I have for some years now accepted the term ‘hedonist’, as an accurate descriptor of who I am. I have called myself such unapologetically and sometimes even proudly. A hedonist pursues the outer limits of his/her own pleasure with such fervor as to render himself or herself sometimes answerable to no other god, but the body. Anyone who knows me even semi-well will probably concur that this is true of me.
So the day’s reading, Romans 13, 11-14 specifically calls me out. Targeted, it would seem, to those all too willing to consume themselves in the flesh, these passages are about the body’s limits; the body’s need to pay attention to the soul. But is it simply that? The Judeo-Christian tradition often offers an analysis of the scripture that values pursuit of the spiritual over any pursuit that is carnal. More accurately, that which is carnal is relegated to the profane, as opposite of what is sacred.
But if the Advent is about preparing for something to approach, preparing oneself for the possibility of goodness and God, then shouldn’t the entire person be considered? “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness…” says a section of the reading. We’re to (as a commentator to a previous post opined) make of ourselves an empty vessel, a new vessel which can now be filled with an understanding that makes of all our transactions, a truth. Further, the sorts of carnal activities that unbalance us by having us awake nocturnally, will definitely not leave us rested enough, clear-headed enough to make the sort of judgment we need to make, to “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ”.
As I’ve tried to be more clear about the practice of my ‘vices’ and under which conditions, I’m actually making the most ‘honest’ use of my body, I’m sometimes tempted to see honesty as solely a matter of truth-telling, about what I do, rather than answering the honesty of what the body really needs / wants. Sometimes, the Roger who cannot live with his own skin is answering something he thinks is honest when he goes out to the bar, when in fact, the body would rather be still; when in fact the body will make more patient decisions if it gives itself (and of course its liver) a rest. The same obtains for the decision to have sex, and lots of I,. “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” The provision is for something beyond that; it is for the taking care of the body as temple (Jerusalem), the temple as body, so that the way for the entrance of the Holy Ghost comes clearer, and the universe needs our bodies for its miracles the Book keeps telling us. It needs our bodies to replenish consistently for the coming of the god in us.