Transcript of Interview with Christopher West about Heaven’s Song. This interview and others like it can be found at http://www.catholicspotlight.com
Listen Now to the audio version of the show.
Heaven’s Song is available at The Catholic Company.
Chris: Today in the catholic spotlight we have Christopher West from the Theology of the Body institute and he has a very very exciting new book out this next month called Heaven’s Song and I forget what the subtitle of that is Christopher?
Christopher West: Sexual Love as it was meant to be.
Chris: That is a great title if ever there was one I’ve got to tell you. Christopher, glad to have you on the show.
Christopher West: Thanks Chris happy to be with you again.
Chris: There is just a whole lot of excitement around this book because this is talking about new material on Theology of the Body and Christopher do you want to address just a little bit about where this new material came from.
Christopher West: Sure, sure lets see three summers ago, summer of 2005 I was contacted by Michael Waldstein who was working on a brand new translation of the Holy father’s Theology of the Body and that was exciting enough but when Michael Waldstein told me that he had discovered that there were undelivered addresses in his Theology of the Body that never had seen the light of day and had been buried in the archives in the Rome and he had discovered these undelivered talks, I nearly fell out of my chair. Now I don’t know how to explain the excitement to people out there.
Chris: It is almost like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls you know.
Christopher West: Yeah, right finding the Dead Sea Scrolls are in my book I compare it to this die hard Beatles fan who discovers that there is these six lost songs from the Beatles that somehow got lost and were rediscovered and these are not B sides, these undelivered talks from John Paul II are some of the most beautiful and rich and intimate and I would even daringly erotic addresses of the entire teaching and I had the opportunity last march, I was in Poland and I had the opportunity to spend some time with Cardinal Dziwisz who was John Paul II private secretary for over forty years, for nearly forty years and I asked him why did the Pope, this is such beautiful content of the catechesis why did the Pope not deliver these in Saint Peter’s Square and he said it was too delicate that is what we are dealing with here. We are dealing with such intimate material from the Theology of the Body that the Pope himself thought it wasn’t entirely appropriate to be delivering this in Saint Peter’s Square where there would be young ears present.
So this is the kind of level of the content that we are dealing with here. It is primarily reflections on the song of songs and I realized that this content was so rich that is deserved a book of its own to unfold the great riches of these intimate reflections from the mystic Pope John Paul II on the song of songs and also on the marriage of Tobias and Sarah and the whole battle if you know that story of Tobias and Sarah it is actually sort of tragic but also semi comic here.
You know Sarah had been married to seven guys and on the night of the wedding before they could consummate everyone of these guys keeled over dead one after the other and the Angel Rafael comes to Tobias and he says I want you to marry Sarah. Now the Pope man of great wisdom that he is observes Tobias had reasons to be afraid here and interestingly enough Sarah’s father on the day of their wedding Sarah and Tobias, Sarah’s father is already digging Tobias’s grave. So this is the situation that Tobias is walking into and the Holy Father unfolds this as a battle for the truth of marriage and the marital embrace and there is a demon there is a dark force attacking sexuality how do we win in this battle. That is what Heaven’s Song my new book is all about.
Chris: I just have to tell you we started a reviewer program recently as the Catholic Company and those of you who are interested in learning more about that can find information about that over in the content area of Catholic Company, but we have been having several bloggers read pre-released copies of this book and have gotten such outstanding feedback from them about just the excitement level is huge. I was going to read a couple of things real quick from some of the reviewers. Jeff Miller the curt jester from splendoroftruth.com says Christopher West has a great talent in presenting deep theology in such a way that you are not put off but are drawn deeper into it. His latest book is no exception and like all of his books you don’t need to read anything of his beforehand they all stand alone I highly recommend Heaven’s Song.
Then one of the most flattering comments that I have seen so far comes from Sister Spitfire over at the Catholic Spitfire Grill, CatholicSpitfireGrill.com and she says and now let me tell you that I am putting my money where my mouth is, the copy I read was an unbound galley copy I want this book in my library shelf and an unbound galley copy just is not going to cut it.
Further more, I am not lending my copy of this book and I anticipate lending it frequently so I am not only going to buy this book I am going to give this book the honor accorded to very very few books in my library. I am going to specifically buy at least one additional lending copy because I am not parting with my own. So I think you can see there seems to be a real level of anticipation and excitement over this book.
Christopher West: I am thrilled about that. It is an affirmation to me because I was very excited in writing it and I knew with these hidden talks from John Paul II that I was holding a gold mine in my hands and I felt not only excitement to get it out but almost a responsibility to get it out. The Holy Father you had originally drafted these texts, he thought it wasn’t appropriate for Saint Peter’s Square but that does not mean it is not appropriate for the church and the world to hear, it certainly is and I am really honored and humbled to be able to take these hidden talks of John Paul II after his death now and make the hidden treasures of these talks accessible to people around the world it is very exciting.
Chris: So why don’t we unpack just a little bit of some of these hidden treasures for our listeners here, given them a pre-taste of what they are going to find when they open up their copy of Heaven’s Song.
Christopher West: Sure, let’s just spend some time with the title. Maybe that will frame our conversation appropriately. Heaven’s Song why do we call it Heaven’s Song, well primarily these talks are on the Song of Songs and interestingly enough there have been more commentaries written on the Song of Songs from the saints and the mystics than any other book in the bible. What is it that these mystics see in this obscure erotic love poetry that seems to help them explain and enter into the very mysteries of God himself? Why is this, the favorite book of the saints and mystics? Well if you look at scripture from beginning to end the scripture tells the story about marriage. It begins with the marriage of the Adam of Eve it ends with the marriage of Christ and the Church in the book of revelations and literally smack dead in the middle of your bible.
If your Bible is twelve hundred pages long, right about page six hundred you are going to find the Song of Songs. The Bible claims to contain the greatest song ever written in human history and this song is all about the erotic love of husband and wife. This erotic love, this erotic poetry is mystical stuff and if we have, you know an image that maybe comes to mind here is we have to learn how to walk into the wardrobe of Narnia if you will and then get through that wardrobe into this other world right below the surface of this erotic love poetry there is a door way into the holy of holies of deep intimacy and union with God.
An entryway if you will, into the deepest mysteries of God’s love for his bride the church and how we actually enter into that. How we come to see the sexual embrace the deep intimate erotic love of husband and wife as a passage way into deep transforming intimate union with God, and this is not only for married people. This is so critical, it was mostly celibate saints and mystics that loved this poetry of the Song of Songs. They see the other side, they have gone through the wardrobe if you will, they have entered into Narnia. They are entering into this great mystery of God’s spousal love for humanity, that in fact is what celibacy itself is. It is marriage to God we are all called to this deep intimate union with God.
Saint John of the Cross called it the mystical marriage or the spiritual marriage and coming to understand our sexuality properly in God’s order is the doorway if you will into this deep intimacy with God, but we are all so deeply, deeply wounded in our sexuality because of the pornographic world in which we live. We are all in need of sexual healing. So an integral part of this book Chris is not just the theology. I am certainly unfolding and unpacking this theology but at the beginning and end of every chapter in this book, I am telling stories of real men and women. Real married couples, real priests, real single people who have experienced this Theology of the Body and allowed it to enter in and transform their lives.
So yes, it’s a theology book for a popular audience, but it is also a very practical guide to entering into sexual healing that we all need so that we can through our sexuality come to experience deep intimacy with God as well.
Chris: So what is the new material and what does it address primarily.
Christopher West: The new material addresses primarily the dialogue between the bridegroom and the bride and how the bride must come to understand the love of her husband in such a way that his love must be so sincere that she can to use this expression from the Song of Songs “she can open her garden to him”. This is very deep intimate erotic imagery here about the garden of the bride and how the bridegroom longs to enter her garden but what kind of love is required for the bride to be able to open her garden to the bridegroom without being violated, and the saints and the mystics take this imagery of the garden enclosed.
There is this key line in the Song of Songs where the bridegroom says to the bride, you are a garden enclosed, my sister my bride. John Paul II says with this imagery we are right on the threshold of the deepest intimacies of sexual intercourse. We are right on the threshold of opening, of entering into this intimate place of union but this garden, I mean think of the imagery in the scripture of the garden. You know the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane. Garden is always a place of intimacy. Garden is always a place of if you will a kind of raw humanity.
We see that Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden after they had sinned. St. Louis de Montfort and I quote a lot from him in my book drawing out his whole spirituality and how John Paul II was immersed in St. Louis de Montfort’s spirituality. St. Louis de Montfort said that the garden that Adam and Eve were cast out of is actually an image of Mary. That Mary herself if the paradise from which Adam and Eve were cast out, now this is a mystical not a literal understanding here and I unfold what this means that St. Louis de Montfort says we are all called to enter the mystery of Mary’s garden. We are called to enter into Mary’s womb mystically speaking of course and in her womb we are all meant to be formed into other Christ’s.
This is where Christ was formed in the womb of the Blessed Mother. Now obviously with Jesus we are talking about the physical formation of his very body. For us it is not a physical reality but a mystical reality. Mary is the paradise we long for. She is the promised land that is flowing with milk and honey, and John Paul II paves the way in these hidden talks for us to enter into these great mystical intimacies where we are transformed into the men and women we are really created to be and we learning how to love as we were created to love. We are coming to understand sexuality as not something inherently pornographic it is something inherently theographic. That is it is meant to reveal the very mystery of God and his love for humanity.
That is why the Devil attacks it, that’s why the Devil twists it. That is why the Devil distorts it, because he is trying to keep us precisely from the intimacies we are called to with God.
Chris: Of course the imagery of the garden itself also brings up the fertility and the great openness to life that comes out of the sexual act.
Christopher West: Amen, I mean look at the very reality of the marital embrace. We have the husband who is planting his seed in the mystery of the wife’s garden from which life will come forth. This imagery of fertility and garden is throughout the scripture it is especially present in the Song of Songs and here Chris you bring out the key point. We battle in our modern world for a proper understanding of why God made us be male and female is fertility. This is where the enemy aims all this arrows. Right from the first pages of Genesis, the enemy aims his arrows at the woman and her ability to bear offspring. His hatred his enmity is aimed at the woman and her ability to bear offspring why? Because it is precisely woman’s fertility woman’s ability to bear offspring that quite literally brings Jesus Christ to earth.
We can enter into that scene of the enunciation and we can recognize here that Mary was she not ovulating at the moment the Angel came to her and she receives not the physical seed of her husband but rather she receives the immortal, invisible eternal seed of God. That is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes upon her. The power of the most high God descends upon her and she conceives God’s own son in her womb.
This glorious, glorious mystery that we as Catholics see to be so central to everything this is unfolded all the more through the rich symbolism of the Song of Songs and especially from the help of St. Louis de Montfort and I unfold all of this in Heaven’s Song my new book.
Chris: Well we are going to take a real short break here to hear from our sponsor but we will be back in just a second to hear about Heaven’s Song from Christopher West. This is the Catholic spotlight. We are back on the Catholic Spotlight with Christopher West talking about Heaven’s Song. Is there anything new that is revealed about marital love in all of its aspects all of its glory and beauty in these writings of John Paul II.
Christopher West: Yes, in these hidden addresses that I am dealing with in my new book, Heaven’s Song. One of the key insights is the liturgical dimension of marital love and also the martial dimension of the liturgy. Now, what the heck do we mean here? This is some dense theology. Let me see if I can unfold it quickly for us. We are saying, John Paul is saying here that marriage and marital love and this means including the marital embrace itself, is something liturgical.
What is liturgy? Liturgy is where the people of God enter into the work of God and offer God eternal praise for the gifts that he has poured out to us. Liturgy is where we receive the mystery of God’s love for us and offer ourselves back to God in worship and praise. Marital love, marital union, itself is meant to be and act of worship. John Paul II takes us into the deep intimacies of marriage and marital love and marital union as liturgy. Now this is something that he had already said in the talks that he had actually delivered but the new aspect that is contained in the hidden addresses is that John Paul II goes in the other direction as well. Not only is martial love meant to be an expression of liturgy and prayer and worship but he goes the other way and he says liturgy is meant to be an expression of marital love. The liturgy itself of the church is based and founded on the model of spousal love and union.
The Eucharist which is climax of the church’s liturgy the high point of the church’s liturgy, John Paul II says that the Eucharist is the sacrament of the bridegroom and the bride. When we have the eyes to see it, what is happening in the church’s liturgy is the union of a bridegroom and a bride and the filling of the bride with eternal life.
Baptism itself is a spousal mystery the Catechism teaches us, if we have the eyes to see the real meaning of our liturgy and our rituals as Catholics it is much more, I don’t know what the word is, it is much scandalous than some forums of piety might wish it to be.
The high point of the Church’s liturgically year is the Easter vigil and perhaps the high point of the Easter vigil next of course to the Eucharist itself is the blessing of the baptismal font and in this ritual the priest takes the Christ candle and plunges the Christ candle into the baptismal font. What is happening here? The baptismal font is the womb of the church from which many children will be born again and the symbolism of that candle that Christ candle being plunged into this baptismal font is Christ the bridegroom impregnating virginally, mystically of course, impregnating the church the bride from which these children will be born again.
This symbolism of the union of the bridegroom and the bride and the life that comes forth from their union this symbolism is something that encompasses the whole mystery of Christianity and takes us right into the heart of Christianity. Why don’t we see this? Why are blind to this? Why might we even scandalized by this? Because of the great plagiarizer, the evil one the enemy is the great plagiarizer. He takes what is holy, what is glorious what is beautiful, what is liturgical and he spits on it. He twists it, he mocks it. He distorts it. That is what this pornographic culture is doing.
John Paul II says we need to reclaim what is erotic, so that what is erotic can become true good and beautiful. Now this is an important point here Chris and I don’t want to mislead any of our listeners out there. We do not take what our culture says is erotic and apply that to these holy mysteries. If we are to reclaim and I explain what I meaning in here and I go into great detail and I am very careful about this in my book. To explain exactly what is being done here and what is not being done, because there is obviously room for confusion.
If we are reclaim the erotic for the kingdom so to speak. We do not take what the culture dishes out and just apply it to the things of God. No, no that would be blasphemy. John Paul II says the erotic must undergo a radical transformation. It has become terribly twisted. The gift of the redemption is that Christ comes into the world to untwist it. Where did her perform his first miracle?
Chris: At a wedding.
Christopher West: At a wedding; and what did he do? The couple at the wedding in Cana had run out of wine. In the scripture especially in the Song of Songs wine is the symbol of God’s love poured out for us. So this running out of wine at the wedding feast of Cana is actually a symbol of the original sin itself. Christ comes to the wedding feast, his very first miracle is at a wedding feast why? Because he came into the world to restore the order of love and the order of love and human experience always begins with the man and woman and their love for one another.
He comes to restore the wine to the wedding feast, and we are called to drink deeply from this new wine. We are called as the mystics say to be inebriated on this new wine. If we have the courage to drink deeply from this new wine and allow ourselves to get drunk in the spirit so to speak we will discover that Christianity is not the prudish list of prohibitions we so often assume it to be. Christianity is a call to ecstasy. Ecstasy in union with God, but here is the key warning we must heed. Beware the counterfeit and false ecstasies of the world.
The true ecstasy is the liturgy, the true ecstasy is the wedding feast of the lamb that is what truly satisfies our hunger, and I quote a lot in my book Heaven’s Song from some of the greatest mystics of our tradition. Teresa of Ãvila for example she says this, she is quoting or she if commenting on the Song of Songs and this passage in the Song of Songs is where the bridegroom takes the bride into the wine cellar to drink from the choicest wines, and Teresa of Ãvila says this, I quote “the king seems to refuse nothing to the bride well then let the bride drink as much as she desires and let her get drunk on all these wines in the wine cellar of God. Let the bride enjoy these joys, let the bride wonder at these great things and let the bride not fear to lose her life through drinking much more wine than her weak nature enables her to do, let the bride die at last in this paradise of delights. Oh blessed death that makes one live in such a way.” That Chris is what we all called to.
We are called to deep intimate ecstatic joys with Christ the bridegroom, but in order to get there we all must go through sexual healing and integration because a distorted and twisted sexuality is one of the main obstacles to entering into deep intimate unions with God. Heaven’s Song takes this rich content of John Paul II Theology of the Body that was never delivered and has been hidden for over twenty years and it unpacks it, unfolds it in a way that everyone can understand and everyone can benefit from these rich treasures. It is a journey if you will into the mystical wisdom of the Song of Songs in a way that can bring true healing to our hearts so that we can enter into deep union with God.
Chris: Now, does Heaven’s Song provide some more practical advice for those of us who are trying to live out Heaven’s Song in our daily lives.
Christopher West: Absolutely, each chapter as I said earlier, it begins and ends with very practical stories about men and women and how they have integrated these principles into their lives. Each chapter also ends with discussion questions, reflection questions so that the reader can begin examining his own life and make this theology something very practical. There is, at the end of every chapter also a prayer that is intended to help the reader enter into union with God and an examination of one’s own heart so that these healing truths can really enter into the depths of our hearts where we need that healing and we can become more and more the men and women we are meant to be.
So yes, it is not only a theology book. It is a theology book for a popular audience but also with some very practical guides along the way to help break this teaching open and help us apply it in our daily lives.
Chris: Well Christopher I have some feedback and some questions from some of our listeners. So if you don’t mind I am going to try to play one of our feedbacks here. I know we had a little bit of trouble with the audio earlier so let me know if you are not able to hear this.
Sarah: This is Sarah Reinhart. Christopher I had a chance to read your newest book Heaven’s Song through the catholic company reviewer’s program and I loved it and I guess what I loved as much as I have loved any of your other books and the whole introduction to the Theology of the Body I have loved, I loved how you had the case studies and how you had the prayers. I think the prayers were my favorite part of every chapter. So I have been trying to think for two weeks now of great questions to ask you and all I can think of are the praises I have for like the thank you’s I have to give you for introducing me and speaking. I feel sometimes like you are speaking directly to me with my struggles and with the things that I have faced.
When you suggested in one of your talks that you read Theology of the Body and Adoration, I have actually read it twice and gone through it twice in Adoration and it really has just opened my life up to new possibilities and that sounds really clichÃ©. So I guess the only question I could think off as I was trying to think of questions was more a discussion about how Theology of the Body applies in your life. I mean I know the canned answer, but I mean you do so much speaking and talking and everything. How do your wife and children feel about it. How do you translate the Theology of the Body teachings for your children? Last I knew you had three boys. I am not sure if you have more or if you have any daughters I have been really blessed by Theology of the Body as I have been raising daughters myself. Some of the things that I think my parents didn’t do and maybe didn’t know to do we are able to maybe do. So anyway that is my long and rambling comments slash question. Thanks Chris and Christopher, God Bless.
Christopher West: Well I am happy to respond to Sarah’s thoughts and questions. Sarah first I just want to encourage you. Keep going the lord is clearly at work in your life, keep going. I want to say that to everybody, even if you have already dabbled in the Theology of the Body keep going we are dealing with infinite mysteries here. I have been studying this text full time since 1993 and I am always amazed how much deeper it gets every time I dive into the text. Every time I teach a seminar or give a course on this Theology of the Body I myself am learning more and more and more. So keep going Sarah. Regarding how do I bring this into my own family life. How do I especially pass this on to my children? Parents, I just want to encourage you and empower you. You are given the grace by God to pass on the truth to your children, but there is a basic principle going on here, we cannot give what we do not have.
So we have to fill our hearts and our minds with these truths in order to pass them on to our kids. We always in a daily way are passing this truth on to our kids through prayer. Certainly, through example but especially through prayer, every night when we gather the family to say prayers before bed, prayer goes like this. We say thank you lord for making mommy to be woman thank you lord for making dad to be a man thank you for calling us to the sacrament of marriage and thank you for bringing John Paul, and Thomas and Beth and Isaac and the new baby in mommy’s womb into the world through mommy and daddy’s love and then we go through each child and we say thank you for making John Paul and Thomas and Isaac to be boys, help them to grow into strong men to give their bodies away in love. Thank you for making Beth to be girl, help her to grow into a strong woman to give her body away in love and we talk about their future vocation. Whether they are called to marriage or to priesthood or religious life and we ask the lord to help them discern that vocation and in our family there is always lots of affectionate loving body talk. We talk about how good and holy our bodies are. We talk about how there is an enemy who doesn’t want us to know how good and holy our bodies are and I help I try anyway, Wendy and I try to help our kids discern good from evil. Not just to shelter from the corruption in our culture but to expose them in little doses and help them understand the difference between good and evil.
Put it this way, if we feed our children from the banquet, they will not be attracted to the dumpster, but if we don’t feed them from the banquet they will guaranteed go to the dumpster to satisfy their hunger. Because the dumpster is on display everywhere. My son Thomas came home from the grocery store a few weeks ago or maybe a couple of months ago. I don’t remember when and he said, papa I am really troubled he was seven years old at the time. He says I am really troubled. I saw a picture of a woman on a magazine that was not respectful. Now how did he know it was not respectful? Because if we feed our children from the banquet they will see the disrespect of the dumpster, I hope that is helpful to you Sarah, God Bless you.
Chris: I have another question from Adam Augten and he asks if there is a way for one to become certified to give lectures on Theology of the Body. I am feeling very interested but not sure where to turn.
Christopher West: Yes, Adam I would encourage you to go to tobinstitute.org, the Theology of the Body institute for which I work is in the process of establishing a certification program. We are working with some key bishops around the nation and around the world to establish a Catechetical certificate in the Theology of the Body. We have already faculty from around the nation who have agreed to teach for us. Janice Smith just taught a course for us. Michael Waldstein has agreed to teach for us. I am teaching a few of the courses in the certification program and the next offering, I teach the basic Theology of the Body introductory course next time I offer that is in January. January 4th to the 9th, they are five day intensives and people gather from around the world to take these courses and eventually all these courses will come together as a certification program for teaching the Theology of the Body. So please look into that and hopefully you will be able to come in January.
Chris: I have a question from Jane Marco in the Chicago area and she asks will you be doing speaking engagements to promote the new book. We heard you speak at our parish about eighteen months ago and are still raving about it and we’d love to see you come back again.
Christopher West: I would love to come back again what you can do is go to my website Christopherwest.com click on the speaking schedule and you can see where I am going and certainly at my upcoming events this fall I will be heavily promoting my book Heaven’s Song: Sexual Love as it was meant to be.
Chris: Jeff Miller the curt jester from splendoroftruth.com has asked me to comment on the awesome new video blog you have over at ChristopherWest.com and ask if you are planning on continuing to do that as well as are you going to be putting it into a form that is going to be compatible with iTunes so that people with video players can be able to download them and watch them a little easier.
Christopher West: Yes, yes, I have been a little bit behind the curve with some of the new fangled technologies, but I have a team of people helping me to get out into the culture with podcasts and other ways of reaching the culture through the Internet, and we just launched the first podcast. I did some commentary on the Katy Perry song that is popular now and we are going to be putting it in a format that will be downloadable on iTunes and we are going to exploring all kinds of ways to get it out there. So pray for us that we find the time and resources to reach the culture in ways that the culture is listening to information these days. Yes, it is coming we just a little patience it will be there.
Chris: Well thank you Christopher it has been a pleasure and an honor to get to speak with you again.
Christopher West: Thank you Chris happy to be with you.
Chris: It is always a lot of fun to get to talk. All of you listeners out there be sure to go on back over to CatholicSpotlight.com subscribe to our feed so that you can get other shows when they come out and it is also near the beginning of the month so please vote for us over on podcast alley it helps to get more people in to hear this great stuff and spread the word about the show. Anything else you wanted to share with the listeners before we head off, Christopher?
Christopher West: Just that Heaven’s Song: Sexual Love as It Was Meant to Be will be released in September and you can get it at any book store or online at all the book dealers online or you can go to my website ChristopherWest.com or ascensionpress.com, those are the good ways to get your hands on the new book.
Chris: And of course CatholicCompany .com.
Christopher West: CatholicCompany.com absolutely.
Chris: We don’t want to forget the sponsor right?
Christopher West: Absolutely forgive me for that, absolutely, go to catholiccompany.com to get Heaven’s Song.
Chris: Thank you Christopher for that outstanding endorsement there and we will talk to you again hopefully when your next book comes out in the next year or two. Have a great day, God bless.
Christopher West: Thank you.
Transcript of Interview with Christopher West about Heaven’s Song. This interview and others like it can be found at http://www.catholicspotlight.com
Listen Now to the audio version of the show.
Heaven’s Song is available at The Catholic Company.