As I mention in my previous article, Agape (sacrificial love) is the foundation on which the other three loves in the Greek tradition (Eros, Storge, and Philia) are founded. This two-part article will focus on sexual romantic love called Eros.
Part One: Eros in Marriage
In our world today, the discussion of romantic love and sexuality is everywhere we look; in our music, movies, tv shows, social media, news, and the list goes on endlessly. Our society teaches us to act out our sexual passions, and have sex with whoever we want, whenever we want. This hookup mentality has produced so many consequences, such as a rise in STDs, contraception, same-sex relationships, out of wedlock pregnancies, rape, adultery, divorce, abortion, etc. Sadly, our culture has been saturated by so much sexual imagery, that most men, starting at the age of puberty, have seen nude images of women in some form (pornography), intentionally or not. Today, you cannot watch a simple TV show without seeing nudity or sexual acts taking place in graphic details. “Game of Thrones” is such an example of a hyper-sexualized TV production and book series. Decades ago, you had to go to a special store, and secretly ask for a “Playboy” magazine, but today with a simple Google search, you can bring up pornographic pictures and movies for free. In the area of fornication, the “hookup culture” has pushed the envelope of the sexual revolution as well. Today, with a simple app on your smart phone, you can find girls to hook-up with for casual sex.
Since God made sex; it is good. God wants us to have pleasurable sex with each other, but He only made it for a married man and woman, for the sole purpose for procreation. The Church has spoken throughout the centuries on the importance of Eros. For example, Saint Pope John Paul II’s five-year catechesis during his general audiences, “Theology of the Body,” beautifully explains to us God’s vision for humanity in the area of Eros.
God made sex for a purpose. The purpose of sex is to be the self-gift of spouses: a Husband and Wife in Marriage, giving of themselves, open to the possibility of having children if God wills it. It is great that ManHusbandDad’s find the body of a woman to be sexually appealing. God made a woman’s body sexually desirable for a man, and vice-versa. It is good that men and women want to have sex with each other (If we did not want to have sex, the human race would have died out quickly!), but we must remember that the purpose of sex is a gift of love within Marriage between a Husband and Wife.
A husband must remember that even though he gets to give of himself sexually to his wife in marriage, Chastity, one of the Twelve Righteous Virtues, is necessary in a Marriage. We must not confuse chastity with celibacy. Every human being is called to embrace chastity in whatever state of life they are in (single life, religious life, marriage, and holy orders). Chastity is basically subduing your sexual passions. Celibacy, on the other hand, is for Catholics who are called to religious life, consecrated virginity (part of the discerned single life), and holy orders. Celibacy is promising to perpetually remain a virgin, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Chastity in marriage is necessary to make sure that spouses do not take advantage of each other, by using each other as sexual objects for pleasure. A ManHusbandDad must have the chaste mentality in seeing sex as much more than simply a biological act of pleasure with his wife; something more profound. So, on the contrary, sex outside of marriage is empty, selfish, and shallow; while in the context of marriage, sexual intercourse becomes an act of making Love, that is life giving love, when sexual intercourse is fueled by the virtue of chastity.
The essence of physical sexual love in marriage is so profound, that nine months later, you might be proclaiming to the world a name for the fruit produced from the intimate embrace. With this understanding of what sex truly is; a gift of self and life producing, we can explore it on a spiritual level.
Let’s say a young man is dating a beautiful young woman, and natural sexual temptation arises between them. Since sexual love is a gift of self, a man can learn to order his sexual desires to chastity, and live out a spiritual form of sexuality, by offering his excitements and frustrations (joys and sufferings) to the crucified Christ, for the continued holiness of his girlfriend. By offering the joys and sufferings to Christ for his beloved, a ManHusbandDad is living out Agape in the spiritual form of Eros. A ManHusbandDad praying for his beloved not only sanctifies the woman that he loves, but also sanctifies his life. The spiritual form of Eros does not physically produce a baby, which is the primary purpose of marital love; yet since Eros fundamentally is new life producing, the new life of redemption is produced, through the spiritual form of Eros.
This form of sacrificial prayer, which is part of the spiritual form of Eros, orders a ManHusbandDad’s sexual desires to a non-selfish manner. So, if a man gets the privilege of marrying the woman he has “agaped” (loved sacrificially by offering his joys and sufferings to the Lord), he will be able to fully live out a sacrifice-centered, sexual, marital embrace. It will also be good for the ManHusbandDad to continue to offer his joys and sufferings to Christ on a regular basis, in order to keep his sexual desires ordered to Jesus, so that he doesn’t become selfish in his sexual passions. This piggy backs on what St. Paul said: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her…” (Ephesians 5:25), and “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
In part two I explore Eros as spiritual romantic love further, particularly for the consecrated single life.