by Antonina Zielinska
Sexual desire comes from a longing for God, Christopher West said during his talk on Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body at St. James Cathedral-Basilica in Downtown Brooklyn.
“Do you know that Jesus came not to suppress our desires but to awaken them,” West asked the audience. “Do you know you have been created for eternal ecstasy?”
West said the catch is that before joining the “eternal banquet,” people must first stop “eating junk food.” In other words, the prerequisite for heaven is to give up lust.
However, the way to achieve this purity of soul and body is not starvation, West said, but nourishment from the Holy Spirit and from the Eucharist.
When speaking to the Brooklyn and Queens audience, West focused on the difference in challenges for men and women on their path to purity. His session was titled: “Male and Female He Created Them: Living Our True Identity in a Sexually Confused World.”
West argued that the difference between how men and women experience temptation and redemption goes back to the first parents, Adam and Eve. He said the core of Eve’s sin was that she went against her own nature. She was meant to be open to goodness, to the love of God and of Adam. However, in her openness, she also accepted the serpent’s temptation into her heart. That temptation caused her to close herself off from God’s love and Adam’s gaze.
Adam, on the other hand, fell because he failed to remember. According to West, it was Adam’s duty to protect the garden, Eve, and to remember God’s love. However, when Eve started to doubt God’s love, Adam did not remember and did not reassure Eve of that love. In this way, they both fell prey to the devil’s temptation.
In contrast to Eve, Mary was the perfect woman because she was completely open to God’s love. She accepted it, even when she did not understand it. In contrast to Adam, Jesus was the perfect man because he remembered His Father’s love onto His death on the cross.
Amanda Savino, a parishioner of Good Shepherd, Marine Park, said West helped her see Mary in a new light. She received her first sacraments last Easter after completing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Coming from a Protestant background, her relationship with Mary is fairly new.
“This is probably the deepest encounter I had with the theology of my faith path so far,” she said speaking of the talk. “That Mary can be perfect beauty is what stood out most to me.”
Unlike Savino, Madison Alford has been familiar with West for many years. It was her mother who first introduced her to his interpretation of the Theology of the Body. Although it took some time, Alford finally agreed with her mother that the author has a good point. Therefore, when she returned from volunteering with Heart’s Home in the Ukraine, she took the opportunity to hear him speak.
“At a certain point you can’t run from the truth,” she said. “Eventually it becomes your own and not someone else’s words.”
West is a public speaker and author of several books based on Theology of the Body. His newest book is titled Fill These Hearts: God, Sex and the Universal Longing for God.
Sister Regina Fohrer of the Servants of God’s Presence, that runs Heart’s Home, thanked West for his message of hope. She said his message is closely associated with the mission of Heart’s Home, who sponsored the event.
“The first cry we hear everywhere is loneliness,” she said. “So this is great that we can bring this good news to people who are lonely.”
That good news is that loneliness and longing can help people become closer to God.