Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Love of that Original Pair

A quote from St. Augustine:

"The love of the pair for God and for one another was undisturbed, and they lived in a faithful and sincere fellowship which brought great gladness to them, for what they loved was always at hand for their enjoyment. There was a tranquil avoidance of sin; and, as long as this continued, no evil of any kind intruded, from any source, to bring them sadness."

City of God, Book, XIV, Chapter 11.

This passage captured my imagination just now as I was preparing for 'Augustinian Thought' this afternoon.

Again, here in Barry's Bay we have a glisteningly sunny day, that makes you glad to be alive (especially in that post-illness euphoria that is now setting in me). And on such days our hearts can ponder the greater happiness of heaven, and all the other happinesses of our lives by which heavenly happiness is foreshadowed.

I am thinking about the "love of the pair," Augustine speaks of above. He has written a great deal about it both in City of God and elsewhere, and so has JPII, of course.

To a modern person this might sound like a churchly charter for a hedonistic marriage, where 'forsaking all others' is given a particular selfish bent, that includes forsaking children and Christian social duties, in light of a misapplied sense of self- and mutual-fulfillment through marked indulgences in tropical vacations and expensive foods and other superfluous experiences. Are Adam and Eve the epitome of the yuppie DINK (Dual Income No Kids) marriage?

Now it is silly to mark out for judgement anyone who fulfills that description - dual income no kids - since fertility is a gift not universally enjoyed, and a woman's employment status should have a great deal to do with whether she is a mother or not. I hardly think I need to say any of that. One knows one's own selfishness, at least to some degree. Yet I am often amazed at how disequilibrious consciences are.

Of course, Augustine had none of this in mind when he imagined our original parents' innocence, but one could be easily mistaken about this. He writes that in some way their "faithful and sincere fellowship" was based on the fact that "what they loved was always at hand for their enjoyment." Isn't this the very mistake of the DINKs - surround yourself with pleasures, never experience want, and you shall have a happy life? Of course, one should never deny that for happiness we are not in such a state as not to need things. Holiness does not consist in the transcendence of need; self-delusion does. I am not God, nor will I ever be, no matter how hard I wish upon a star. I will always need things to be happy: food, some social affirmation, certain amount of health, serotonin, etc. Sin consists in depending upon these rather than on God who gives them. The case was otherwise for Adam and Eve before their sin. Augustine tells us they needed to eat so as not to be hungry, but not so as to stave of death, strangely enough. Yes, my dependence upon food, social affirmation, and serotonin is a result of sin, but not sin itself. These needs are only present as they are present because of Adam’s sin, but they are not sinful in themselves.

The needs of the Christian couple probably has very little to do with extravagant vacationing, gastronomy, etc., but there are no hard and fast rules about this stuff. It’s so relative, which is not, however, to say they are completely arbitrary. It hardly comprehends the exclusion of children per se, or many of the other things that the DINK lifestyle is based upon.

I’d, rather, like to direct our thoughts to the beautiful symmetry of complementarity that pre-lapsarian love entailed: how Adam loved Eve and Eve loved Adam. It is a model for us, with all the necessary adjustments kept in mind for life in this vale of tears. Sure, we cannot imagine sex divorced from lust, but that was how Augustine understood it to be for them. How they appreciated each other and dwelled with each other is enough to remind you that life in heaven will be really great, and that it’s worth trying follow the Maker’s original instructions even now.

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