Spiritual writers, social scientists, and theologians James and Evelyn Whitehead think it is high time for the Christian faithful to reject the traditional biases against the body, sexuality, and desire. The authors, long associated with the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago, have reframed these three in their salutary salute to holy eros, which engenders passion, pleasure, justice, and transformation.
"The human journey is sustained by eros and grace.
Eros names the vital energy that animates all creation.
Eros lies at the source of our desires for friendship and love, for fruitful work, for life in abundance.
"Grace names the healing energy that flows from our loving God, transforming the world through compassion and hope.
"Eros and grace embrace in the heart of God."
Although we usually associate eros with the engines of sexual desire, it is much more than that: "It is an ebullient, eager, and sometimes disruptive energy that moves us again and again toward more life. . . . the energy of eros also opens pathways to our passionate God."
The Whiteheads proclaim that the Holy One is involved in the affairs of humanity as they survey the Biblical themes of grace and divine extravagance. In a fine section on "The Body's Romance with Eros," the authors discuss the potencies of sensuality and sexuality; the movements of eros in energy and tension; our body image and the body sacramental; and the eros of pleasure as a pathway to presence and gratitude. It is so good to read about positive ways of thinking and practicing eros in everyday life.
The Whiteheads also connect the passions with hope, suffering, anger, and compassion. The vital energies of eros infuse us with the transformative power of hope, the ability to cope with suffering and pain, the chance to use anger as a spur to righteous indignation, and the call to love our neighbors and reach out to strangers.
In a section of the book titled "The Rhythms of Eros," the authors deal with presence and absence as a means of honoring light and darkness; holding on and letting go as learning the rules of engagement; feasting and fasting as nourishing the Spirit; and shadows of eros with a look at ways vital energy can go awry. The Whiteheads are convinced that our erotic lives stir within us wonder, imagination, creativity, curiosity, and generosity. Holy Eros is a rich and compelling work that arouses us to a zest for life.