I am quite touched and even surprised at how, even in the very painful and ugly places into which I have gone in many of the previous reflections, God was able to bring forth in my heart and my reflection a still more radiant contact with his beauty and with the beauty of his true intentions for human love and intimacy, incarnated even and in a particular way in the sexual sphere. This movement beyond ugliness to beauty, beyond pain to ravished dilation of heart, beyond disorder to harmony, beyond conflict and estrangement to unity and intimacy, has indeed been continually present throughout these reflections.
After all, the sphere of love and intimacy lies at the heart of human life, and indeed at the heart of all creation. Or rather, it would be more accurate to say that love and intimacy are everything. To try to make contact with this, therefore, cannot but draw the heart into a living communion with the very throbbing heartbeat of all things, with the God who is the ultimate Origin and Consummation of all that exists, and who holds us all gently in his embrace while permeating us with the tenderness of his Love.
It is also true, nonetheless, that precisely this most precious mystery, this mystery that alone gives meaning to everything else, is tremendously vulnerable and under attack. Yes, from the very beginning of time, in the Garden of Eden, the beauty of authentic love and intimacy has been threatened by forces of evil. The communion of man and woman with God and with one another was subjected to the temptation of the serpent, and, through their consent to the lie that gave birth to the first sin, a profound distortion of this beauty, of the radiance of this love, infiltrated the world and twisted the human heart itself. Rather than experiencing a reverent amazement at the gift of God pouring out so freely upon them and permeating their existence, Adam and Eve instead fell into a lustful and possessive fascination that twisted their minds and blinded them to authentic beauty. Now all they could see was pleasure, possession, and power, which were incapable of drawing hearts together into true belonging and authentic intimacy, but which rather isolated them far from one another, each enclosed in the narrow world of their own comfort, control, and comprehension.
And yet even in the wound of sin, God did not abandon those whom he loved; he did not forsake those whom he had created to live, with himself and with one another, the very inner mystery of his own Trinitarian life of love and intimacy. Rather, he promised a Redeemer; he promised that he would send into the world One who would heal all the wounds that original sin effected, the One who would crush the head of the serpent and unlock again the path into the fullness of undimmed light in everlasting intimacy.
Yes, he sought them out with ardent longing and merciful desire; he pursued them, not only through the garden in which, naked and ashamed, they hid from his face, but also along the winding paths of history, until he sent the very One whom, from the first moment of the fall, he had promised to send. He sent his own beloved Son into the world, incarnate as a man in human flesh and living a human life in all of its richness. The Son came, Beloved of the Father and Lover of humanity, Lover of every person. He came in order, in himself, to untwist what sin had twisted, to restore what had been broken, and to unseal again in his own Heart the wellspring of love and intimacy for which every human heart longs.
He took all of humanity—and every single unique and incomparable person—into the innermost recesses of his loving embrace, cradling us tenderly and with immense compassion, and with an ardent desire for a total, everlasting, and fruitful intimacy with us. And this desire led him even into the darkest place, in which, cradling us in love, he shattered the bonds of sin by the indestructible power of Love, dispelled the darkness by the undimmed Light of God, and carried us, beyond the very rupture of evil, beyond the very abyss of death, into the endless life of unbreakable intimacy and perfect joy that he shares with his Father in the single kiss and embrace of their Holy Spirit.
This is the great and inestimable gift of Redemption, in which the Trinity has poured out into our world the full torrent of his own Love, irradiating the entire universe anew with his light, this light that, indeed, has never been entirely lost. This light touches our hearts, touches our hearts through Christ, and, in touching us tenderly and gently with the affirming touch for which we were made, it unseals in us the innate longing for intimacy that we bear within us. Yes, it awakens in us the confidence and trust to welcome the gift that can only come from the outside, to be touched and ravished by this gift, to be harnessed in the ardent desire for ever deeper intimacy, and to surrender totally and unconditionally into the welcoming embrace of the One who loves and touches us in such a way. It is thus that the living circulation of love begins to flow in us again. It is thus that the bonds of intimacy and mutual belonging are rewoven. We rediscover the beauty and love of God, and, in him, we rediscover our own beauty—ceaselessly seen, cherished, and cradled by him—and we rediscover the beauty of each and every person, and indeed of the whole creation.
Touched by the immense gift of Redemption, the scales, as it were, fall from our eyes, and we begin to see again; the shackles of slavery and the bondage of oppression are loosed; our hearts are opened to God and to one another, and we find the confident desire to receive and to give love—authentic, pure, cherishing, and affirming love—and to enter into total and lasting intimacy. This is an intimacy that is gratuitous and beautiful all for its own sake, as the inner meaning of all things, and which, from this very abundance, also pours out to touch and to draw other hearts into the joy of the same intimacy, into the blessedness of the same embrace.
And thus, in the experience of true love and authentic intimacy, our lives are permeated with a ceaseless spirit of gratitude, wonder, awe, and playfulness. This is a playfulness that, utterly lighthearted in radical childlike trust in God, is also nothing but the reverberation in our whole being of deep and humble reverence before the beauty that touches us from the outside, and which both attracts our heart and also enfolds, shelters, and cradles it. Yes, for this, precisely, is what we were created for: for a playful intimacy that permeates every single moment of our existence and every single part of our life, causing all to radiate with the beautiful and consoling light of the Trinity. For who, after all, is God, but the eternally playful dance of intimate love in mutually affirming tenderness between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
This is our God, our loving God from whom all things have flowed in an act of abundant and overflowing generosity, and into whose loving embrace they are all returning, unto the consummation of the eternal marriage, unto the perfection of all intimacy in the undimmed light of face to face vision and the perfect embrace of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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In the light of a deep contemplative gaze, in reverent amazement, on the true beauty of God’s plan of love and intimacy, all of the strands of these reflections converge together with a radiant simplicity and clarity. Yes, it becomes apparent here, in this sacred space, in this holy vision, that sexual ethics is not something complicated, a whole intricate series of “you may’s” and “you may not’s” which one must learn, through persevering effort, to navigate. Rather, everything flows from, returns to, and remains enfolded within a single vision. Here all the distinct expressions of Catholic sexual morality, and indeed all the words and ideas and rules and sacraments and expressions of the human and Christian life that flower so beautifully within the home of the Church, Bride and Mother, converge together in the heart of the Trinity’s love and intimacy.
It is this intimacy, and this intimacy alone—the everlasting dance of cherishing tenderness and loving attunement between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ever consummated in the intimacy of a perfect embrace—it is this intimacy alone that can fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts. And it is this intimacy alone, too, that can allow us, brothers and sisters given to one another by God himself, to draw close to each other in authentic communion, in an authentic embrace that interlaces hearts and lives together in an intimacy and a fruitfulness that reflect and share in the very inner life of the Trinity.
This single vision in which the whole beauty of the ethical life—a life that is simply the fully human, fully divine life, in which nature and grace are espoused together in breathtaking harmony!—this single vision is the vision of the beauty of the human person bathed in the light of God’s loving gaze. It is the vision of the beauty of human intimacy as a living incarnation and expression of the very inner life of the Trinity, intended to impel both persons, together, ever deeper into the welcoming embrace of God. Yes, all human love and intimacy, in every sphere—the sexual sphere included—is meant to be nothing but a joyful, reverent, and playful dance of two children of God, cradled wholly within the very shelter of the eternally playful Trinity, drawn together in the very magnetism of the uncreated Love whose supreme work is unity and intimacy. Yes, here human persons, permeated by a consciousness of awe, wonder, gratitude, and immense reverence, spiral ever upward in mutual attunement to one another in cherishing tenderness, ever upward into the sheltering embrace of God, in whom alone they can truly be united in the depth and intimacy for which they long, their own union brought to consummation within the consummating embrace of the Trinity.
Yes, this single reality is the place in which all lines converge on a single point, in which all the multitude of colors within the world are unified in white-hot intensity at the intersection-point of God and creation. Here the fullness of the Trinity’s Love pours out into the world through the Crucified and Risen Jesus, who perpetually lives within his Bride, the Church, until the end of time, and who is drawing all persons together, in the magnetism of his own reconciling and uniting love, into the innermost embrace of the welcoming Trinity, where the intimacy for which we were created will be consummated in the everlasting and undimmed light of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.