28 April 2014

On Consecrated Virginity and the Interpenetration of Heaven and Earth

[[Dear Sister, thank you for your post on Star Trek and the Resurrection of Jesus. (cf., StarTrek and the Resurrection of Jesus) I was most interested in the way you spoke of the interpenetration of heaven and earth and the tearing of the veil between sacred and secular, heavenly and fleshly. You see I am a consecrated virgin and have been reading what you say about eschatological or consecrated secularity. I hadn't appreciated that your insistence on the secularity of the CV vocation comes from a much broader and more fundamental theology. I know you have tried to explain this before so I just wanted you to know that your post helped me to see this more clearly as well as it did the nature and meaning of Jesus' resurrection. Thank you.]]

Thanks for your comments. Gratifyingly, a number of people found that post helpful. You are exactly right about the basis for my insistence on the secularity of the canon 604 vocation. While it is true that I don't think anything else makes sense, and also that I am convinced by the discussion of the matter by Sister Sharon Holland, IHM as well as by texts associated with the rite itself, my insistence is more profoundly driven by an eschatology which does not see heaven as remote but instead understands that in Christ it has begun to interpenetrate this world. The imagery of the rending of the veil between sacred and secular or profane, eternal and mortal (fleshly) is terribly important to the notion of a new creation occasioned by Jesus' death and resurrection. But this same veil becomes symbolized by the veil often associated with consecrated life, and especially that of consecrated virgins, I think. It truly symbolizes the interpenetration of heaven and earth and what could say this more powerfully than a form of consecrated life which is not driven by the "fuga mundi" impulse of some religious life but is instead both thoroughly consecrated and thoroughly secular?

There is a second symbol of this eschatology which I have mentioned before which the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus makes central, namely, the two step process of matrimony in Judaism. While the interpenetration of heaven and earth occasioned by the resurrection is real it is also proleptic of something that will only one day be fully realized when God is all in all. With Jesus' resurrection the new creation begins to be realized. The first step of the Divine union with humanity has been accomplished; the betrothal is a fact for those who are baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection. With the ascension Jesus returns to the Father to prepare a place for us in the very life of God and we look forward to the day when there will indeed be a new heaven and a new earth in which God is all in all.

In other words we look forward to the consummation of the wedding/union between God and humanity which represents the fulfillment of creation and God's will to share God's love/life exhaustively. Consecrated virgins are called to stand as icons of this reality and promise. It is not, as I have noted in other posts, the promise of disembodied existence in a remote heaven but of existence in an entirely transformed world/cosmos in which heaven and earth have been made to be a single reconciled and transfigured reality. Though a tad awkward, it would not be a big theological stretch to call life in this new heaven and earth "eschatological secularity." So, to suggest that CV's are called to a form of eschatological or consecrated secularity right here and right now in the midst of this new creation in witness to a betrothal that has occurred in the Christ Event and a consummation that is yet to come seems to me to be an accurate description of  a profoundly significant vocation.

As you recognize, the theology which underpins this vocation is indeed much broader and more substantive than some have perceived from considering the canon which defines the vocation or the rite which establishes it. Its scope is cosmic. The bridal imagery is the imagery of new creation and eschatological fulfillment achieved by the boundless and eternal love/mercy of God which will completely remake not only THIS world/cosmos but God's own life as well. (Our share in this is what we call heaven and Jesus goes to prepare a place for each and all of us in the Divine life.) It makes sense that an icon of this covenantal state is the consecrated virgin living an eschatological secularity. However, as I have written before, so long as consecrated virgins resist the secularity of their vocation or fail to understand their own betrothal as proleptic and iconic of a consummation/wedding which will occur for the whole of creation instead of as something elitist or entirely individual, they will simply ensure that their vocations are theologically and pastorally irrelevant and even destructive. (Link for this article: Consecrated Virgins and the Interpenetration of Heaven and Earth)