Since today is Sunday it is a nice time for some spiritual reflection. The Anima Christi has always been one of my favorite prayers. Its origins are unknown, but perhaps it took its present form sometime in the fourteenth century. The founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola, loved this prayer, and even it put it in the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises. Anima Christi means “Soul of Christ” and it is one of the most wonderful expression of Catholic spirituality. The fact that is has remained extremely popular for centuries is a testimony to its power and appeal.
Now, it may seem strange to some that a blog such as this would explores spiritual and religious matters as well as sexual and erotic. I admit there are contradictions here, especially vis a vis the posts concerning Christianity. Many of my writings on sex and sexuality are, in the end, incompatible with Christianity. Even more incompatible are many of my posts and the morals of the Catholic Church. I will not try to play the sophist to reconcile these things. I offer no explanations or apologies except to say that what I am attempting is an honest discussion of the different forces which influence people’s lives. Religion and sexuality are two of those forces. Even though we live very much in a post Christian society in the West, and in particular a post-Catholic, nevertheless the influence of Christianity on our daily lives is still there. We may not be as aware of this as in the past, nor may we be as influenced by it as in the past, but it undeniably still there. In fact, the vast majority of people, at least in the United States, still identify themselves as Christian. This cannot but help shape the society in which in live. Given that fact, then writing about different matters relating to religion and sexuality is more than justified, even if it may seem contradictory.
I suppose one defense of my erotic writings is this: in my posts dealing with sexuality, whether they be merely erotic pieces of fancy, or more serious discussions of sexual issues, I have always emphasized the importance of love and relationships. I have also written on the ultimate importance of the highest form of human love, marriage. Yes, I have occasionally written things of a purely frivolous nature, and I do those simply for the sake of entertainment. These writing appeal to some, and to some they do not. Everyone has different tastes.
There are religious readers, at least in the past, who have commented on some of my posts, and these readers were also in marriages. What they reflect is the fact that many people of a spiritual or religious nature are also deeply sexual, and that they understand and appreciate the complex nature of human sexuality, especially with regard to traditional religions, such as Catholicism. As I have often said here, the sexual conflicts and contradictions within many individuals who are nevertheless steady and even devout members of the Church is a subject often treated too poorly, are simply ignored all together, and the results of this are often seen in some of the more bizarre sex scandals which manifest themselves quite frequently. Neurotic suppression of erotic desire is a dangerous thing. For those with a deeply erotic spirit, the best avenue for the expression of that spirit is a healthy relationship with another person, and marriage is the traditional means of securing that.
So, for many in traditional religions, the best option for their sexuality is marriage. And yet marriage is not a guarantee in life. We may never find the right person, or be in the right marriage, or we may even suffer the death of a spouse. So what about those who are still deeply sexual, but are not married? How do they reconcile their sexuality with spirituality, especially the spirituality of a traditional religion to which they may belong? Perhaps this is the audience I am striving to reach the most here. There are many people of this nature, and more today than ever, as marriage is less practiced today than ever in human history. Such people often fail to explore the spiritual side of life because of the censure they believe they will experience from a religious community or institution. So in the end I wonder how many people never find a spiritual base for their lives because of these issues? Religion and spirituality have been and remain part of the universal human experience, and even modern psychology admits the importance of a healthy spirituality for an overall, healthy life. I write openly and loosely about eroticism and sexuality here because I am expressing what I have experienced in my own life in these matters, not only in my own life but among others I have known, and hopefully others can find some sort of comfort or meaning in that as well.
Michelangelo’s Adam and Eve from the Sistine Chapel was considered pornographic when first painted.
One thing I have noticed though among those who discuss these issues is this (and I am particularly referring to Catholicism): many such people often seem to want to ultimately undermine Church teaching, not only on sexuality but on other issues. It seems that the moment you open the door for discussion on sexuality, sooner or later the question becomes the nature of the sacraments, especially the nature of the Eucharist, the structure of nature of the Church, or even the divinity of Christ. I reject all of that. In my discussion of sexuality, or even in my erotic writings in general, I am not seeking to undermine traditional Christian or Catholic teachings and doctrine, although I admit posting nude and erotic photographs and writing explicitly erotic posts seems precisely to do that (e.g., the photo above by Michelangelo was controversial for its nudity the moment it was painted), but rather I am seeking to throw a light upon the reality of the world around us, a reality of our sexual natures that exists today and has existed since man first walked the earth. Again, it is a form of contradiction, but these contradictions are what many spiritual people live with day to day, especially those spiritual or religious people who are not in the comfortable boundaries of a traditional marriage. In a modern, complex, vast and industrial and technological society, these contradictions can be quite unhealthy to a person’s mind or soul or body if they are not confronted openly and honestly.
So, in the end, the Anima Christi is a beautiful prayer, and one that I say after every Mass on Sunday.