Sex Ed and More with the Saints

The saints liked sex—or some of them did at least. There’s something ironic and hearty in the combination of the words “saint” and “sex.” Aren’t the two mutually exclusive? Weren’t most of the saints unmarried, “celibate” men?

I always found myself fascinated by the holiness present in the profane loves of the adulterers in Graham Greene’s novels. His Henry Scobie, like many of his leading men, is on the march of misery vis-a-vis an unhappy marriage. We slowly become witness to an erotic affair that makes Henry come to life, one he is unable to renounce even with the security of the seal of confession. As The Heart of the Matter unfolds (as well as The End of the Affair and The Power and Glory for that matter), holiness itself is put through the looking glass, and the instruments of holiness, the sacraments, become both the corrupting substance and the antidote.

As religion scholar Virginia Burrus writes in The Sex Lives of the Saints: An Erotics of Ancient Hagiography, “The agonizing pleasure pursued in eroticism, in contrast, increases transcendence to the point that the boundaries of individual subjectivity—the distinctions between the ‘internal’ and the ‘external’—effectively dissolve.”

Read more at the post calvin.

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