Sunday, September 13, 2020

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity


In Act III of In Front of the Jeweler's Shop, Wojtyla addresses a major theme in marital and family systems:  sin patterns passed down through generations.  The most widely known of such studies is with "Alcoholic Family Systems", in which patterns of addiction replicate down the generations.  Wojtyla addresses the dilemma in attempting to heal such patterns with Teresa saying: "Monica soon mentioned her parents.  They were absent in spirit.  Monica's love grew outside of them, or in spite of them--that is what she thought.  I, however, knew that she grew out of that base which they had left in her."  This is the classic desire of the new couple, to heal by pretending that they are separate from the iniquity of their parents and Wojtyla makes this hope of escape explicit through Monica: "Ah, when are we going to begin to live our lives at last!  When will you be only Christopher, free from those associations?  I want so much to be yours, and there is only one thing constantly in my way--that I am myself."--if only I could leave myself behind when I marry, then I would be free of their iniquity!

Teresa addresses this dilemma from the parent's perspective:  "That evening I could not help realizing, Andrew, how heavily we all weigh upon their fate.  Take Monica's heritage:  the rift of that love is so deeply embedded in her that her own love stems from a rift too.  Christopher tries to heal it. . . . We live in them for a very long time.  When they grow up under our eyes, they seem to become inaccessible, like impermeable soil, but they have already absorbed us.  And though outwardly they shut themselves off, inwardly we remain in them, and--a frightful thought--their lives somehow test our own creation, our own suffering".  She accepts the humility of the iniquity that she has passed on to the next generation.  And she addresses the desire to pretend that one can escape the need for healing: "I must go up to them and say this:  My children, nothing has ceased to be; man must return to the place from which his existence grows--and how strongly he desires it to grow through love."

Wojtyla establishes the necessary process of healing through the new marriage and denies the pretense of leaving the iniquity behind: "Monica, what do you know about your mother's depths and your father's--Stefan's?  When the day of our wedding comes, you will emerge from between them. . . . So when the day of our wedding comes, I will come and take you away from them, a human being ripe for pain--for the new pain of love, for the pain of a new birth...".  Yes, she will emerge from her family of origin and join with Andrew and they will begin the new pain of love, the suffering that offers them the possibility of healing from their parents' iniquity, the optimistic frame of suffering redemptively that is a major part of Wojtyla's life and thought as gleaned from his own experience of suffering: yes to the hope of healing, the hope of loving as God loves, and to the pain of healing that has already been redeemed by Christ in his passion and crucifixion, and through which we can join Him in theosis.

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