Friday, August 29, 2008

Review of Heaven's Song by Christopher West

Back in 2002, I had a "conversion" of sorts. I call it my NFP conversion and have written about it a lot on this blog. Being a cradle Catholic, I knew I was "supposed" to do NFP and that I was not "supposed" to use birth control. However, I chose to follow popular secular beliefs regarding this subject. It never even occurred to me to look into it a little more. It never really occurred to me that there was something to look into. Part of what converted me was listening to Janet Smith's talk, Contraception: Why Not?. Her talk led me to read Humanae Vitae through which I fell in love with the Church's views on sex, marriage and openness to life. Shortly after this, I had joined a ladies book club and they decided to study Theology of the Body. I was very excited to study these talks which I had just begun hearing about for the first time. We delved into Christopher West's Theology of the Body Explained. I didn't understand half of it but I loved every bit of what I could - and even what I couldn't - grasp. So, imagine my mixture of excitement and intimidation when I found out I'd be reviewing Christopher West's new book, Heaven's Song, for the Catholic Company's product reviewer program!

Heaven's Song is based on the "hidden" talks of John Paul II's Theology of the Body series of talks. They were recently discovered in the Vatican archives, having been deemed "too delicate" to be delivered in St. Peter's Square. The talks are based on the erotic book of the Bible, Song of Songs. It covers:
deeply moving reflections on the intimacy of the lovers in the Song of Songs; penetrating insights into the spiritual battle that accompanied the marriage of Tobias and Sarah in the book of Tobit; and new illuminations on the "spousal" nature of the Church's liturgy gleaned from St. Paul's teaching on the "great mystery" of marital union in Ephesians 5.

Having grown up with very negative views of all things sexual and being very afraid of and dissatisfied with that part of my marriage, reading Theology of the Body helped me realize what a beautiful, important and holy thing my sex life with my husband should be and needed to become. Without really knowing it at the time, I took the first step in making this happen by getting rid of birth control and opening our marriage bed to God. Studying Theology of the Body was another step to strengthening this understanding within my own marriage. But, Heaven's Song has bridged the gap between just applying this to my own marriage and understanding that:
the way we understand our bodies and the union of man and woman has a direct bearing on the way we understand Christ's body and his union with the church.
And that:
Christ's marriage is consummated through his passion and death.

Now I know to some, calling sex holy and inviting God into that part of your life can sound, well, weird...uncomfortable...even wrong. But, in studying Theology of the Body, I learned that not only is it not wrong, it is vital to any marriage. And as Christopher West points out in his introduction to Heaven's Song, if it does feel uncomfortable, it is important to examine our own hearts to see in what way we might need the Holy Spirit to heal our fallen view of sexuality. Most Catholics understand that marriage is a sacrament but they do not understand that the sacrament does not occur during the wedding, it happens over and over again each time a couple consummates their marriage through their sexual union. Therefore, Heaven's Song explains,
according to John Paul II, when we experience marital union as it was meant to be experienced, it is something "liturgical" - that is, it is caught up into the very heart of the Church's life of prayer and worship.
That is why when people say that the Church should stay out of their can't! It cannot be separated.

I would recommend that anyone read this wonderful book. If you have studied Theology of the Body, this is a great supplement - it takes it that much deeper. If you have not, it is a great introduction to many of the ideas and will make you want to study it further. If you have real problems with the idea of sex being holy, liturgical or united with Christ, I beg you to read this book. Each chapter has real life examples of people that Christopher West has talked with in his work. The end of each chapter has questions for you to think about and prayers to pray. Satan wants more than anything to keep us from knowing the truth and the beauty of sex. He wants us to shudder at the idea of giving God our sexual relationships with our spouses. It has helped him ruin marriages, lives, and chip away at the church. The best way to battle this is to eat from the tree of knowledge. Then, we will be able to not only hear, but participate in Heaven's Song!

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Heaven's Song which is due out in September!

Specific to the BlogHer guidelines, I received this product free to review. It's value is less than $40 and I was not paid for the work.

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