannot separate one thing from the other.

I am not a saint, and people who read this blog can probably think I am the biggest hypocrite in the world, and they would be absolutely right. But I have been celibate, and I have known celibates who have literally glowed with holiness. It wasn't for me, I'm sorry to say. I do think, however, that sexuality should always have the aura of "arcana", that it is something that we should say very little about since these things are never expressed well in theory. I think that the authentic Catholic position on sexuality is that it should be between the couple, and if necessary, their confessor. Behind closed doors and in the intimacy of the hearth are the real habitats for these conversations, not in the theological faculties and pulpits.

God knows postmodern theory is nothing but sexual speculation and double entendre (I should know since I worked with this crap.) In postmodern discourse, sex is the only god left. (Foucault's last major work was the three volumed, History of Sexuality.) Perhaps my apparent distaste for the issue lies in the idea that we are competing for the title of who can revere sexuality better. And I am skeptical about whether we can win this competition.

I will end this by citing a post I once did on Marcus Aurelius. The quote is by Pierre Hadot:

"It would, moreover, be interesting to psychologize some historical psychologists; I believe we could discover in them two tendencies. One is iconoclastic: it takes pleasure in attacking such figures as Plotinus or Marcus Aurelius, for example, who are naively respected by right-thinking people. The other is reductionist: it considers that all elevation of the soul or of thought, all moral heroism, and all grandiose views of the universe can only be morbid or abnormal. Everything has to be explained by sex or drugs."

-The Inner Citadel, p. 257

And I'm sorry, I refuse to bow to that, even indirectly.

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

"...and more than one commenter (that likes you but won't link back to your site) has commented you are heterodox."

Just out of curiosity, to whom are you refering? You can e-mail me privately with the answer.

And I don't know Greek. I'm not that educated.

 
At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Michael Seraphim said...

I do believe that, especially after his death, there is a great "cult" (cult in the proper descriptive term and not a pejorative)around Pope John Paul II (or Pope John Paul the Great as many call him)
However, I don't know why the popularity of Pope John Paul II in life or death is unhealthy.
I think you are exxxagerating when you call it papalotary is there is not worship of Pope John Paul II as God nor is it theologically innacurate.
At this point I do think you contradict yourself as you always (or frequently) criticize the Anglo-Protestant (even Anglo-American Catholic Protestant influenced) form of Catholicism that does not have the processions, cult of saints, and other devotions found especially in Mexico and Latin America.
So, if Pope John Paul II is a saint (I believe he is), than a natural, organic and spontaneous devotion to him is not unhealthy but very healthy and he can be a role model for seeming happiness, and in his later days sickness and suffering and aging and those mysteries.
Pope John Paul II (no pontificate is perfect as we live in the here and now) certainly had flaws (the sexual abuse clergy crisis is one and I would of never appointed Cardinal Law to anywhere but a monastery like they put Legionnaire's Marcel) but he is a polyglot, a true learned man, a man of prayer.
Were some World Youth Days or Christmas celebrations with Bob Dylan or the Fugees the best things--maybe not--but more stylistic. But that is another discussion.

One thing you and Pope John Paul II agree upon (I think)(and perhaps even more radically the Jesuits in the Redacciones in Paraguay from one of your favorite movies the Mission, less so the Jesuits in North America with Indians, Roberto di Nobili SJ with the East Indians, or Matteo Ricci with the Chinese) I think you are more like Pope John Paul II in your approach to cultural integration judging on your posts on Mexican and Peruvian Indian cultures and Jesuits who tried to integrate Incan culture as Europeans and specifically Greek culture was integrated with Christianity earlier.
Pope John Paul II through graphic photos, TV showed African tribesman, American Indian teeppees, traditional Polish dress, Aboriginees--he showed that every nationality and culture and way of dress was sanctified--I think he was right, this is good--and many Traditionalists see only a Medeival or maybe Counter Reformation or at best 1950s Church that is stagnate with time and equate that culture with theology and photos of cute kids in suits as evidence that everything since Vatican II has gone to hell in a handbasket.
You and the last Pope are in greater agreement on culture and non Christian religions and anthropology than you and Traditionalists.

The married couple who separated and the husband who did not want to embrace his wife upon death--I believe--is not the ideal of Christianity--he should of embraced his wife because the physical affection and healing that can take place because of physical touch (many although certainly not all healing by Jesus was through touch and there is a laying on of hands and many scientific studies demonstrating the healing power of touch) would be worth the resulting passion. Also passion between a husband and wife is good, natural and should be pursued. Again, you are the poet who likes the Song of Songs or Song of Solomon. So I think if some people think that the approach of the story you mentioned is anti-incarnational and manichean that they are right.
In the ascetic tradition of the Eastern Church there have been heterodox ideas but again a subject of another day. To encourage married couples to have sex is not disrespecting the Early Church Fathers. At the same time, the Patristic writings are great, but not the only writings and again Pope John Paul II reflects on the Gospels which should be preimenent.

This is not against celibacy as John Paul II made it clear that with some excpetions the Roman branch of the Catholic Church would maintain clerical celibacy as a rule and it reflected important theology.

I agree, as I think John Paul II would that human sexuality is to be discussed discretely and in private with the couple and maybe their confessor however this does not mean it cannot be discussed in a theological reflection or some detail cannot be discussed as it is necessary to educate.

Owen/Oclophobist may or may not want a male dominant nostalgia with a vehicle with Orthodoxy--I do think he is very intelligent and certainly reflective but I think his ideal is unattainable and his criticisms of Roman Catholic school Halloween parties or his frequent use of the term pansexual is an exxagerationnn.
The New Oxford Review--again well written and some brilliant writers and essays--lacks charity, has no solutions (usually), and is almost always negative--I read it when I want to feel totally demoralized about the Church.

I also do not want to believe that everything is about sex and drugs. I have a friend who believes that many other religions art (specifically he was speaking about Tibetan Buddhism but he has also spoke about Aztecs in the same vein) was derived from drug trips. So many people have written about St. Paul's and St. Augustine's supposed misoginy and sexual issues, lust and struggles as reflecting in their writings--I am not intelligent enough to derive the same fairly radical conclusions.

I admire you that you have been a celibate. While not as debauched as your fellow poet Too Short, I certainly was almost as active as some Rennaisance Popes when I was younger although I would like to believe that was before I became more aware of my Faith and cooperated with grace more.
I agree that some celibates can glow with sanctity and that there can be a spiritual sublimination of sexuality that can creat great "power" that is seen in priests and other celibates who become consumated to their works (art and music for example) and/or their congregations and love for people, the Mass, God etc.

I would certainly not be one to tell my wife to not touch me because I have not won the struggle yet. There are also many priests (that you must know being Byzantine Rite) that are married, have children (and thus implied sex unless they are than violating other Church rules on in vitro--jk)
who are holy and good priests and have families and sex.

I also find it at least interesting, if not an apparent contradiction that you write supporting the Early Church Fathers (who some may be reacting the sensuality and craziness of that era) on asceticism but you post YouTube links to Modern dance (use of the body--something some Traditionalists go crazy with albeit that your ballet and interpretive dance links are not liturgical dance) and your underdeveloped idea or at least post that the West is too against the body that unlike Hinduism--where Hindus can have dance and body movement as being symbolic (or maybe more than mere symbol) of creation of the world or in the case of Shiva perhaps destruction of the world --but whatever it is some type of religious, ritual and/or spiritual dance--a dance that has no counterpart in most of Christian tradition (although King David certainly danced around the Ark, and St. Teresa of Avila danced, and modern Hassidic Jews dance and sing in joy although it is certainly not sexual or modern hip hop dance and is single sex, and certainly other cultures specifically African gesticulate and move around during the Liturgy which seems to be an authentic and organic cultural and natural expression of body movement in the Mass that can and should be allowed or perhaps even encouraged)

I find a contradiction between your earthy descriptions of your Mexican upbringing and your criticisms of a Puritanical Anglo-American sanitizing of saints and spiritual life and your current calls to a more austere acsteticism and criticisms of the Theology of the Body.
I also find a contradiction of your promotion of Hindu dance because it is profound that spiritual themes can be reflected in bodily movement but you are critical of a Pope telling husbands to give their wives orgasms (this is not the Kama Sutra) and that you are still a Traditionalist in your liturgical leanings and your fellow bloggers would condemn any form of liturgical dance (although certainly the liturgical dance that I have seen on Traditionalist links to YouTube is not good nor right (with maybe one exception) and when a priest dresses at Barney the Purple dinasour that my little cousins used to watch during Mass that that priest should be thrown out of the priesthood or into mental facility)
So, how can you not want any form of liturgical dance (which may be right) and yet promote and view as profound Hindu dance dedicated to Shiva and representing some cosmological event?
How can you criticize Anglo-American Puritanism and discuss a more earthy Mexican approach but than promote a even more austere Eastern monasticism?

I truly enjoy your great blog even if others view you as heterodox. I think you are very Orthodox but I do think you should have a greater affection both the Petrine office and the person of the Pope.
I also think in a very brilliant way you go to some interesting topics in speculative type of theology including the role of culture and other religions.

 
At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Michael Serpahim said...

Do not be humble of your education.
Greek or no Greek

Your Latin is excellent (although I guess it could be cut and paste)

You seem to be the type of person who read the
Rig Veda in the original Sanskrit
and the Qur'an in Arabic
and Zoarastian texts in Parsee (you did compliment Persian women in a long past post--I hope that was not an occasion of sin in your and the Oclophobists view of sexuality-jk)
There were no texts for your travels with Sufis from the same line of Rumi
and no texts when you trained with Mongolian Shamans in Siberia
and the Shamans of the Amazon

But the above is for the movie on the Sarabite--mystic poet
Chicless will play you since you are bald
Salma Hayek can play AG

It is late and sometimes wine affects my posts.

God Bless

 
At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Michael Seraphim said...

The Gospels in Greek, Aramaic, and Geez script of Egyptians and Ethiopians

The Torah in Hebrew

Kabbalic texts in Aramaic

and time away at Mount Athos and Valaam in Russian and Old Slavonic

you are the mystical poet

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

I will concede that John Paul II was very devoted to the Virgin Mary (a sign of great sanctity), helped to overthrow godless communism, and defended human life issues in the face of great pressure to capitulate. That is more than enough to secure his greatness in Church history.

I think you read my inculturation posts in the wrong way. I have to say that European classical is privileged since it was the first to receive the Gospel en masse, and I think the ethos of the Church must continue to be seen through the lens of "dead white males".

(Blunt note: I think dead white males are cool. In fact, I think I am going to make a club called "People of Color for Dead White Males". Not only are they smart, but they're dead, so it's not like they can opppress you directly.)

I don't want altars with Aztec dancers or Chinese dragons on them. I think inculturation is an organic process that takes centuries and not a series of measures passed by bishop's conferences which are implemented overnight. In Latin America and the Philipines, for example, Spanish Catholicism has been authentically implanted and transformed into something authentically native. This was not by implementing policies of certain theologians. It was more a process by which the cultural dripping of the native enviorment shaped how Christianity was received in that area. I think what is going on in much of the Catholic Church now is different, and not all that healthy.

 
At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Michael Seraphim said...

There is nothing wrong with Aztec dancers honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is nothing wrong with Dragons on Chinese Churches (or Vietnamese) (with the caveot that the Dragon may be a negative symbol due to Revelation and the probably mythological story of St. George.
The authentic native Catholicism of the Phillipines and Latin American and Mexico was in spite of the sometimes heavy handed Spanish.

An example comes to mind of the Indians (Syro Malabar) in union with Rome that wanted authentic and pre-European customs and Bishops and not the Portuguese that came. The Portuguese did not allow indigenous or organic Catholicism to be.

Pope John Paul the II demonstrated through visual actions that all people were important and that all cultures had beauty not just through words and theory but by his actions that demonstrated the incarnation and universal appeal of Catholism that is why he is so loved all around the world.

I also like the "dead white males"
If I misread our posts on inculturation it was certainly not on purpose. But your posts on the Incas and the Jesuit who wanted to integrate Incan thought certainly seemed like that to me.
Yes, if dead white males are Augustine and Plato and Justine Martyr etc--I agree.
However, the dead white males of European culture are not the same as those mentioned or you would be a Antiochene Melkite Rite Catholic and neither the Latin Rite or Ukrainian Byzantine Rite.
The mixture (which I think is beautiful) of European culture (German Christmas trees etc) is no better per se (and really the conversions en masse were Semitic peoples, Greeks, Arabs, Phoenicians etc and not Europeans who came later) than if you combined Aztec (sans human sacrifice) or Maya or Incan or Chinese culture.
Even if you claim to the contrary your posts actually demonstrate a different conclusion of what you wrote above and more of an agreement with Pope John Paul II.

I agree that not all inculturation is healthy and a certain fake "top-down" can happen but not always.
One that is not but Traditionalists accuse that is-is the African American Catholics incorporating dance or at least body movements and styles of music that seem inherent or at least organically cultural from African, Afro-Caribeean for some, or American African cultural forms of music and movement that can genuinely worship God.
There is a Mexican Spanish language movie called La Otra Conquista (not saying I agree with everything) but it is very interesting.

Arturo, with all due respect, you have always had problems with union with Rome. To wit:

1. You started your post Marxist time as a SSPX seminarian with even friends of the SSPX breakaway with the Argentine philosopher you previously posted on with even stronger sede vacante views.
Your SSPX time may have/could of biased you against Pope John Paul II and some think that Marcel Lefebvre (although I am sympathetic to him) and his followers have a Gallican heresy or Gallian schismatic tendency or even descendants of Cathars and Albigensians. I am sure you had many anti JP2 lectures and some of your seminarian friends left to the SSPV or other sede vacante schools and attitudes.

2. You ventured into Anglicansim or Anglo Catholicism (somewhat strange for a Mexican but nonetheless) which was NOT in union with Rome. They want to be like Orthodox without the history or according to the Catholic Church (Pope Leo in some papal bull if I remember correctly) stated they have no orders.
So you were worshipping with Anglos who diminished your ancestors at a schismatic altar of an adulterer.

3. You went through a strong Eastern phase discussing Spiritual fatherhood and Uncreated Light and even changed Rites to become a Byzantine monk (albeit Byzantine Catholic in union with Rome) But even the Byzantine Catholics read Orthodox authors who go on diatribes against Catholicism from some time ago to the more modern Seraphim Rose (priest and monk and anti-Catholic)

4. Even in your Marxist stage, the religion most oppossed by Marxism (albeit oppossed to all religions except it's own) is Roman Catholicism or Catholicism in union with Rome. One great thing about the Petrine office in it's denial of Caesero Papism it did not allow for the problems that happened in the East under Communism and Islam.

So all your major stages and schools of thoughts and influences have had anti Petrine tendencies and certainly anti-Pope John Paul II.

You rightly note that Pope John Paul II had a great devotion to Mary to the point of his coat of arms reading totus tuos relating to Mary and encouraging devotion to Mary and publicy thanking Our Lady of Fatima after his assination.

There is a anthropological study institute named after and dedicated to the teachings of Pope John Paul II (although I lost interest after I found out Cardinal Law was associated with it) You have almost a congitive dissonance on your statements about culture and almost Hans Urs von Baltashar approach to other religions despite some of your explicit traditionalist conclusions.

Being from Marxist, Lefebverite, and Eastern (quasi Orthodox) backgrounds does not exactly make you a Monatist.

Also, for you to say that the regard for Pope John Paul II is unprecedented is not reality.
While he may be regarded by more people in more different parts of the world because of mass media--yes that is true.
But many Popes like Pope Gregory the Great, or Pope Leo the Great are regarded as saints by some Eastern Orthodox.
Pope Pius XII was highly regarded as was John XXIII and very popular with the people so to say that the devotion to Pope John Paul II is unheatlhy or unprecendeted is not based on any examples or history or logic or reality.

At least you give him credit for the overthrow of Communism (the ideology you formerly professed and were devoted to) and the defense of human life issues (without the Catholic Church and the public persona and influence of Pope John Paul II--abortion would probably be legal everywhere)
He certainly defended human life.

I am not an expert on Eastern Orthodox rites but there are different views of the rite for "same sex marriage" you speak of I think on the Conservative Blog for Peace and other Eastern Orthodox blogs although that is tangential to this discussion.

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Alex F said...

Your original post ties into a discussion on other blogs about the EWTN TV priest Fr. Francis Mary (name?) who supposedly fell in love with another woman and is off EWTN now.
The Conservative Blog for Peace, Steve Ray, and American Papist and others had a discussion on the exodus of this priest.
Many of the initial posts and posters were very scandalized.

Since you discuss the Theology of the Body and Pope John Paul II it juxtaposes with the scandals of the flesh and married priests.

I could discuss much but the bottom line is a theology that has a husband rejecting his wife because he has not conquered lust even on his death bed is probably not healthy. Moreover, married priests as in the model of the Eastern Church could be good for the Latin Catholic Church and should not have been dealt with so harshly by Pope John Paul II.

Married Priests could help get a different type of male in the priesthood than was previously in the seminaries that has been called "Lavender mafia"

The Eastern Catholic Churches can be a model for a married priesthood for the Universal Church. Their approach to human sexuality can be instructive and weed out the same sex attraction better.

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger The Ochlophobist said...

"At times I think he is trying to hearken back to a day when middle class white men had all the power, privilege, and say in everything, and Orthodoxy just happens to be the prefered vehicle of that nostalgia."

Good grief, Arturo. For a white male (even one who grew up outside of white middle class America, and continues to live outside such) to disagree with a poor Mexican-American Catholic, well, recent return to Catholicism, well, student at a University which will land him a middle class life if he wants it, must mean this if he asserts anything as authoritative- is that it? Fine then. Yeah, I'm all Dobson.

Such a comment reflects a purposeful ignoring of virtually all I have written concerning Orthodoxy and the bourgeoisie.

In the end, it seems, I have a much higher view of you than you do of me.

You know nothing of me. Perhaps you pretend you do not fit into the white bourgeois world. I assure you, Arturo, that if you spent one day in my life you would soon learn that I do not fit into it either. In fact, when we both die, I suspect I will have spent less years in it that you have.

But I have been wrong before...

But I still contend that there is nothing more bourgeois than American Halloween.

 
At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Michael Seraphim said...

Oclophobist,
I do not know who is more white middle class but....

1. I do think your path is way to ardous. It is something like Distribuitionism. But I lost mechanical skills to any great degree long ago. But I do admire your desire to do things simply and completely.

2. I do think you are too hard on Pope John Paul II (as is Arturo/pseudo-Iamblichus/Sarabite)

3. Your pro-monastic approach to human sexuality is harsh and unrealistic.

4. Your pansexual term is applied to broadly.

I like both the late Pope John Paul II and the Theology of the Body.
I do think there are issues of cultural/ethnicity/and class that affect (although complex would be too harsh of a term) Arturo Vazquez.
Owen, I don't know you well enough but I did like your post on Bob Evans (great pot roast sandwich) and generally find your blog fascinating although unrealistic as a recipe for life (at least mine)

 
At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Michael Seraphim said...

Arturo certainly is bourgeoisie in his tastes in art, dance, and other YouTube links. Some have suggested even an attempt to hide his self proclaimed rural Mexican low income identity or a backlash against it.

Owen, Halloween may be bourgeoisie but outside some adult Halloween parties I do not think it is pansexual.

There is no criticism of me as I am an angel (hence the name) and am next to perfect. But nonetheless from perfection I do rather enjoy psychoanalyzing you two.

 
At 5:59 PM, Blogger Troy said...

Well thats Catholicism for ya, Always trying to rationalize everything!

 
At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Todd Anthony Shaw said...

oclophobist, Arturo is not white middle class but a real urban baller and shot caller a la his Oakland roots
Arturo is a playah

 
At 6:53 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger AG said...

Several comments, on different subjects.

First, comments on others’ comments.

1. Both Western and Eastern classical dance share the same basic form, attention to geometric planes (particularly with symmetry of the body), and focus on the stability of ground, although the aesthetics differ. Therefore, one can appreciate Western and Eastern classical dance for these qualities separate from the subject matter of the dance in either, or its purpose. Nor does one have to have a “high” opinion on the body in order to enjoy dance. One doesn’t have to believe that the human body in motion can communicate emotion or thought to enjoy dance, for part of what is enjoyable about dance is the participation of our own bodies (our visual and motor cortex, to be more exact) in the motion we see, similar to the reason people enjoy watching individual sports competitions – our brains watch the movement, so to speak, and plan our own bodies’ replication of that movement (whether our own bodies could actually perform the movement being irrelevant).

2. Additionally, one could have a low opinion of the human body in motion as a communicate instrument and still have an emotional/cognitive response to the shapes that body generates while in motion. Artists who work with plastic media have been taking advantage of the fact that the human brain “reads” content into certain shapes for millennia. (Other animals that have even rudimentary visual systems show behavioral responses to certain shapes.)

So in conclusion, a “high” or “low” opinion of the body is neither here nor there in enjoying dance as patterned human movement, nor is it necessary to believe that the movements of the human body can re-create the world (as in some forms of Eastern classical dance) or that it can symbolize redemptive power (as in some Western classical ballets) to appreciate the body in motion. And one can still consider some types of dance in some venues inappropriate while having a “high” opinion of the body.

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger AG said...

Second, to comments that keep re-appearing about A.V.’s Mexican-American upbringing, and questions of why he doesn’t acknowledge Mexican artists more frequently (or at all): I can’t help but see these comments as prejudiced. So every person of Mexican descent with a blog should be posting every now and then and again about Mexican culture? If I posted about how much I loved Alsatian food and proceeded to post a recipe for Alsatian gratin, would I then be asked when I’d post about how much I love greens, “chittlins,” and watermelon, and be asked for my recipe for southern fried chicken? I’ve never posted about rap (and hip-hop is a culture, rap is the form of music); does that make me an oreo? (The question is rhetorical – do not answer.) One’s race or ethnicity should not be used as the measuring stick of where one’s interests should lie or what one should write about in spare time. That should be obvious.

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger AG said...

For the ochlophobist,

The fact that someone with the name Arturo Vasquez (or his appearance) could never fit into the white bourgeois world seems to escape you – the amount of time people spend staring at him when he ventures there might clue you off if you ever met him in person, but either way should have been met with more sensitivity than you seem to display. The fact that you failed to consider that even in your comment is one of those aspects of “middle class white [man]” privilege that I suspect A.V. is alluding to – not that you are of the middle class, but that you seem to display a blindness to the reality that a large percentage of the working class has historically been held there by oppression (in the case of non-whites, government-mandated oppression) and to ignore that reality and romanticize the way of life in the American south for the “working folk” (many of whom are highly undereducated and functionally illiterate - you do not seem to be) is offensive. Your attitudes aren’t far from that of middle-class white liberals here in Berkeley.

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger AG said...

Fourth, what in the world is with this claim of “papalotry” for John Paul II?? What does that even look like, when compared to devotions to other saintly men and women? And how can someone who wrote a post praising a devotion (in form, if not content) to a convicted child rapist and killer look with disdain on placing John Paul II as an object of affection? There’s prejudice here against JPII that has nothing to do with the high regard others hold him in – be honest.

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger AG said...

Fifth, (and now to the actual original post), I’m confused as to how you would define a “perfect” vs. an “imperfect” symbol. I didn’t know symbols had degrees of perfection (representations, yes, but symbols?), and would appreciate some insight about this.

I think part of what you are missing in JPII’s Theology of the Body is that the immediate audience is the modern world, meaning, a world where women are now educated and allowed to make choices (other than motherhood or the nunnery) about their lives, and where women do not have to stay with men solely out of financial dependence. Such a world requires that women be looked upon as partners, and part of the image from the Church Fathers on sex is “don’t do IT with that dirty woman” (I think it’s in St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on Ephesians that a husband should try not to beat his wife too much).

In addition, we were made as sexual beings, “and male and female He created them.” Therefore, I don’t think pointing out that our bodies have a sexual purpose as designed by God is ‘competition’ with the current talk about sex, anymore than pointing out Truth is ‘competitive’ with fictions or fads. Your problem would be better phrased as one with the way this truth has been marketed in the past several years. Such talk, while not in front of polite company and the children, is nevertheless necessary to remind married couples that they too are created in the image and likeness of God and through their interaction have a purpose in the world, even though they aren’t the celibate model of Christ or the Virgin.

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

The papolatry comment was out of line and should have not been phrased that way. Again, I can concede that such a phrase is a result of unfounded prejudices on my part.

I really haven't reflected on the gender issue in all of this. Is theology of the body a way of giving women a voice? I hadn't thought of it that way before. Indeed, I suppose this is another case of my rather pervasive Latin sexism playing itself out.

To break the "polite company" tone of it, I suppose there is something to the whole emphasis for example, of giving a woman an orgasm, as opposed to the whole Victorian idea: "lay back and think of England". I wouldn't want to go back to the time when a woman had to be with me because there was no other alternative, regardless of what such an order does to divorce rates. There is no turning back the clock, and theology necessarily would have to reflect this new order.

Perhaps increasing equality of the sexes does require more talk of the body within Catholic discourse. Such things would require more study on my part.

 
At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Calvin Broadus said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Vicente said...

Arturo,
for the Mexicans the orgasm is about that and not about England
maybe that was your time as an Anglican

 
At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Fourth, what in the world is with this claim of “papalotry” for John Paul II?? What does that even look like, when compared to devotions to other saintly men and women? And how can someone who wrote a post praising a devotion (in form, if not content) to a convicted child rapist and killer look with disdain on placing John Paul II as an object of affection? There’s prejudice here against JPII that has nothing to do with the high regard others hold him in – be honest." AG

?????
Who is the convicted child rapist

Are your Alsace region culinary dishes from the French or German parts?

"In addition, we were made as sexual beings, “and male and female He created them.” Therefore, I don’t think pointing out that our bodies have a sexual purpose as designed by God is ‘competition’ with the current talk about sex, anymore than pointing out Truth is ‘competitive’ with fictions or fads. Your problem would be better phrased as one with the way this truth has been marketed in the past several years. Such talk, while not in front of polite company and the children, is nevertheless necessary to remind married couples that they too are created in the image and likeness of God and through their interaction have a purpose in the world, even though they aren’t the celibate model of Christ or the Virgin." AG

I agree with AG, previous posters, and JP2 and not with Arturo or Owen. To recognize marital sex as good and the husbands obligation to give his wife an orgasm as part of increasing love (assuming men can orgasm easily)is not competing with Girls Gone Wild videos or Jenna Jameson (for those who don't know a famous porn star).
Of course this is not for children or to be discussed in every conversation, but that does not make it bad.

Arturo does seem to be shrinking when AG came on the scene. I don't think AG was defending her man as much as stating her opinion and even disagreeing with AV.

AG, you must admit there is an assumption that most conservative Catholics in the US are white.
Also, for most African Americans and Latinos (Mexican Americans), for most, discussions of Ballet, modern dance, Rumi, and Hindu dance rituals would not resonate with most.

 

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