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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Beatific Vision

"Sex is a profound force, having to do with life, the forces of creation which make man god-like. He shares in the power of the Creator, and, when sex is treated lightly, as a means of pleasure, I can only consider that woman is used as a plaything, not as a person. When sex is so used it takes on the quality of the demonic, and to descend into this blackness is to have a foretaste of hell, "where no order is, but everlasting horror dwelleth." (Job x.22) Aldous Huxley has given us a glimpse of this hell in "After Many a Summer dies in the Swan," showing the sexual instinct running riot like cancer cells through the body, degenerating into sadism and torture and unspeakable violence. I speak in extreme terms I admit. But long before I was a Catholic I felt how prevalent was the demi-vierge attitude. I certainly felt that the teaching of Jesus, "He who looks with lust after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart." There is no such thing as seeing how far one can go without being caught, or how far one can go without committing mortal sin.

On the other hand, the act of sex in its right order in the love life of the individual has been used in Old and New Testament as the symbol of the love between God and Man. Sexual love in its intensity makes all things new and one sees the other as God sees him. And this is not illusion. In those joyful days when one is purified by this single heartedness, this purity of vision, one truly sees the essence of the other, and this mating of flesh and spirit, the whole man and the whole woman, is the only way we know what the term "beatific vision" means. It is the foretaste we have of heaven and all other joys of the natural world are intensified by it, hearing, seeing, knowing."

"On Pilgrimage - September 1963"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, September 1963