Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Theology of the Martini

Last night, my fiancée and I, both for the first time, had a martini.  When I asked her what she thought of it, she made a comment that my overly-theological mind immediately connected to Pope Bl. John Paul II's Theology of the Body [TOB], which I have been studying this semester.

She said that she liked the first taste and the last taste of the martini, but not the middle taste.  She liked the taste when the martini first touched her taste buds, she disliked the burning sensation that she called the "pre-aftertaste," and she liked the aftertaste.  Upon hearing this, my mind immediately went to the three ages of man discussed in TOB.

The three chapters of Part One of TOB (Cycles 1-3) discuss a triptych of sets of statements by Christ in the Gospels, each relating to marriage.  The first is Christ's rejection of divorce via an appeal to man's beginning in Mt 19:3-8 (TOB 1:2).  The second is Christ's comment about adultery in the heart in Mt 5:27-28 (TOB 24:1).  The third is Christ's response to the Sadducees' attempted mocking of the resurrection in Mk 12:24-27, with additional statements from Lk 20:34-36 (TOB 64:3-4).  From this triptych, John Paul II drew out a theological anthropology, that is, a view of the nature of man according to the ways of God.

From the first set of statements, John Paul II discussed original man, that is, man before the Fall, man in his original holiness (TOB 1-23).  From the second set, John Paul II discussed concupiscent man, man as affected by original sin and its effects (TOB 24-63).  From the third set, John Paul II discussed redeemed man, that is, man as changed by the grace of God received due to Christ (TOB 64-86).  Man was created good; when he sinned, he was altered by concupiscence, and goodness seemed impossible; after Christ came and poured out grace upon him, he had the ability to be divinized by this grace and attain a state even beyond his original goodness.

I see these three states of man (not first thought of by John Paul II, even if the exact terms were chosen by him: one can see this view throughout Christian tradition) in my fiancée's statement on the martini.  The first taste corresponds to the first man, original man, man as created good with his preternatural gifts in the Garden of Eden.  The middle taste, the burning taste that she disliked, corresponds to fallen man, concupiscent man, man choked by sin.  The final taste, the aftertaste, corresponds to redeemed man: after the fall of the middle taste comes the greatness of the aftertaste, just as after the fall of man comes the greatness of redemption.  "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:20).  I will extrapolate from my fiancée's statement to suppose she thought the final taste better than the first (for, typologically, that is what should happen): thus, after the "pre-aftertaste," that burn of sin that precedes redemption, comes the greater wondrous taste, the brilliance of the redemptive aftertaste.  From the burn comes the greater taste.  It is reflective of that paradoxical statement of St. Augustine in the Easter Exsultet: "O happy fault, which has merited for us so great a redeemer!"  O happy burn, which has merited for us so great an aftertaste!

Is it disrespectful of the faith?  I pray that it is not.  I see it more as a symbol of God's glorious plan reflected in a creation of man, man made in God's image (cf. Gen 1:26-27).  Thus, whenever I have a martini from now on, I will remember the wondrous plan of God our Saviour, Who has redeemed us and, despite our sin, drawn us into His unapproachable light, making us partakers of His divine nature, divinizing us, making us radiant in the Taboric light.  May we always be able to find the glorious truths of the faith reflected in the world around us, as did Joseph Mary Plunkett did in his worthily famous poem, "I See His Blood Upon the Rose."  May the martini be an example of how we can find Christ in all and thus keep Him always in our minds, "praying unceasingly" (cf. 1 Thes 5:17).

Papież Bł. Jan Paweł II, módl się za nami!
Pope Bl. John Paul II, pray for us!

Nota Bene: The Theology of the Body references are to the edition by Dr. Michael Waldstein, published by Pauline Books & Media in 2006.

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