Apples and Algebra: First Comes the Love…

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A while back, we began a 4-part exploration of the four marks of God’s love (Free, Total, Faithful, Fruitful) as explained in Humanae Vitae, and, for me anyway, it has been a good experience.  We’ve explored the true fulfillment of hippy love.  We’ve brushed up on our Latin and, consequently, our swag.  We’ve even taken a sneak peak at what Pope Paul VI might’ve listened to while he was doing the dishes.  As far as I can tell, it’s been relatively painless and fun for everyone involved.

However, when I sat down to write the fourth and final piece, I balked.  It wasn’t writer’s block; I just hesitated to go there.  The reason was simple: I want to be liked, I want people to continue to read my work, and, out of the 4 marks, this is by far the least popular.  Oh, everyone loves the first three.  Everyone wants to feel true freedom in love.  Everyone loves the idea of the significant other who is all-in.  No one wants to be discarded and replaced by someone else.  But who on earth wants to think about kids, especially in the throes of passion?  Why does reproduction have to enter into the picture at all?  Even much of the hullaballoo in the feverish climate of this election year is directly related to this fourth mark.  Whether it’s fast food, Forbes, or Facebook, our lives are inundated with issues of fruitfulness.  The real problem is that most people don’t see the connection.

So, how does one write about this controversial issue, adequately putting it into the beautiful and illuminating light that it deserves, all in a thousand words?  Well, for starters, I used up 288 of them just introducing it.  The long intro is necessary, though, because we need more than just the sum to understand the equation.  You can’t just read the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and expect to know why the four coats were missing from the Professor’s house, or the last chapter of any vampire novel and know where the last six hours of your life went.  I digress.

You could actually say that fruitfulness in love is, in a real sense, the culmination of the first three marks.  If you are giving yourself freely, totally, and faithfully, then it follows that life will result.  There are many varying degrees of this “fecundity”, to quote Humanae Vitae (and sound brilliant), from an overall vitality between spouses to inspiring holy marriages in people around them.  However, though these forms of life are good and desirable offshoots, the ultimate end, and “supreme gift”, of spousal love is to image the love of God, namely sharing a love so fruitful and real that “nine months later, you have to give it a name.”(Scott Hahn).

***IF***

In other words, human love, IF it is a participation in God’s love, should reproduce itself.  It is no mistake that, 8 words after the creation of Adam and Eve, God tells them to “be fruitful and multiply”(Gn 1:28).  And, to clear up any confusion, He was NOT telling them to grow peaches and do math.  He gave them life, as the creative result of His love, and immediately tells them to do the same.  In the first pristine moments of Creation, when all is “very good” and there is no tainted love, God gives the first commandment in all of Scripture: essentially, “Love like I do”.  And though humanity quickly and consistently forgot His command, we were reminded once and for all in the words of Christ:  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”(Jn 13:34)

This love that naturally creates is the fulfillment of Aquinas’ teaching that love is “willing the good of another”.  Indeed, love is “other-centered”, but to the utmost degree, not merely concerned with “the other”, but SO other-focused that, in the exchange of persons, it actually creates an “other”.  That is how powerful, and ultimately God-like, real love is, IF it is allowed to bear fruit.   And, as usual, it all rests on the “if”.

***IF***

Yes, the sexual urge is, at the core, a desire for intimacy and communion, but, IF it is not allowed to fully image the love of the One Who created it, then it is using the language of the body to promise something that it can’t deliver.  To be truly godly, love must be in keeping with the created order, since creation itself is a direct expression of His love, and the act of sex is, in essence and nature, ordered toward creating life, sustaining it for 9 months, and introducing that life into the world.

This is clear in the fact that a man cannot experience the pleasure of an orgasm without bringing forth the possibility of creating life; for him, it’s the same moment, pleasure and creativity, love and responsibility. However, because of that very biological fact, if some aspect of the attempt at love is not free, total, or faithful, then any number of methods must be employed in order that gratification can be gain apart from the natural outcome: fruitfulness.

***IF***

To clarify, this is not an attack on persons who find themselves participants in willful infertility; this is merely a comment on the nature of an act and its conformity to God’s love.  We may desire and attempt real love, but real love is ordered to reproduce itself, and IF we won’t follow through on the demands of real love, our good intentions can only bring us to the threshold of intimacy, never truly into the bridal chambers.  We limit ourselves to knocking on heavens door, but never being willing to step inside.

And believe it or not, heaven does come into play!  Ultimately, everything boils down to intimacy with God, not the person we’re trying to love.  Earthly love is intended to image God’s perfect love, not so that your spouse will know more about you or be closer to you or even love you more, but so that they know a deeper intimacy with their eternal Beloved and love Him with a fullness that carries them into eternity.  This is the cry of the Psalms: “My happiness lies in you alone”(Ps 16) and “whom have I in heaven but you?…there are none on this earth that I desire besides you”(Ps 73:25).

This life is about participating in the love of our good and caring Father, not about gaining gratification.  The ability to love in this body is a complete gift from the Creator, intended to be used in keeping with it’s created purpose.  The ability to commune with others is meant to point each other to Him.  And ultimately, even our celebration of thanksgiving (“eukaristo” in Greek) at Mass isn’t meant to be a jolly hangout of our own making; it is meant to be a communion of persons, a moment of intimacy that conceives and bears offspring in the world: “Go…make disciples” (Mt 28:?)

Brothers and sisters, let us begin to open each and every expression of love to the possibility of life.  As it is with the first three marks of God’s love, we were made to participate in the life, the fruitfulness of God, and we will never be fully satisfied until we entrust our souls, spirits, and bodies to His perfect love.  He longs to live in communion with you, giving you “life to the fullest”(Jn 10:10), and He is eager for you to give that life to the world!

 

Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson and his wife joined the Church in ’08 after growing up in the Assemblies of God. He was a youth minister in Duluth, MN, spent 3 years working as a missionary on the Caribbean island of Dominica while his wife attended Med School, and just finished writing a 3-year youth ministry curriculum for the Diocese of Duluth, MN. While on-island, he and his wife adopted three wonderful siblings. He has returned to the States and blogs at Death Before Death and keeps you updated on his family at The Dynamic Davidson Duo.

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8 thoughts on “Apples and Algebra: First Comes the Love…”

  1. Avatar

    “This is clear in the fact that a man cannot experience the pleasure of an orgasm without bringing forth the possibility of creating life; for him, it’s the same moment, pleasure and creativity, love and responsibility.”

    But for women this is not the case. Orgasm and procreation are merely associated, but are NOT the same. I won’t bore you with the psychology or the biology, but female sexuality is very different from male sexuality.

    And this is where I see problems with the Church’s teaching–that they don’t make a distinction between the two. What is a difficult but sensible restraint on male sexuality doesn’t always make sense when applied to female sexuality, and, therefore, married sexuality.

    This problem is complicated even more by the fact there are no female confessors. So, when Catholic women are struggling with sexual issues, they are getting spiritual advice from perhaps the least qualified people.

  2. Avatar

    Dear Waywardson,

    Oh, you’re absolutely right in regards to the difference in the moment of orgasm, and so so much else, for that matter, between men and women. I apologize for not including the feminine side in the article. (I was overly concerned with my word count this time.) As my wife of 11 years and I have tried more and more to live out the Theology of the Body, we’ve had some great discussions about this very issue!

    As for it being a problem in the Church’s teaching, I’m not as sure where that lies. The Church takes more of a stance regarding the entire act itself, not necessarily merely the moment of orgasm. I think, frankly because of the enjoyment of that moment(s), it can be more difficult to remember that not only that moment, but the entire act is only one part of the free, total, faithful, and fruitful love we’re made to live out in the body. I’m not saying you don’t know this, mind you, I’m just saying in general, the big O gets a lot of attention. 🙂

    Actually, because I AM a rather thick-headed soul, I would be interested in more explanation and more of your opinion in regards to your sentence: “What is a difficult but sensible restraint on male sexuality doesn’t always make sense when applied to female sexuality, and, therefore, married sexuality.

    In regards to the female confessors, I’d only tweak a bit by saying that the purpose of Confession, and the Confessor, is not to give spiritual advice, per se. It may be nice to have an understanding priest who can truly speak into your life and give the necessary spiritual direction, but the ol’ sin bin is for receiving the grace of being reconciled to Christ once again.

    Which brings up the drastic need for the laity to actively pursue qualified spiritual direction, which CAN be from a woman who would fully understand where you’re coming from. The other thing is that a priest wouldn’t necessarily be the “least qualified” person to give spiritual advice, even in this area, especially since JPII was a dude and he fervently upheld the dignity of women, to say the least.

    Oh, and please, please don’t think I’m assuming you don’t know this stuff, either. I’m just tossing back thoughts as I have ’em. 🙂

    Thank you SO much for your comment!

  3. Avatar

    I did not put all the links to biology or psychology, but suffice to say that men and women are different. To grossly oversimplify things, male sexuality is far more likely to get out of control.

    If you are talking about sexual sin, then men and women both sin, but they tend to sin in different ways. Men’s sexual sins are often selfish acts, while the women they are with are more likely to be engaged in self-destructive behavior. When men use women sexually, it is more related to the act itself, the most extreme example being sexual abuse. This is not to say that women can’t be selfish, but their selfishness tends to play itself out differently, such as using sex as a bargaining chip or using men’s sexual weaknesses against them.

    As for the problems, men and women are different, but the Church does not make a distinction between the two. Applying male norms to female sexuality can lead to a lot of shame and guilt among women where it really isn’t necessary. It has also lead to the odd situation of women rather confused that their desire for their husband can be sinful and men even more confused that they should love their wives by turning them down.

    A bit of random thoughts, but I hope that is enough so that you can understand where I am coming from.

  4. Avatar

    Waywardson,
    I don’t have time for a lengthy response, but I want to point out that while the Church has not always done so, she has begun to explore the differences between male and female spirituality and sexuality. John Paul II in Love and Responsibility talks extensively about the differences in sexual sin. He says men are much more likely to use a woman for physical gratification, while women tend to use men for emotional gratification.

  5. Avatar

    Okay so you did not expect your heretical brother from Minnesota to respond to this one, but here goes–from what I understand of biology, which is a long ways from much, I believe it is the release of the male which matters in the fertilization process. A woman must be at the fertile time in her cycle, yes, but the woman’s egg becomes an actual union of male and female (in other words a very young unborn child of God) within either seconds or minutes of the male’s release. So her having an orgasm or not, while important to the relationship, is not as important biologically. It is the union and it’s “finale” that creates the new life. In short, Nic, you are right on the money here. And it is inaccurate to say that women sin less sexually than men somehow. That it is manifest in a different way, yes, but both partners can use others and neither should. That is my take.

    1. Avatar

      Actually, Brotha, I’ve been wondering what took you so long! Heresy or not (wink), your input was/is/always will be valuable to me. Thanks for chiming in, Sir!

      1. Avatar

        In a touch of irony, I have been wondering the same thing about you, Nic!!! I have been checking your website for over a month and…nothing. I value your input too. Don’t lose me. God bless.

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