(Part I can be found here.)
Theology of the Heart
Rereading Genesis in light of the spousal symbol in the Letter to the Ephesians enables us to grasp a truth which seems to determine in an essential manner the question of women’s dignity, and, subsequently, also the question of their vocation: the dignity of women is measured by the order of love, which is essentially the order of justice and charity (Mulieris Dignitatem, 29).
Clearly, the Theology of the Head enjoys the same primacy that faith does in respect to the other virtues, insofar as reason enlightened by faith provides the mean for all the other virtues and since without faith it is impossible to please God. Hence, man is to the family what faith is to the other virtues. Yet the dignity of women “measured by the order of love” suggests not only the virtue of obedience but the vocation to be the heart of the family, its core and center.
One here could enter into the debate of which ultimately has primacy, intellect or will, or as scholastics posed the question: In what does the essence of beatitude consist: the Intellectual vision of Infinite Truth or rest of the will in the Infinite Good? That debate is not going to be settled here.
Even so, the will does enjoy primacy in its own right when considered under the aspect of the perfection of virtue which is found in Charity, or what John Paul II calls in the above quote, “the order of love.” Knowledge leads to love. Love cannot be real unless it is based on truth, but if the apprehension of the truth does not lead to love, then such an apprehension is vain and sterile.
This primacy of love points to the reason why woman is the heart of the home, and the mother, the heart of the family. Woman is the guardian of the heart and hearth.
When I refer to the Theology of the Heart, this is not to imply that there is a mode of theology which is sentimental or intuitive in a way that supplants the work of the head. On the contrary, the Theology of the Heart is coordinated with that of the Head. We all know that theological sophisticates, while they may be wise and learned, may remain unchanged morally, or worse, become depraved by their hyper-intellectualism; being smart and even right is no guarantee of being holy. And we also know that a simpleton who has assented to the deposit of faith may become as great a saint as anyone else. This is not to suggest that we should neglect the intellectual life (See Theology of the Head). I just want to make the priority of things clear.
In The Everlasting Man Chesterton talks about the uniqueness of Christianity in terms of its balance between Head and Heart. The true faith is both a philosophy and a story. It is a philosophy in the sense that it appeals to reason. Even if the intellect must be enlightened by faith in order to assent to wholly supernatural truths, Christian belief is reconcilable with reason. Hence, the faith can and does appeal to the most intellectual of men, who are then able to utilize the full arsenal of their intellectual gifts to expound upon it and defend it, as Chesterton himself did in The Everlasting Man.
And yet, that philosophy never remains abstract, because it (or rather He) has become incarnate. St. Bonaventure says: “Christ is our philosophy.” All of Christ’s teachings are embodied and confirmed by his life and deeds. Hence our faith is also a “story,” what Chesterton, and later on, Tolkien and Lewis would correctly refer to as a “myth.”
By the use of the term “myth” we are not denoting a “beautiful lie,” as Lewis once suggested before Tolkien convinced him otherwise. Rather in order to understand the term “myth” we must consider that having been made in the image and likeness of the Creator, we have been made creators ourselves, or rather, as Tolkien liked to say, “sub-creators.” Myths are stories that contain fantastic elements which tend to inspire awe, and thus highlight transcendent realities. We create myths because behind the ordinary mundane things of life there is a drama of gigantic and apocalyptic proportions playing out. God has put us right in the middle of that drama, and it is up to our creative powers under the influence of His grace to bring it to a happy conclusion. In the end, nothing is ordinary and none of our choices are inconsequential.
In the gospels, our desire to be creative is fulfilled and perfected in the recreation of our lives through the death and resurrection of the Lord. The fantastic elements of this myth are not merely the product of the imagination, but miracles that God worked on earth. This story is the most fantastic and yet it is the most true. It is too good to be true and yet it is true. It really happened, and upon our assent to it, depends our very salvation. Tolkien wrote: “But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels and of men–and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused“ (“On Fairy-Stories”).
My point here is to emphasize the importance of our faith as a story, as opposed to a philosophy, a point, as I say, made by Chesterton. It is in the faith under its aspect of story that we find the Theology of the Heart. It is the story that appeals to the Heart. A story is always about persons and always about love. It is under this aspect that the faith appeals to the Heart and in which it particularly belongs to the guardianship of women.
Worthy of note here is that most of the mystics who were given insights into the lives of Jesus and Mary were women, such as Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich and Venerable Mary of Agreda. Many wonder at the extraordinary nature of many of the details in these revelations and the fact that the “story” as told by these mystics are often in disagreement with one another. There are many reasons why the Church has approved these writings and judged that the private revelations are of supernatural origin. Their extraordinary nature is clear. But it is also clear that the mystical intuitions these women received were brought forth in concert with their own art, because they were invested in the lives of those of whom they wrote. These were not academic theologians, but theologians of the Heart.
The Theology of the Heart is the intuition of the beauty of truth. It is openness to the mystical significance of everything. It is assent to the primacy of Charity. It is the recognition that truth is a Person and is directed toward the good of persons. This is where we discover why the dignity of women is so measured by the order of love. The heart knows the truth when it is open to love. It is woman who in a particular way is the guardian of the heart.
St. Francis de Sales said: “love is the sum of all theology.” In the preface to His Treatise on the Love of God he writes:
But amongst all the divers colors of the doctrine which she displays, the fine gold of holy Charity is everywhere spread, and makes itself excellently visible, gilding all the science of the saints with its incomparable luster, and raising it above every other science. All is love’s, and in love, for love, and of love, in the holy Church.
The “incomparable luster” of holy Charity manifests itself in the radiance of truth, in the delightfulness of the real and concrete. It is the wisdom that comes from commitment and loyalty. It is the beatitude and beauty of sacrifice. In the words of Paul VI, it is the “way of beauty,” and it particularly belongs not just to women but to The Woman:
[T]here is another way, one that is open to all, even the less learned. We shall call it the way of beauty. It is opened to us by the mysterious but wonderfully beautiful doctrine of Mary’s relation to the Holy Spirit. . . Mary is “entirely beautiful” and “a spotless mirror.” She is also the supreme model of perfection which artists of every age have tried to capture in their work. She is the “woman clothed with the sun,” in whom all the purest rays of human beauty converge with those rays of heavenly beauty which are of a higher order but which we can nevertheless perceive (A.A.S. LXVII, 31 May, 1975. 338).
Mary herself is the way of beauty. She is perfection of God’s art. She is the “mythical” Woman who really lived, and lives. She is the one who embodies our philosophy because it is Her life, and She has so fully participated in it so as to make our philosophy the story of our salvation.
This way of beauty is open to us, for example, through the Rosary. The Blessed Virgin is the mistress of sub-creation, who is entrusted with the Divine Mysteries, who bestows upon the Word His flesh and who ponders on the mysteries accomplished in Her and through Her. The mysteries of the Rosary are her memories (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11). The Theology of the Heart is an entrance into these memories. Of course, there is much food here also for the Theology of the Head, but through this prayer that conjoins invocation, meditation and Our Lady’s presence, we are drawn into the beauty of the “myth,” and become creative ourselves through the powers of supernatural Charity.
Some masters of mental prayer, like St. Ignatius of Loyola, have urged the use of the imagination in order to present to ourselves all the details of the mystery upon which we meditate and even to place ourselves as an active participant in the mystery at the side of Jesus and Mary. We must be invested, not just in doctrine, as essential as that is, but in the very lives of the Son of God and His Most Holy Mother. Perhaps not everyone finds such vivid use of the imagination helpful or even possible, but the point should be well taken.
In our perverse and lost society there is a contempt for logic, especially in matters of faith and morals. The way of beauty is not a capitulation to this tendency, but it is truth under the aspect of its desirability and delightfulness.
So much of modern culture is really a lot of sentimental drivel. And it is a problem not easy to overcome. In social and political discourse the most successful arguments are generally the most emotional and the least logical. Consider, for example, the argument about same-sex marriage. Natural law arguments are not very winning; however, arguments based on presumptions of discrimination which deliberately avoid any objective definition of marriage are bound to make headway.
It is very hard to restore a respect for logic, especially when, in matters of faith and morals, logic generally asks for what is more difficult and costly. It is only under the aspect of beauty that the truth can penetrate the sentimental heart.
Granted, the situation needs to change, but sometimes discursive prayer needs to be preempted by an affective prayer that is enkindled by awe. It is only this that will open some to the truth. Men in particular will always be the guardians of the discursive demands of Catholic faith, but women will make sure the truth really sets us free, instead of just making us miserable.
This is why feminine virtue is so important. It is the feminine genius to attract not only with physical beauty, but more importantly with moral and spiritual beauty. Maternal compassion, chastity, loyalty and the commitment to the primacy of prayer over action and persons over things: this is the real beauty of womankind. In the school of Our Lady may all women learn the Theology of the Heart. Hopefully, some of it will rub off on men as well.