Monday, December 30, 2013

The Man and the Mystic

Saint John resting on the breast of Jesus
In the gathering of the Church the Lord opened his mouth and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and clothed him with a robe of glory. —Introit of the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist

Praised Be Jesus, everyone!

And a Merry Christmas to all of you. I hope that you are enjoying the Christmas season and hope that you had a blessed Christmas Eve and Day. The Octave of Christmas is filled with a torrent of great feast days, one being the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, on December 27. Saint John is often remembered as the Beloved Disciple, or the disciple whom Jesus loved, and this closeness is most famously portrayed as him reclining on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper. 

Recently, during the whole Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty foolishness (and yes, it was all foolishness), a certain MSNBC commentator claimed that Christian love for Jesus seems rather homoerotic. This comment has sparked a minor controversy but also brings up an interesting question about "manly" relationships with the person Jesus Christ.

In today's Christian culture, it is very hard to find a balance to what our attitude as men — or even as women — should be towards Christ, how deep we should allow our relationship with Him. Sadly, for men, we've been sold Christ the Buddy, Christ the Man's Man, and Christ the Bro, but Christian Tradition teaches us that Christ wants a closer relationship, a relationship that transcends sex and sexuality.
Our culture's simplified depiction of Jesus
John, by Tradition, was the youngest of the Apostles and was not married; John is sometimes classified a virgin in some hagiographies. From the beginning, John is included as part of Jesus' inner circle, along with Peter. John is present at such events as the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden, but his relationship with Christ is different one: of an intimate love, and character, to the point that he feels comfortable enough to recline on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper.

Fast forward to the Crucifixion: All of Jesus' Apostles and other disciples have abandoned Him, except for Mary, His mother; Mary Magdalene; and most notably, John. In Catholic theology, there is a notion of Mystical Marriage in which God and Man come so close that the two become one while remaining distinct entities. Other names for this are theosis and divinization. It can be considered that the first marriage of God and Man is at the the Incarnation, God taking on human flesh, the God who is born of woman, like all of us, on that first Christmas morning. In the same token, this marriage is consummated on the Cross; Christ makes love to His bride the Church upon the wedding bed of the Cross.

It is in the Cross that we come into union with Christ; it is through the Cross by which we become married to Christ and share in the marital bliss of the Resurrection. Now, back to John. The three people who stand at the foot of the Cross hold very interesting roles: We have Mary who, as the Mother of God, is both Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix. Mary Magdalene and John share in this unique place under the Cross by sharing in the Passion of Christ. In this instance, John shares in the suffering of Christ and shares in this act of love with Christ. John is the model of the male mystic, what it means to be united to Christ in all things — a true spouse of Christ in the sense that he shares in Christ the intimacy of His life and Cross, and in the end is filled with the joy of this act in the Resurrection.

John is a model of deeper relationship with Christ, especially for men, one that reaches to a union, a union that extends beyond gender and human sexuality.

Saint of the Sacred Heart, Sweet teacher of the Word, Partner of Mary's woes, And favourite of thy Lord!

Oh teach me then, dear Saint! The secrets Christ taught thee; The beatings of His Heart, And how it beat for me!

We know not all thy gifts; But this Christ bids us see, That He who so loved all Found more to love in thee.

Oh teach me then, dear Saint! The secrets Christ taught thee; The beatings of His Heart, And how it beat for me!

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