The Goal Is Union — Center for Action and Contemplation
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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

The Goal Is Union

The Holiness of Human Sexuality

The Goal Is Union
Friday, June 11, 2021

The goal of our sexual longing is universal love, which is to say union with God, ourselves, and What Is. We came from union and all of our longing is a movement back toward union. The experiences of sexuality can help us glimpse and taste this unity and bring us to what I call the “Gate of the Temple,” but they do not by themselves carry us through the doors. The late gay contemplative writer Michael Bernard Kelly (19542020) understood that our incarnate, finite loves find their source in Infinite Love:

In every era and in every part of life there is a tendency for us to focus on ‘experiences,’ ecstatic ‘thrills’. . . . This tendency is especially marked in sexuality and spirituality, where the tastes are so intoxicating, fleeting and profound. These tastes are essential; they are seeds, glimpses of that fullness to which we are called. However, they are not the Journey itself, not transformation, not mystical union, not enlightenment. They set us on the road—perhaps they are even glimpses of the destination—but we have not yet arrived. Indeed we have hardly set out! If we become addicted to simply seeking more and more ‘experiences,’ whether sexual or spiritual, we never will arrive. We all know this tendency in sexuality, but the seduction in spirituality can be more subtle, more compelling and more soul destroying.

So what is happening? Firstly, some element of this ‘addiction’ is probably inevitable in our yearning and longing, for the taste of ecstasy, however it comes, is so delicious, so overwhelming. Of course we seek it again and again!

‘You shed your fragrance about me; I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet perfume. I tasted you and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me and I am inflamed with love of your peace,’ says Saint Augustine [1], and in our different ways we know what he means. However, we must allow the withdrawing to take place. It is the withdrawing that will draw us towards the transformation, to the abiding fulfilment of that which we taste so briefly in our ecstasies. How does this happen?

When we taste the Mystery we long to drink deeply of it, to take it into ourselves, to be possessed by it, to surrender to it, to become it in an abiding way, ‘forever and ever.’ To become that which we taste. . . . This is mirrored very powerfully in the images of spiritual communion, where we eat and drink ‘the body and blood of the Lord,’ our very bodies merging and becoming transformed into the One who is the Beloved of our souls.

This is the heart of our yearning: to become that which we taste and hunger for, not briefly, but fully, totally, permanently, being utterly transformed into that which we desire so deeply. Union. Ecstasy. The ‘Lover with his beloved, transforming the beloved in her Lover,’ [2] the seeker transformed into that which she seeks.

References:
[1] Augustine, Confessions, book 10, chapter 27.

[2] John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” stanza 5.

Michael Bernard Kelly, Seduced by Grace: Contemporary Spirituality, Gay Experience, and Christian Faith (Clouds of Magellan: 2007), 10–12.

Story from Our Community:
Richard Rohr’s writings have helped me understand better the mystic I “sensed” in myself. Through Fr. Richard’s writings I have found parts of my religious heritage are worth maintaining, but parts are not. I think we have lingered far too long in excluding others—racism, anti-Semitism, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-anything we don’t understand or like. God does not exclude, ever. “Be still and know….” Listen with open hearts, open minds, and the silence tunes out “noise.” Thank you, CAC.
—Anne T.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Impressions (detail), 2020, photograph, Bellingham.
Image inspiration: In its rainbow of colors, human sexuality can be many things: delicate, powerful, mysterious, beautiful. How might we foster a healthy relationship with the holy gift of sexuality?
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