To the pure all things are pure… (Tit 1:15)
Quoted in segment #5 of John Paul II’s 57th Wednesday Audience entitled “The Pauline Doctrine of Purity as Life According to the Spirit” given on March 18, 1981, beginning our late pope’s catechesis on the Theology of the Body.
I couldn’t help but think of this line from scripture (and fondly quoted by St. John Paul the Great) when I watched the first music video released by Sister Cristina Scuccia. Sister was the recent winner of the Italian version of the reality show, The Voice.
Had I seen this nun’s remake of the 1984 pop hit by Madonna (whose name, in my opinion, is not fitting of the original) years ago, I might not have been very pleased. I would likely have been one of those “masters of suspicion” described by John Paul referring to people who judge the intentions of the heart through the lens of original sin and “concupiscence” only.
However, since I have been immersed in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body catechesis, I looked at it with different eyes. Immediately what came to mind was how the term “virginity” has been redeemed. Understood in light of the Holy Spirit, the term actually has nothing to do with whether or not someone has had sexual intercourse. It has to do with the integration of the Holy Spirit with one’s soul and one’s human body.
To explain, I will use the understanding of the term virgin describing our Blessed Mother. Mary was a virgin, yes, because she had no relations with a man (Luke 1:34) but also because she had never been touched by original sin. In terms of the Spirit, Mary was a virgin because her body and soul were perfectly integrated by the Holy Spirit from her conception, and maintained throughout her lifetime.
In my sessions learning the Theology of the Body at the Institute in Philadelphia, I discovered that original sin caused a rift in the human person between soul and body. In the beginning, at the creation of Adam and Eve, they were originally pure because their bodies and souls were perfectly integrated by the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, who God breathed life into them. However, when they sinned, the Holy Spirit left Adam and Eve. They now had an immortal soul and a mortal body, destined for death.
That spiritual rift can now only be healed by the grace of God through the sacraments, which returns the Holy Spirit to the human body and soul, gradually reintegrating these two aspects of a person throughout his or her life, and completed at the Resurrection at the end of time and in Heaven.
Sacraments like marriage, with the cooperation of spouses who live virtuously, can help bring about this reintegration of body and soul so they can be, like Adam and Eve in the beginning, naked without shame.
In the life of a consecrated celibate like Sister Cristina, who has vowed to be spiritually married only to Christ, the action of the Spirit is the same, though the living out of her vocation is a bit different than that of a wife. Religious sisters do not consummate their marriage to Christ with their bodies, but with their souls. And they are still mothers, spiritually, in that they bring forth countless children in the church through their loving, nuptial relationship with Jesus Christ.
I found it very interesting to see and hear Sister Cristina sing that song, and in my mind, essentially purify it to mean what it should always have meant in the first place.
I know there are some people out there who might find her song scandalous. (Apparently, many also found the image of the statute of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila, depicting her spiritual marriage with Jesus Christ, scandalous in medieval times as well.)
I’m glad to say I do not, and pray that I am becoming more and more “Pure of Heart,” as in the scriptural quote from Titus above.
In His Beatitudes, Jesus states that the Pure of Heart will see God. I believe I have been blessed to see the image of God in people like Sister Cristina who use their talents to offer love and praise to the One who is truly worthy. May that praise continue.
(By the way, please keep Sister Cristina’s vocal coach, J Ax from the Italian version of the Voice, in your prayers. Sister has her work cut out for her with that one. Apparently he released a cut of sister’s song in a “metal version” with a hard rocker’s voice superimposed over sister’s actual voice. I don’t recommend anyone watch it. J Ax has a ways to go toward sainthood, apparently, and here’s hoping for his eventual conversion.)