I finished reading Christopher West’s Heaven’s Song days and days and days ago, and I’ve been struggling with what to say about it (for days and days and days). It’s not that I have nothing to say about it, rather that I have too much. Where to begin? How can I be brief?
The book is easy to read and easy to understand. The concepts are not revolutionary, but, for me at least, finally connect the dots of various vague thoughts that I have pondered from time to time. It is as though I had been staring at the pieces of a puzzle, and West finally showed me how they all fit together.
Although I’m familiar with Theology of the Body, I confess that I have not read any significant amount of it, and certainly knew nothing of other talks edited and compressed by Pope John Paul II due to their “adult” nature. Having recently, and uncomfortably, sat through a homily on Humanae Vitae with my two young sons, I can understand why the Pope would choose to remove much of his discourse on the Song of Songs from lectures delivered to a family audience.
It is good, though, for the Pope’s deeper thoughts regarding sexuality and marriage to be made available for mature audiences. On page 54, West quotes Theology of the Body with “…the dignity and balance of human life depend at every moment of history and at every point on the globe on who woman will be for man and who man will be for woman.” Is that true? If it is, and my heart feels it is, who is woman for man (and man for woman) today? And most importantly, to me, who am I to my husband and he to me?
And does the condition of my marriage matter to you?
West (and the Pope) argue that it does. “Contrary to the modern world’s treatment of it, sex is not a light matter. It is not entertainment. Sex is something existential – that is, it concerns the very reality and foundation of human existence, of human life” (p 141). For many, that is a very difficult idea to swallow. Who wants such weighty thoughts accompanying them to bed?
And yet, to disregard the sacredness of sex, which is all too easy to do, leads to a general disregard for marriage and ultimately for the opposite sex. And then woman is enemy to man, and man is enemy to woman. “When the cradle of life – the family – breeds death and destruction, it inevitably produces an entire ‘culture of death'” (p 159).
Heaven’s Song is a book of hope that encourages married couples to seek a purer love. By shunning lust and striving for a total self-giving love, couples can “…[transform] something that is worshipped into something that is worship“ (p 130). It is small wonder that West concludes his book with the encouragement to read it again. There is much to mull and to discuss, especially with a spouse.