Sunday, October 19, 2014

An Enduring Beauty

Meeting at the Golden Gate, Giotto

In April, I posted some pictures I had taken of statues of St. Anne, and talked a bit about how I had been asking her to pray for my family. (You have to scroll down in this link to see those pictures.) Then I came across this picture of Sts. Anne and Joachim by Giotto on the cover of a book I was reading, Love's Sacred Order: The Four Loves Revisited by Erasmo Leiva Merikakis. The story of this meeting of Anne and Joachim is found in the Protoevangelium of James, and so is legend, indeed we have no historical evidence or scriptural proof of anything about Mary's parents. There is a long, long tradition in the Church, however, of honoring the parents of Mary by these names.

In every statue of St. Anne, and almost every painting, she is pictured with the child Mary. Often St. Anne is teaching Mary. However, when I saw this painting it really struck me that the story of St. Anne is not just the story of a mother and grandmother, but that of a wife. What we see in the above picture is an image of a marriage, a long, faithful marriage of two people who through their faith and their constancy to each other are, "...bearing fruit in old age." Psalm 92:14. It is an icon of the quintessence of  marriage, a man and woman bearing with each other, bearing children, bearing together the adversities of life, and finally, bringing one another to Heaven.

In the past couple of years, I have been thinking a lot, I have had to think a lot, about how to talk to people who have homosexual attractions about what the Church really teaches about homosexuality. How do you speak the truth without completely alienating those you love? It's so difficult, and one way that seems to provide a plausible place to begin is to offer this image, this ideal that is so beautiful, and so difficult to achieve. It is an ideal of which we all fall short in some way, an ideal that we seldom see lived out in its entirety, but which we recognize immediately when we do see it as entirely good. 

Of course, this is only a very tentative beginning, but it benefits from beginning with what is right and beautiful rather than who is wrong and disordered. It's a promise and not a wound. And so, when I saw this document which has caused so much distress and conflict, I thought, "Well, there you go."
There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).

1 comment:

  1. Heard a Dominican mini-sermon on this painting this morning. Very apposite.