Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Grounded in Love

 From Helen Alvare at IFS:

The starting point for Christians (and a few other faith groups) is the creation account in the book of Genesis, stating that human beings are created in the image of God as two-sexes capacitated for procreative sexual union. The Old Testament is further replete with references to Israel as a bride and to God as the bridegroom, to marriage as an icon of the relationship between God and Israel, and to God as a parent (mother and father) to Israel his beloved child. (Is 54:5, Jer 2:2, and Ex 4:22).

In the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly calls Himself the bridegroom in relation to humanity as the bride (Mt 9:15). St. Paul also analogizes God’s love to that of a bridegroom and urges Christians to love likewise (Eph 5:32). Shortly afterwards, Paul urges husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25). In short, God’s love looks like Jesus’s self-surrender, His death on a cross for humanity, His bride, the Church, for whom he assumes indissoluble obligations (Mark 10:6-9). Jesus also teaches that His followers should love and trust Him as a child loves a parent (Mk 10:15), and teaches His followers to pray to God as “our Father” (Mt 6:9).

Christianity holds that observing and experiencing romantic and familial relations can specifically assist human beings to grasp some truths about God’s identity, given that humans are “imago Dei” (made in the image of God). These relations might allow humanity to achieve the intuition, for example, that God is an eternal being, given how often men and women in romantic relationships regularly express the wish that their bond should last forever, that the other “cannot die.” Jesus’s description of marriage as the man “leaving his mother and his father and cleav[ing] to his wife” (Mk 10:7) affirms the permanent bond of marriage.

Human relations can also assist our understanding of God as “parent.” Every human being has the experience of her very existence being dependent upon procreation by an earthly father, which allows an understanding of God as Father. Jesus also speaks about Himself as like a father who gives his children only good gifts, and guards them against dangers (Lk 11:11-13).

Human beings also understand that each person’s very existence is dependent upon procreation by an earthly mother, a woman who not only gives life, but continuously shares gifts with a child and protects her. Jesus refers to Himself as a protective mother in His lament about Jerusalem’s treatment of its prophets (Matt 23:37).

Also influencing Christian convictions about sex and marriage are our observed longings for the opposite sex, which suggest that a person needs an “other,” who is “more,” and “beyond” one’s individual experience. Giussani describes this yearning for another person who, by his or her nature, is “different than me” but with whom the experience of union—quite surprisingly—“fulfills me more than any experience of possession, domination, or assimilation.” Scola adds that this experience kindles an awareness of one’s finitude and incompleteness—a realization that there is more even to humanity than what I am myself, and that this “more” cannot be possessed, dominated, or reduced, to me. From this “lack,” the human being can grasp that each is radically dependent upon another. These experiences not only complement Christian teachings on marriage as the union of opposite sexes and on the dignity of women, but also render comprehensible the possibility of humanity’s dependence on God. (Read more.)

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