I received a paper copy of Heaven’s
Song: Sexual Love as It Was Meant to Be by
Christopher West which will be published in September of this year.
Once again he has done a great job of teaching the Theology
of the Body as developed by John Paul II in an accessible manner.
The new book is based on the so-called
“hidden” talks of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. These
undelivered addresses were discovered in the Vatican archive
and until recently were only in the Polish edition of “A Theology of
the Body.” Michael Waldstein translated these into English in
2006 in the book Man
and Woman He Created Them: A Theology Of The Body.
The new material goes into the Song of Songs and
the Old Testament marriage of Tobias and Sarah from the book of Tobit
along with material that would have not been appropriate for
a General Audience.
The format of the book is that he starts
with short stories of real life people
and their common difficulties and then how they addressed using the
Theology of the Body and then goes on from there. Each
chapter also ends with a section
for reflections and a prayer. Christopher West then explains Pope John
Paul II’s teaching starting off with the Song of Song. This
Old Testament book is often passed over by many because we miss the
deeper meaning of the book and people can be put of by the erotic
poetry it contains. They mystics though often included the
Song of Songs as one of their favorites and wrote on it.
From St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Saint Louis
de Montfort, St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguor and others were nourished by
these texts. Christopher West refers to these saints as he
expands upon the work of Pope John Paul II. Sometimes people are
scandalized by the comparison of the sexual union of man and life as a
metaphor for the relationship of God and man. Some
Protestants are scandalized by the writings of St. Alphonsus
Maria de Liguor and I have seen his writings quoted by anti-Catholics.
The total misunderstanding of sex goes
through all levels of society
from the secular to the religious. The book explores the
deeper meaning of sex as being sacred and how the Song of Songs relates
to this. This is really a wonderful scripture study of the
Song of Songs that opens it up and helps you see past the
prose that looks quite awkward through modern eyes. These
sections are worth the price of the book in themselves. Once
I first read the Book of Tobit it quick became one of my favorite Old
Testament books, but I certainly missed much of the meaning of the
book. Pope John Paul II’s catechesis relating to Tobit is a
treasure and one that all married couples and those preparing for
marriage need to be introduced this understanding.
Christopher West has a great talent in
presenting deep theology in such a way that you are not put off, but
are drawn deeper into it. His latest book is no exception and
like all of his book you don’t need to read anything of his beforehand
– they all stand alone. I highly recommend Heaven’s Song.
If Pope John Paul II ever becomes a Doctor
of the Church it will be because of The Theology of the Body which is a
great gift to the Church and one that the world certainly needs.
This review is part of the Catholic Company’s Product Review Program.