Lauretta • Aug 25, 2009 - 11:32 am

Thank you for your comments.  I agree totally that the Baptismal font as womb is not a reference to genitalia just as the Easter candle as a phallic symbol is not a reference to genitalia.  That is why I said that they are symbols because of what they do, not because of their shape.

I do appreciate your concern for Tradition.  We have had too many theological and liturgical innovations thrust upon us in recent decades.  That being said, however, I cannot reject a development or deepening or restoration of a truth or an understanding of our faith because I haven’t seen it explained exactly that way in the past.  One of the “teachings” of the Church that was very disturbing to me as I began to learn about Catholicism was its “teaching” on limbo for unbaptized babies.  I was told this by Catholics who had been raised in all parts of the US so had to assume that it was pretty universally taught and, therefore, was a fact.  I could never be at peace with it, however, and was, oh, so relieved to read in then Bishop Ratzinger’s book “Introduction to Christianity” that it was mere theological speculation and something that he would reject.  Amazing how something as important and potentially troubling to people was allowed to be taught for years when it was not even doctrine.  Now, this Easter candle idea, which as far as I can see, has way less potential effects on people’s faith and lives is creating such controversy!

I need to ask what you mean by “paternal principle”.  My understanding is that we call God Father because he gives us life.  I interpret that to be a paternal principle.  Is that wrong?  That is what I was referring to when I said that there was a phallic aspect to Christ’s conception.  The Blessed Mother received the life that was given—generated—by the Holy Spirit.

And to your last statement, why should we feel shame?  Should not our response to the nakedness of Jesus and Mary, if we truly understood what that meant, be more of a joy similar to that which we experience when we see a young toddler running around naked?  Should we not see in their nakedness the same innocence and purity and trust that a child exhibits?  Should we not see the beauty of the pinnacle of God’s creation in the Blessed Mother’s body—clothed or unclothed?  Are we not projecting our own brokenness onto them by insisting that they be clothed?  Are they not the New Adam and the New Eve who, before Original Sin, were naked without shame and are not the original Adam and Eve often portrayed as naked in the Garden of Eden?

frangelo • Aug 25, 2009 - 2:49 pm


A phallic symbol is a visible representation of a penis and that is exactly what West claims the candle to be, just as he claims that the baptismal font is a visible representation of a vagina because it is concave.  He also claims that the repeated penetration of the baptismal font by the candle is a simulation of the sex act.  This is wholly absent from the liturgical meaning and is not a development of doctrine.  It is an invention without basis in the patristic or magisterial teaching of the Church.

If you base your argument on what these articles do, rather than on their shape and action then you are even worse off, because neither the virginal conception, nor the baptism in the Jordan nor the resurrection, which are symbolized by the liturgical action are inseminations/impregnations.

Limbo is a is way of explaining what happens to the unbaptized who have not yet reached the age of reason, since revelation does not directly tell us what has happened to them and because there is the problem of their inability to even desire the grace of baptism.  Regardless of what the catechism does or does not say about limbo at this time, it does not tell us that unbaptized children are in heaven, but that we entertain the hope that they are.  I don’t think development in this matter is comparable to the Paschal Candle which is an invention made up out of whole cloth.

I would recommend the reading of Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine in order to understand better the difference between a development of doctrine and its corruption.

The Father is the paternal principle, of course.  He is the Father of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  But the human nature of Christ is not generated by means of a paternal principle.  Our Lady conceives virginally without insemination through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Father does not personally generate the conception of Jesus in His Mother’s womb and neither does the Holy Spirit.  In fact, we do not say that the incarnation is generated at all, but that Jesus is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord is conceived without father by virtue of an unprecedented miracle.  The fathers say Jesus has Father in heaven and no mother, and Mother on earth and no father.  This is the way the Church has always taught.  I am not making it up.

There certainly is no phallic reference in the conception of Jesus because phalli symbolize penises, which reference is neither appropriate nor justified in regard to the conception of Jesus.  I think you would really benefit from examining the seven notes of Newman on the development of doctrine.

In reference to the nakedness of Jesus and Mary, all I can do is refer you to Von Hildebrand’s remarks on shame so eloquently given here by Josef.

Josef Seifert • Aug 25, 2009 - 9:11 pm


Dear Father Geiger, I find your last replies on the Easter candle and the baptismal font, as well on the limbo, very deep theologically, very charitable and very true.

Dear Lauretta, I do not want to add much to this reply of Father to your remarks but simply share them and you may consider them my own reply as well. Only some thoughts on a topic Father only briefly touches.

As to the nakedness and original innocence, we obviously no longer live in paradise and therefore modesty in clothing is part of the virtue of chastity. Your implication that it would be improper to represent Mary and Jesus with clothes on because they alone, more than Adam and Eve, were “naked without shame!” in virtue of their perfect innocence seems incorrect to me:
Never in the Gospel do we hear that Christ, Mary, the Apostles or the Prophets of old walked around naked. Christ even when he appears in his transfigured heavenly beauty on the mount Tabor, appears “in clothes whiter than snow,” and not naked. His nakedness in the passion and on the cross was part of the deep humiliation and passion he took upon himself for us.
Besides, while Christ was more than fully embodying the “original innocence” and redeemed beauty of the body, our mere beginning to understand the magnificent message of TOB, a part of which refers to a wonderful interpretation of sexuality and the spousal meaning of the body, does not put us back into the world of original innocence yet (even though the nakedness of the spouses in a deep and redeemed mutual spousal love may to some extent embody this seeing the body through the eyes of love that drives shame away, and restore original innocence - at least to the extent that body and soul again become a pure and wonderful gift the spouses make to each other.).
Still another point on shame: while shame and modesty have much to do with sin and our fallen nature, I do not think that feelings of shame in disclosing our nakedness are ONLY related to the danger that our bodies might be looked at with lustfulness and irreverence. I think there is also something in the intimacy of the human body and even more of the conjugal act that makes the public exposure of the marital act before the eyes of third persons, even a Saint, wrong and shameless.
As far as the idea that all Saints in heaven will be naked as our first parents were in paradise, I would say: If that be so and if we would be graced in heaven with the gift of seeing the blessed virgin and Jesus and all other Saints in the whole beauty of their bodies disclosed without any clothes, this would be completely different from a kind of “religious nudism” and “nudist religious art” that would rest on a misunderstanding of TOB. Presenting Mary and Jesus naked in our Churches on earth would not be an adequate interpretation of such a “heavenly nakedness” in paradise.
If there is such a heavenly “universal nakedness,” this will be radically different - not only because of the beauty and supernatural “spiritualization” of the risen bodies but also because we will see everything in the eyes of God and His infinite and perfect love.

Further, there is no evidence of a “heavenly nakedness” in Holy Scripture, where the uncountable multitudes of Saints in heaven are described by the Prophets and Apocalypse as wearing white robes or beautifully colored robes and jewels, Mary is describes as being clothed with the sun, etc.
Even the angels in paradise are described by the Bible as “wearing clothes.” Look at this astonishingly beautiful description of the original beauty of Lucifer in Paradise from Ezechiel and the moving exhortation of God to us that we ought to lament the fall of such a great angel (which shows how God loves forever the beautiful angel Lucifer as he created and intended him)
“Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD-.  “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.  The workmanship of your timbrets and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created.  You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.  You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.  By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, 0 covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you….. (Ezekiel 28:12-17)
Compare also Isaiah 14.
I found a beautiful passage on this mystery of the white clothes and being clothed by the sun in Pope John Paul II. At any rate, neither will the clothes if they continue in heaven hide from us the whole beauty of the risen bodies nor will the eventual appearing of the risen bodies without clothes in any ways be lacking in modesty. Thus I propose we venerate this heavenly Jerusalem as a great mystery, letting ourselves be surprised by the joys of heaven which no eye has seen, no ear heard and which has not entered yet into any human heart. In any case, heaven will be perfectly pure and not prudish but perfectly and exuberantly beautiful.

Lauretta • Aug 26, 2009 - 11:45 am

Your last paragraph was beautiful.  Thank you. 

I think that a lot of what I understand TOB to be teaching is exactly what you stated in that paragraph and that it is possible in this life to begin to see glimmers of that here and now. This is particularly important to strive for in the area of our relationship with the opposite sex.  We can see the devastation all around us from that relationship being lived out in very unhealthy ways.  We could be so much more for one another if we could just get past some of these distorted ways of seeing and relating to one another.

I am saddened to see these harsh debates going on about TOB because I have seen and experienced myself the good that it does in peoples’ lives.  There may be a few that misunderstand and distort the teaching by promoting nudist colonies, etc. but that is not the majority that I see.  I see couples struggling with trying to relate to one another developing an intimacy and concern for the other; other couples who have been brainwashed by the culture into an anti-life mentality becoming open to life and experiencing the joy of children. 

Christopher’s method of teaching is one which secular people can relate to and understand.  They don’t seem to interpret him the same way that he is by some on these sites.  I just hope that all of this can be worked out through such forums as this rather than in the news media because I think that if parishes etc. start rejecting Christopher’s teaching we will experience a great loss.

Josef Seifert • Aug 26, 2009 - 11:58 pm

Dear Lauretta,
Thank you for your kind reply. I agree with you fully on the very singular value of JPII’s theology of the body and I agree with you as well that it would be a pity if C. West were impeded to spread this wonderful contribution so necessary for our time. I believe that none of us intends this (certainly not I) and in my last reply to Frangelo I refer to a very splendid passage from West’s book and sent Father the link.
Far from wishing to keep C.West from exercising his mission I only hope that his apostolate will gain from a number of justified criticisms (I find most of those on the Personalist page not so harsh as you) and that he will only improve his great mission by taking into his speeches and writings any grain of truth he finds in these criticisms, without losing his enthusiasm for “translating” the often difficult thoughts of JPII for much wider audiences.
I find it wonderful that you got so much from it and so many other persons as well and I cooperate here in Chile with two groups of delightful and very young people who are enthusiastic disciples of the TOB, retranslated Love and Responsibility into Spanish and spread its message and that of TOB.
Kind regards and much success with your mission in getting this message across to many persons and with living it,


Lauretta • Aug 27, 2009 - 1:03 pm

Thank you, Joseph, for all of the wonderful information and insights that you have contributed.  They have been very helpful for my understanding of things.

I’m not sure how you meant the statement about harshness but I will respond to both possibilities!  If I have been harsh, I apologize to all that I have treated in such a manner—I can tend to sound brusque when I am trying to get a point across without meaning to be that way.  The comments by others on this site have certainly not been harsh—particularly compared to the comments that I have read on other sites.  However, it isn’t always harshness that causes problems.  I know of parishes and individuals who are now hesitant to continue using or begin using CW materials because these concerns have been broached in a public forum.  This greatly concerns me because his is almost the only teaching on TOB that is easily understood by the common lay person.  I would hate to see his work halted because of minor issues since I truly have not seen those areas of disagreement cause the people we have worked with to form wrong assertions about the subject.

How interesting it must be for you to be working with people from another culture in this area.  It would be fun to compare the reactions of those from different cultures to see how much the cultural influence has affected people’s perception of things!  The people of Chile are blessed to have you sharing your wisdom with them!

frangelo • Aug 26, 2009 - 8:26 pm

Thank you, Josef.  Yours is a very beautiful reflection.  What is the text of JP II to which you refer?

Josef Seifert • Aug 26, 2009 - 11:31 pm


Dear Fr Angelo,

thank you for your words. I had actually a passage of John Paul II in mind from a beautiful section of Christopher West's book. In this book Christopher West, George Weigel - 2003 - Religion - 530 páginas C West quotes Saint Ignatius of Antiochia and Saint Paul and speaks of the Saints in heaven being “clothed in the light of God” which seems to be a beautiful thought, and Pope John Paul seems to say that their bodies will be seen purely in the light of God “as the glory of the human body before God”.

“They shall have no need of woven raiment,” says Ignatius of Antioch, “for they shall be clothed in eternal light.“14 John Paul II describes purity as “the glory of the human body before God….

On this topic Pope John Paul II has also written a beautiful line in the speech he gave when the renovation of the Sixtine Chapel was completed:

It seems that Michelangelo, in his own way, allowed himself to be guided by the evocative words of the Book of Genesis which, as regards the creation of the human being, male and female, reveals: “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame” (Gn 2:25). The Sistine Chapel is precisely - if one may say so - the sanctuary of the theology of the human body. In witnessing to the beauty of man created by God as male and female, it also expresses in a certain way, the hope of a world transfigured, the world inaugurated by the Risen Christ, and even before by Christ on Mount Tabor. We know that the Transfiguration is one of the main sources of Eastern devotion; it is an eloquent book for mystics, just as for St Francis Christ crucified contemplated on the mountain of La Verna was an open book.

If we are dazzled as we contemplate the Last Judgement by its splendour and its terror, admiring on the one hand the glorified bodies and on the other those condemned to eternal damnation, we understand too that the whole composition is deeply penetrated by a unique light and by a single artistic logic: the light and the logic of faith that the Church proclaims, confessing: “We believe in one God… maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen”. On the basis of this logic in the context of the light that comes from God, the human body also keeps its splendour and its dignity. If it is removed from this dimension, it becomes in some way an object, which depreciates very easily, since only before the eyes of God can the human body remain naked and unclothed, and keep its splendour and its beauty intact.

I refer particularly to the last sentences of this text that I find very profound.


frangelo • Aug 27, 2009 - 8:13 pm

Very beautiful, Joseph.  Thank you.

Josef Seifert • Aug 28, 2009 - 1:02 am

hank you. I am happy we agree on so many points and texts. HOPE TO MEET YOU SOON IN PERSON

frangelo • Aug 29, 2009 - 9:37 am


I would be honored.  Would you, perhaps be coming this way some time soon?  Unless God shows me otherwise I don’t think I will be going to Chile in the foreseeable future.

Lauretta • Aug 26, 2009 - 11:20 am


I am quite interested in understanding better the Church’s explanation of the conception of Christ.  In the Catechism it states:  “The Holy Spirit, ‘the Lord, the giver of Life,’ is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own.”

First I looked up fecundate which means: to make fruitful or productive; to fertilize.  When I combined that definition with the statement “a humanity drawn from her own”, I concluded that the Holy Spirit took the Blessed Mother’s ovum and miraculously fertilized it.  Is that wrong?  I always assumed that Christ had His mother’s DNA and that statement in the Catechism would seem to support that.  Is this an OK assumption? 

My final comment on phallic-ism!  My daughter, who was an English lit major said that in her classes she was told that phallic images are not always representations of penises but that they could have a generic meaning similar to the one I quoted from the dictionary earlier.

frangelo • Aug 26, 2009 - 8:08 pm


What you say of the fecundation of the Blessed Virgin is true.  A Virgin, by definition cannot conceive except by loosing her virginity, unless God intervenes by miracle.  The miracle is not an insemination or any kind of process whatsoever.  A miracle by definition is instantaneous, that is, without natural process, and unexplainable by natural causes.  So yes, the Virgin is made fruitful (fecundated) by the Holy Spirit, and yes Our Lord is biologically related to Our Lady; however, neither the Holy Spirit nor the Father generate or father Jesus, nor do they inseminate the Blessed Virgin.  The language of the Church is very specific and telling both in terms of what it does say and in what it is unwilling to say.

Part of the meaning of consecrated virginity, especially in its archetype of Our Lady’s virginity is that the earthly pleasure of marriage is forgone in view of union with God, which is not a sexual union.  It is not an eternal climax.  Sexual union and climax point up to Divine Union.  That is the proper use of analogy.  But it is confusing and inverted to project upwards, in an anthropomorphic way, the attributes of this world onto that of heaven.  Sexual union is a sign of the fulfillment, but not the fulfillment itself.

Furthermore, the Virginity of the Blessed Mother is itself a sign and is not not typified by lesser things that might introduce confusion into the sign.  Thus, things like the Arc of the Covenant and the Burning Bush are appropriate signs of the virginal maternity, but symbols of male and female genitalia are not, precisely because the conception of Jesus is not by way of intercourse and insemination, but by way of virginity and miracle.

I am no expert on phallic symbols, but, as I have already mentioned, what we are discussing here is West’s use of phallic symbology and in this case, he is certainly saying that the Easter Candle is a symbol of a penis.

Bill Drennen • Aug 27, 2009 - 11:18 am

Thank you father,

I love this clarity. It is why I did not like the misuse of the sexual analogy but did not have this clear way of explaining it.

On the side, I have an interest in miracles from the engineer’s perspective. I know what I am about to say is in danger of serious folly, presuming to fit God into an equation, but I will proceed nonetheless and risk the lightning bolts. Here I go; others feel free to dive for cover:

I happen to be under the seemingly foolish delusion that one day in heaven I will understand the miracles that were preformed here on earth and even have equations to describe them. I base this on 2 ideas I consider to be true and beyond doubt.

1’st is the fact that any force that impinges upon the physical world must necessarily have a physical model to describe the observed behavior.

2’nd is my platonic belief in mathematics, shared by Einstein himself who said that reality exists independent from anything we can measure. Mathematics then, far from being an exact representation of reality is really only a model. It is a language of observed phenomenon that evolves.

The church defines a miracle as not “natural” but in reality nature as we experience it, itself does not have a perfectly accurate set of laws that are always explained by an equation. There remain many “miracles” of science such as the mystery of the unified force theory still without any good model or the warping of gravity relative to time and space or the origins of black holes ect.

Ultimately one could say that since God is the origin and source of the universe, his actions in the physical world must be explainable by the ultimate mathematical function which solves every equation.

The church in its definition is attempting to distinguish between nature operating on it’s own as we experience it every day, and God’s intervention into nature. In reality however, we may discover that God’s intervention is intimately joined to his universe, he is holding it in existence and provides that missing function solving the unified force theory and every other unsolved theory. The universe is all the time a miracle second by second and there really is no “natural” un-miraculous happening.

What really is “natural” if everything is a miracle?

frangelo • Aug 27, 2009 - 8:04 pm


I guess the question that underscores the problem you are dealing with is creation ex nihilo, which means bringing something into existence without preexisting matter and without secondary or instrumental causes.  In effect God’s intellect and will are one.  What is intelligible to God is given existence merely by the act of His will.  Miracles concerning things which already exist are similar.  That is why they are miracles.

Bill Drennen • Aug 28, 2009 - 10:29 am

I don’t think so Father. The only similarity is that we do not understand it physically. In the first case the miracle is beyond nature and God makes nature whatever he wants to make it. But in the second case where he has already made a natural world with causes and effects, he then chooses to affect that world in a new way where the cause may be a mystery but the effect is measurable by the same principles of that nature he created.

I can create a sculpture out of clay and one out of marble. If I had the ability to magically alter the clay or the marble statue without a chisel, the changes to the statues will still be described by the principles of their medium only without knowing the cause or the source.

May all inquiry be blessed this day in the spirit of St. Augustine.

frangelo • Aug 28, 2009 - 11:28 am


Yes, in the spirit of St. Augustine, we can have a charitable and enlightening discussion on this topic.

My understanding is that the middle instance which you propose is indeed possible, but that when the Church identifies a true miracle it is seeking what can only be explained by direct supernatural causality and not by natural.  This is why “instantaneous” is one of the qualities of a true miracle, insofar as there is no process, no intermediate states and no instrumental causality. 

I am sure you would agree that God is capable of acting in this fashion, even on things already existing.  Certainly the effect is “measurable by the same principles of that nature he created,” but the cause would not only be mysterious, but unmeasurable, because not finite and not producing incremental states or dependent on created instrumental causes.

Otherwise, the transformation would not be truly miraculous, only its process hidden to us at this time, and not fundamentally undiscoverable by man, since, if as you say it would “still be described by principles of [its] own medium, then those principles would be those of science and mathematics.  If that were true, then, it would seem, that neither would their be anything fundamentally preventing man from replicating the process, in which case the transformation would be by definition not a miracle.

Or do I misunderstand you?

Bill Drennen • Aug 28, 2009 - 5:47 pm

Father, I follow and agree up to a point here but have trouble with your last paragraph.

Is it not true that what may be “fundamentally undiscoverable by man” on this earth, may in the next world be understood?

Also, we know that science and math as we discover it and define it by our models is always changing and that which we discover is bounded by the parameters of that sphere of discovery. Classical physics does not apply to the quantum level without modification and quantum physics can not be applied outside its boundaries. This is only 1 example. As we learn new things to explain new phenomenon outside our understanding we conceive of new models to describe them. It is not so much a reach to imagine we will do so in heaven with all we discover.

So then we are not bound by the principles of any one medium in our ability to understand phenomenon.

As far as man replicating phenomenon he observes, it is not the same thing at all for man to understand and for man to have the power to cause an occurrence.

Beyond all this I think I am questioning the dividing line the church describes between what is natural and what is miraculous. Both definitions, I am sure can be stretched to the point that the lines become blurred. What is natural is really miraculous and visa versa.

I do however, in all this on this day of Augustine, have the sneaking suspicion that there is a small child out there wanting to ask me why I am trying to count the grains of sand on the beach.

frangelo • Aug 29, 2009 - 9:35 am


Certainly you agree that God can give existence or whatever transformation to already existing creatures simply by willing it, though he never wills, nor can he, a metaphysical absurdity.  Beyond that it is an interesting question as to whether, when God intervenes into the existing universe, that intervention can be measured by the laws which He has created.  I would surmise that might be the case up to a point, but that even while there might be a blur, there is nevertheless some demarcation between what can be accomplished by nature and what it beyond it, between what is knowable to the finite mind and what is not.

For the 4th part of this comment thread click here.

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