Book outline (ToBExtended)

Outline: The Theology of the Body, Extended: the Spiritual Signs of Childbirth, Impairment, and Dying.
Susan Windley-Daoust


Chapter 1: “Lord, I Want To See”: Perceiving the Signs of Love

Summary: This chapter introduces the Theology of the Body both for people who have not read it, and for those who are confused by the secondary literature’s emphasis on sexuality.  This theological movement focuses on the importance of right perception: how do we perceive the signs given by God that direct us to his love?  John Paul II, using unusual sources (phenomenology, the “contemplative attitude,” and Carmelite mysticism) argues that primordial sign of love is the human body: "The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it." (Man and Woman 19:4)  Much of this chapter is a “backgrounder,” arguing that if John Paul does indeed use these atypical resources to point toward human experience of the body as a sign that point to God, other primordial experiences of the body—childbirth, impairment, and dying—likewise function as signs that point toward union with God.  The careful attention to background in John Paul’s theology gives us an idea how to make these constructive insights, and what such a move will help us perceive.

I.                 The Impact Of What We See
a.      The help of artistic perception
b.      The help of perception in prayer
II.               The Background: Phenomenological Philosophy and Carmelite Spirituality
a.      The Role of the “Phenomenological Attitude”
                                                  i.     The move to the contemplative attitude             
b.      The Role of Carmelite Spirituality
                                                  i.     Prayer as initiated by the Holy Spirit
                                                 ii.     Detachment from all created things
                                               iii.     An engaged, transforming God     
                                                iv.     The God of relationship
III.             What Is The Theology of the Body?
a.      Core insights in Theology of the Body literature
b.      Encountering the audiences: the question of genre
                                                  i.     The Theology of the Body as parabolic             
                                                 ii.     The Theology of the Body as poetic
                                               iii.     John Paul II’s engagement with scripture as the living word of God
IV.             The Ensouled Body As Sign
V.              The Theology of the Body, Extended: Childbirth, Impairment, and Dying

Chapter 2: The Gift of the Birthing Body: The Vocation to Motherhood

Summary: The chapter on childbirth begins with a cultural critique of the current medical practices in giving birth, which many say is unnecessarily medicalized and divorced from any positive (never mind spiritual) associations.  A phenomenology of natural childbirth (a birth with few medical interventions) yields a more powerful experience of a Theology of the Body “language of self-giving and fruitfulness.”  The chapter faces the experience of pain and how it is interpreted (both in the Christian tradition and in human experience), but it also faces the experiences of being overcome, yielding, availability to God, self-abjection, hospitality, and tenderness.  This chapter looks at those experiences with a contemplative attitude and insights from the Theology of the Body: all the experiences, in different ways, signal the human being’s call to give oneself in love.  In an important way, we are called to some form of spiritual motherhood or fatherhood, and this bodily experience gives witness to that.

I.                 Living in Reality?  Childbirth Seen as Disease
a.      A Short History of Childbirth in America
b.      A Typical Pregnancy/Childbirth Experience Today
II.               A Phenomenology of Natural Childbirth
a.      Physical and Emotional Signs of Giving Birth
                                                  i.     First stage of labor
                                                 ii.     Transition
                                               iii.     Second stage of labor
                                                iv.     Third stage of labor
                                                 v.     First observations on physical and emotional signs
III.             Pain in Childbirth: a Defining Reality, or Not?
a.      The neurology of pain in childbirth
b.      The theology of pain in childbirth
                                                  i.     Scriptural sources on pain in childbirth
                                                 ii.     Fear, Sin, and Childbirth
IV.             A Theology of Childbirth: Living in (Spiritual) Reality
a.      The present moment
b.      Disponibilit√© (availability)
c.      Self-abjection
d.      Hospitality
                                                  i.     The otherness of the birth process
                                                 ii.     The otherness of the child
                                               iii.     The otherness of the Holy Spirit
e.      Love and Tenderness
V.              What the Theology of the Body, extended, says about spiritual motherhood (and fatherhood)
a.      Mary as Spiritual Mother
b.      Spiritual fatherhood
c.      Our own vocation to God’s Family

Chapter 3: The Gift of the Impaired Body: the Vocation to Brotherhood

Summary: This chapter expands to the primordial experience of impairment, or limitation.  Human beings, by definition, are limited.  But we have misspent ages trying to define what is acceptable and unacceptable limitation within a human being—through illness, disability, injury, and more.  This chapter is in deep conversation with contemporary theologies of disability (especially Vanier, Reynolds and Yong) but ultimately finds its inspiration in the concept of kenosis, or self-emptying.  The chapter rejects humanly created boundaries of what it means to be human, seeing how they have been used for discrimination and judgment.  But much of Jesus Christ’s incarnation and death—his unique meeting with limitation and impairment--points to the ecstatic reality of his life and identity coming from and returning to God the Father.   We who are impaired are called to do no less, to recognize life and identity as coming constantly from God, and to recognize that we are called to offer it back to God.  The chapter ends with case studies of three different types of impairment, and how those experiences may differ from each other: genetic, psychological, and physical.  We are all called to some form of spiritual brother or sisterhood, and facing the experience of impairment lends meaning to what it means to be a spiritual brother or sister to Jesus Christ.

I.                Living in Reality?: How We See Impairment
a.      A Reality Defined By Others: Resisting Sentimentality and Fear
II.          The Life of Christ and His Disciples: In Weakness, Strength
a.      The Kenosis of Jesus Christ
b.      Jesus Christ's Ministry of Healing
c.      Paul's “Thorn in the Flesh”
III.         The Theology of the Impaired Body: Living in (Ecstatic) Reality
a.      A Phenomenology of Vulnerable Communion
                                                            i.     Disponibilit√©
                                                           ii.     Fear
                                                         iii.     Mutual Vulnerability
                                                         iv.     The Healing Gift of Presence
IV.         The Kenosis of God and Ecstatic Identity
a.      The Holy Spirit and the Modern Search for Providence
V.          The Case Studies: Down Syndrome, Depression, and Deafness
a.      Genetic Impairment: Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21)
b.      Disorders Affecting Personality: Depression and Dementia
c.      Physical Impairment: Deafness/Hearing Loss
VI.             Spiritual Brotherhood and Sisterhood: a Call To Relationship and Witness
Chapter 4: The Gift of the Dying Body: the Vocation to Elderhood

Summary: The last chapter of this book focuses on the experience of dying, and asks the question the Theology of the Body insights would naturally pose: how is the dying body given in love?  There are similarities to the second chapter’s focus on the experience of birthing, with a focus on being overwhelmed, availability to God, self-abjection, hospitality, and tenderness.  There are also shared insights with the previous chapter on impairment, because death in the most visual and experienced limitation but human beings perceive.  The presentation of death in the third chapter of Genesis is examined as a way that God shapes human limitation to draw humanity to himself, even after the Fall.  In conversation with the ars moriendi tradition and the hospice movement, we take a contemplative look at how we die and how it may point us to a God eager to nourish us beyond this limit and into a union with his life.  This sign reveals in all of us a call to the vocation to elderhood—that is, we all exist in order to teach others how to die, or specifically, how to give one’s dying ensouled body in love.

I.                 Living in Reality?: How We See Dying
a.      What Dying Used To Be
b.      A Phenomenology of Dying
                                                  i.     American resistance to dying
                                                 ii.     Stages of death and dying, and the death awareness movement
                                               iii.     The prophetic role of the hospice movement
II.               Death as Evil vs. Death as Gift: the Medicinal Value of Dying
a.      On protection
b.      On suffering
III.             The Theology of the Dying Body: In Weakness, Ecstatic Strength
a.      How Is The Dying Body Given In Love?
b.      The Present Moment
c.      Self-abjection
d.      Hospitality
e.      Love and Tenderness
f.       The Challenge of Alzheimer’s Disease
IV.             The Call To Elderhood

Afterword: The Gift of the Praying Body

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