These are the Sacraments
as described by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., Litt.D.
VII: The Sacrament of Matrimony
Love exists-on Three (3) different Levels:
the Sex Level, the Friendship-Love, and the
Sex-Love, is directed-toward Another, for the Sake-of Pleasure,
which the other-Person gives the Ego. The Partner is regarded-as One-of the 'Opposite-Sex', instead-of as a
'Person'. The Infatuation associated-with it, is nothing but the Boundless Desire-of Self-Centeredness, to express itself
at all Costs. Because it cares only for, its own-Rapture, and its own-Fulfillment, such Love, quickly turns-to
Hate, when no-longer Satisfied.
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
Satisfaction-of Sex (Subordinate-Partner)
Bodily Data to
dominate the Will of the Soul
Love as an Act
of the Will
Sex-Love, and its Partner, the Passion of Hate, originate-in the Body;
and demand Carnal Reciprocity.
Personal-Love originates-in the Will of the Soul, and includes Sex in Marriage.
Sacramental Love originates-in the Will of the Soul, and expects no Reciprocity.
There is no direct-connection between the Flesh, and Love.
Over-and-above Sex-Love, there is Personal-Love.
Personal-Love includes Sex in
Marriage, but in its Essence, it is based-on the 'Objective Value' of another Person. The other-Person may be
Loved for Artistic or Moral Excellence, or because-of a Common, Sympathetic Interest.
Personal-Love exists wherever there is Reciprocity, Duality, and Understanding. This kind of Love
can exist-with Carnal Love in Marriage, or quite apart-from
Carnal-Love, for there is no direct-connection between the
Flesh, and Love. It is possible to be in-Love,
without there being Physical Attraction, as it is possible to have
Physical Attraction, without being-in Love. Personal-Love
is in the Will, not in the Body.
In Personal Love, there is no substitution-of Persons possible; this Person is
Loved, and not another. But, in Carnal or
Erotic-Love, since there is not of necessity, a Love for another
Person, but only a Love of Self, it is possible to find a Substitute-for the One who gives
Pleasure. Sex-Love Substitutes
One occasion-of Pleasure for the Other, but,
Real Love knows no Substitution. No One can take the place of a Mother.
Beyond each of these Two (2) is Christian Love, which
Loves everyone, either as a Potential, or Actual, Child-of God, Redeemed-by
Christ; it is a Love which
Loves without even a Hope-of-Return. It Loves
the Other, not because-of Attractiveness, or Talents, or Sympathy, but because-of God. To the
Christian, a Person is One for whom I must Sacrifice myself,
not One who must exist-for my-sake. Sex-Love demands Carnal
Reciprocity; Personal-Love finds it Difficult to-survive
without it; but Christian Love requires no Reciprocity. Its Inspiration is
Christ, Who Loved us while we were
Sinners and, therefore, Unlovable.
The Sanctity of Married Life is not something which takes place along-side
Marriage, but by-and-through Marriage.
The Vocation-to Marriage is a Vocation-to Happiness, which comes through
Holiness and Sanctity. Unity (1) of
Two (2), in One (1) Flesh is not
something that God Tolerates, but something that He Wills. Because
He Wills it, He
Sanctifies the Couple, through its use. Instead of Diminishing, in any way, the Union-of their
Spirits with One-another, it contributes-to their Ascension-in Love. The
Sacrament which Sanctifies this kind-of Love
God is Love
via His Holy Will
God is Pure Spirit
Capable of Love
(in-common with God)
Capable of Sex
(in-common with Animals)
Incapable of Love
(no Rational Soul)
Capable of Sex
Marriage: A Symbol of the Nuptials of Christ and the Church
Marriage, as a Sacrament, belongs-to an entirely
Different Order than the mere Union-of Man and Woman, through a Civil Contract. It basically regards a Husband and Wife, as Symbols-of another
Marriage; namely, the Nuptials-of Christ and
Christ and the Church, from Bede's Commentary on the Song-of-Songs (St Albans, ca. 1130). The
Song-of-Songs opens: "O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth".
This image of the Bridegroom kissing the Bride, is the Work-of an artist in the Monastery of St Albans, England. The Venerable Bede (673?-735)
understood the Bridegroom of the 'Song', as Christ, and the Bride, as the Church. St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) read the text as evoking the
Intimate Relation of the Soul and God.
The Analogy-of the Heavenly Nuptials, goes back-to the Old Testament (Song-of-Songs), where
God appears-as the Bridegroom, and Israel appears-as the Bride. When
God becomes Incarnate, in Christ,
He called Himself, and was called, the Bridegroom;
it is the 'New Israel', or the Church, which becomes His Bride, or
His Spouse. It is often Forgotten, that our Blessed Lord called
Himself a Bridegroom. When Our Lord
was asked why the Disciples-of John Fasted, but His Own did not,
He answered: "Can you expect the Men of the Bridegroom's company to go Fasting, while the
Bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the Bridegroom with them, they cannot be expected to Fast" (Mark 2:19). John the Baptist called
himself "the friend of the Bridegroom", or what might be, in Modern Language, the "Best
Man". The Title-of Bridegroom, which belonged-to Christ,
was shared-by no Other, as John himself said: "The Bride is for the Bridegroom; but the Bridegroom's friend, who stands by and
listens to Him, rejoices too, rejoices at hearing the Bridegroom's Voice" (John 3:29).
On the other hand, the Wife's Relationship-to the Husband, is the Relationship-of the Church to
Christ. That is why, when Saint Paul speaks-of Marriage, he says,
"Those Words are a High Mystery ... applying ... to Christ and His Church" (Ephesians 5:32). The Ultimate Consummation-of
this Espousal-of Christ and His Church, will be after the
Resurrection, when the Church "without
Spot or Wrinkle", will appear-as a Bride, adorned-for Her
Husband, or as the "Spouse of the Lamb" (Apocalypse 21:2, 9:1, 22:17).
The Sacrament of Matrimony is not a 'Pious Extra', added-to the Marriage Contract; it is
rather the Elevation-of a Natural Marriage Contract, to the Order of Grace, in which the Husband
Loves the Wife, as Christ
Loves the Church; and the Wife Loves the
Husband, as the Church Loves Christ. The Husband and Wife are not just a Symbol-of the
Union (1) of Christ and the Church;
they enjoy a Real Participation-in that Union (1). As Christ lives-in the
Church, and the Church in
Christ, so the Husband lives-in the Wife, and the Wife in the Husband, and the Two (2) are in
One (1) Flesh.
The Role-of the Priest, in the Sacrament is to-Ratify, to-Witness, and to-Bestow the
Church's Official Blessing, on those whom She now Empowers-to-Furnish, New Members to
Christ's Mystical Body. This is the One (1)
Sacrament, in which the 'Contracting Parties' are the Ministers-of the Sacrament,
to each other. In the Words of One to the Other, and in the giving-of the Hand to each Other, there is the Mutual Surrender-of Rights, and the Acceptance-of Duties.
But, to be a Sacrament, a Representative-of the Church
must be there, to Witness it.
Matrimony, in virtue-of the Mutual Inherence of Man and Woman, is a little Cameo, Reflecting the
Greater Espousal-of Christ and His Body, the
Church. The Word "Body", is used throughout Scripture,
to Signify not only the Human Body, but also the Eucharistic
Body, or the Real Presence of Christ, and also the Mystical
Body, which is the Church. All Three (3), are in
some-way, United (1). In the Marriage Ceremony, the Bridegroom, though he does not say so Expressly, is by Implication,
saying-to the Bride: "This is my Body; this is my Blood". The Bride, says the same to him. It is a kind-of
"Consecration", on a Lower-level. When during the Mass, they hear
the Words-of Consecration, "This is My Body; This is My Blood", they give
themselves to-Christ; in the same Action, they give themselves to One Another. The Epistle of their
Marriage Mass, reminds them of this Bond-to the Church:
"Wives must Obey their Husbands as they would Obey the Lord. The Man is the Head to which the Woman's Body is United,
just as Christ is the Head of the Church, He, the Savior, on Whom the Safety of His Body depends; and Women must owe Obedience at all points to
their Husbands, as the Church does to Christ" (Ephesians 5:22-24).
The Man is the "Head" of the Wife, as Christ is the
Head of the Church. What did
Christ do for the Church, as Her Head?
He Died for it. Hence, Husbands must show
Love to their Wives. The "Headship" is not Overlordship,
but Love unto Sacrifice. The Wife, in her turn, will show to the
Husband, the Devotion and Love the
Church does to Christ.
As further-Evidence of how Seriously the Church takes Marriage,
as the Symbol-of Christ and the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas makes a
Distinction between a Marriage that is merely Ratified-at the Altar,
and a Marriage that is Ratified and Consummated, when Husband and Wife become
Two (2), in One (1) Flesh. The
Church has always made this Distinction, in Her Canon Law, concerning
Marriage. A Marriage that is merely Ratified-at the
Altar, but not Consummated, represents the Union-of Christ
with the Soul, through Grace. A
Marriage Ratified-at the Altar, and Consummated in the Marriage Act, Symbolizes the
Union-of Christ and the Church.
The Marriage that is Ratified only, is a Symbol-of a Personal Union of the
Soul with Christ, through Grace. This
Union can be broken-by Sin. If, therefore, a Husband and Wife, separated immediately-after the
Marriage, at the Church Door, and never Consummated their Marriage, that
Marriage would be Breakable, under certain conditions, because it is only the Symbol-of the Union-of the
Soul and Grace. But, the Marriage Bond of a
Baptized Husband and Wife, which has been Consummated, is Absolutely Unbreakable, as the Union-of
Christ and the Church is Unbreakable.
Marriage as the Symbol of Christ and the Church
Two (2) Distinctions
Two (2) Symbols-of Christ and the Church
Ratified-at the Altar,
but not Consummated
Breakable by Sin,
Symbol-of a Personal Union of the
Soul, with Christ, through Grace
|2) Ratified-at the Altar,
Symbol-of the Union of Christ and
the Bride of Christ, the Church
The Administration of the Sacrament
The Sacrament, when Administered-at a Nuptial Mass takes
place before the Mass commences, and begins-with an Exhortation-to the Couple. A sample Exhortation,
often appears in Liturgical Books, though it is not part-of the Sacrament; a Priest may and should
prepare his own Sermonette to the Lovers.
After the Young Couple have been reminded of the Nature-of the Sacrament and its Obligations,
the Priest asks the Groom: "[Name] will you take [Name] here present for your Lawful Wife, according to the Rite of our Holy Mother
Church"? The Bridegroom answers: "I will". Then the Bride is asked: "[Name] will
you take [Name] here present for your Lawful Husband, according to the Rite of our Holy Mother the Church"? The Bride answers:
"I will". The Priest bids them join their Right Hands; then First, the Groom, and then the Bride says:
"I take you [name] for my Lawful Wife [Husband] to have and to hold, from this day forward, for Better, for Worse, for Richer,
for Poorer, in Sickness and in Health, until Death do us part".
Then follows the Confirmation-of the Marriage Bond, in which the Priest says: "Your Marriage Contract, I, by the
Authority of the Church, now Seal and Bless, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". When the Ring is
Blessed, the Priest says: "Bless, O Lord, this Ring, which we are Blessing in Thy Name, so that she who wears it,
keeping Faith with her Husband in Unbroken Loyalty, may ever remain at Peace with Thee, Obedient to Thy Will, and may live with him always in Mutual Love,
through Christ Our Lord. Amen".
Because the Sacrament represents the Heavenly Espousals,
the Church practically-asks the Bride and Groom, what 'Guarantee' they will give, that they
Love One-another until Death. If they say, "We Pledge our
Word", the Church will answer: "Words and Pacts can be Broken, as the
History of the World too well proves". If they say, "We give the Pledge of a Ring", the
Church will answer: "Rings can be Broken and Lost, and with them the Memory of the Promise".
It is only when the Ring which is given, becomes a Symbol-of the Love-of
Christ, and His Church, does the Church Unite
in-Marriage. Eternal Salvation is involved-in their Reception-of the
Sacrament. Their Lives become Bonded at the Altar, Sealed-with the Seal-of the
Cross, Signed-with the Sign-of the Eucharist, which they both Receive-into their
Souls, as a Pledge-of their Unity (1) in the
Spirit, which is the Foundation-of their Unity (1) in the Flesh.
The Bride in the Marriage Ceremony
In a Nuptial Mass, the Bride and Bridegroom come-to the
Altar, immediately after the Pater Noster. The Prayer
that is said here, is for the Bride. There is no special Prayer said-for the Bridegroom. Part of the
Prayer, is as follows:
"Look in Thy Mercy upon this Thy handmaid, who is to be joined in Wedlock and entreats Protection and Strength from Thee.
May the Yoke of Love and of Peace be upon her. True and Chaste may she Wed in Christ; and may she ever follow the Pattern of Holy Women; and may she
be Dear to her Husband like Rachel; Wise like Rebecca; Long-lived and Faithful like Sara. May the Author-of Deceit, work none of his Evil Deeds
within her. May she ever be Knit-to the Faith and to the Commandments. May she be True to One Husband, and fly from Forbidden Approaches. May she
Fortify her Weakness by Strong Discipline. May she be Grave in Demeanor and Honored for her Modesty. May she be well-Taught in Heavenly Lore.
May she be Fruitful in Offspring. May her Life be Good and Sinless. May she Win the Rest-of the Blessed, and the Kingdom-of Heaven".
The Bridegroom is now included-in the Prayer for the Bride: "May they both see their children's children unto
the Third and Fourth Generation, and may they reach the Old Age which they desire. Through the same Christ, Our Lord".
The Liturgy is very interesting in that it gives the Emphasis-to the Bride. Even from a
Worldly point-of-view, the Bride is the One who receives the 'Attention', in Marriage. There are Showers of Gifts for the Bride, but not always for
the Bridegroom. The Marriage Song is "Here Comes the Bride", but there is no Song: "Here
Comes the Bridegroom". Everyone, too, is interested-in what the Bride wears, not in what the Bridegroom wears.
At the Wedding of the Lamb, in Heaven - all focus is on the Groom. Eternal Glory is for the Bridegroom.
In Scripture, where there is the Final Marriage of the
Church and Christ in Heavenly Glory, after
the End-of the World, all the Emphasis is upon the Bridegroom, Christ,
and little upon the Bride. It would seem as if Time, Human History, or the Waiting-for the Second Coming of
Christ, is the Season-of the Bride; but Eternal Glory is for the
Bridegroom. In the "Book of Ruth", where the
Final Glory is Typified and Symbolized, there is Emphasis only upon Boaz. The Bride is quietly at-home, awaiting
the coming-of the Groom. She does not appear in the Ceremony, at the Gate. Though in Worldly Weddings, and even in the
Liturgy of the Church, the Bride steals-the-show, it is not so at the Wedding-of the
Lamb, in Heaven. There, He becomes the Center-of
Attention. All the Bride possesses, is in-Him, and through-Him and
with-Him. In the "Book of the Apocalypse", a long-description of how the
Bridegroom would be dressed, is given, but there is only a very simple-description of the Bride:
"Hers it is to wear Linen of Shining White; the Merits of the Saints are her Linen" (Apocalypse 19:8). The
"Apocalypse" calls the Final Union-of Christ and the
Church, the Wedding-of the Lamb, not the Wedding-of the
An Unbreakable Bond
Because Matrimony, images-forth in the Order of Flesh,
the Union (1) of Christ and the
Church, it follows that it is Unbreakable. In the Incarnation, Our
Blessed Lord took Human Nature, which was the beginning-of His Mystical Body, not
for Three (3) Years, nor for Thirty-three (33), but for
all Eternity. So, Man and Woman, Reflecting the Eternal Union-of
Christ and the Church, take One-another until Death
do-they-part. The Enduring Character of Marriage, "until death do us part",
is evident even in the Natural Order, where there are but Two (2) Words in the Vocabulary-of
Love, "You" and "Always". "
You", because Love is 'Unique'; "Always", because
Love is 'Enduring'. No one ever said: "I will Love you for Two years and Six months". That is why all
Love Songs have the Ring of Eternity about them. No Power on-Earth can fragment that which is
One (1), and Husband and Wife are made One (1) in Marriage. To try
and make-of them Two (2), Single (1) and Separate Individuals, as they were before
Marriage, is actually to make them Fragments-of a Joint Personality, like unto Solomon taking his Sword and
Threatening to Divide the Babe.
Other evidence-of the 'Unbreakable Character' of Marriage, is to be found in the way
Scripture speaks-of Marriage -- never Interpreting it in Terms-of
Sex, but always in Terms-of "Knowledge": "And now Adam had Knowledge of
his wife, Eve, and she Conceived" (Genesis 4:1). When the Angel Gabriel announced-to the Blessed Mother
that She was to be the Mother of God,
She asked: "How can that be, since I have no Knowledge of man? (Luke 1:35).
Saint Paul, later on, enjoins Husbands to "Possess your Wives in Knowledge".
(A Unity (1) of Body
** Satisfactions (Sex)/
Knowledge resides in the Soul of a Person
Satisfactions (Sex) reside in the Body of a Person.
Fidelity is manifested in our control of the Will of the
Love and Understanding are an Act of the Will.
Why is Marriage in the Bible, related-to
Knowledge? It is in order to Reveal the close-Union, of Man and Wife. There is nothing in the Universe that Reveals a
Deeper Union, than that of the Mind, and that which it Knows.
When the Mind Knows a Flower or a Tree, it possesses these Objects within itself. They are not
Identified-with Intellect: they are Distinct-from it, and nothing can Separate them.
Because Marriage is Knowledge, it follows that it demands
Fidelity. Suppose a Student, until he entered College, never Knew
the Soliloquy-of Hamlet. Once he came to Know it, he would always be dependent-on the College which had given him that
Knowledge. That is why he calls his College, his "Beloved Mother", or his 'Alma
Mater'; she caused something to happen in him, which was Unique. He could go-on enjoying the Soliloquy, all the days of his Life, but he could
never Reacquire it.
So too, when a Husband and Wife come-to Know one another in
Marriage, they may enjoy the Union Many Times, but they can never again Reacquire that
Knowledge. As-long-as Time endures, it is this Man who has made her a Woman; it is this Woman
who has made him a Man. A deep Bond-of-Relationship is established, between the Two (2), though not
in the same-Order as the Bond between the Mother and the Child.
This suggests a Union between Man and Woman, that is much more 'Personal', than Carnal. Both
Man and Woman, in the Moment-of Knowing, receive a Gift which neither
ever 'Knew' before, and which can never be 'Known' again, except by Repetition. The resulting Psychic Changes,
are as-great-as the Somatic. A Woman can never again return-to
Virginity; the Man can never again return-to 'Ignorance'. Something has happened, to make them One
(1), and from that Oneness (1), comes Fidelity,
so-long-as either has a Body. Sex is never just an
"Experience"; it is a Bond registered-through Eternity.
The Great Advantage of the Marriage Vow, which 'Relates' Husband and Wife to the Union-of
Christ and the Church, is that it Guards the Couple against
allowing the Moods-of a Moment, to Override Reason. There is no other
way to control Capricious Solicitation, except by a Vow. Once its Inviolable Character is recognized, an
Impulse is subject-to Probing one's own Faults, and the making-of New Efforts to-deepen
Love and Understanding.
The Second Person of the Holy Trinity is a Product of the 'Knowledge' of the Father.
The Third Person of the Holy Trinity is a Product of the 'Love' of the Father.
The Son is the Perfect Image of the Father
The Son is a Product of the Knowledge of the Father
The Son is Generated by an Act-of-Intellect of the Father
God the Father
possesses Two (2) Internal Divine Processions:
Intellect and Will
Act of Intellect
(not Made, not Created)
The Son of God,
Second Person of
the Holy Trinity
"Generation" is the
Production of One Living-Being from another, both having the Same Nature.
The Begetting of Children
The Union-of Husband and Wife, also Imitates the Church in its Fecundity. In the Union-of
Christ and the Church, there is
Spiritual Fecundity (increase in Conversions); in the Human Marriage, there is
Corporal Fecundity. As the Church begets children out of the Womb-of the Baptismal
Font, Fecundated-by the Holy Spirit, so Husband and Wife beget children. Hence, in the
Prayer of the Church, during the Sacrament,
God is asked: "May they both see their children's children unto the third and fourth
generation, and may they reach the old age which they desire. Through the same Christ, Our Lord".
If the Ultimate-aim of the Union-of Man and Woman is not Life, then, there can
be only One (1) Alternative, namely, Death. The Child is the
Physical Expression of the Fecundity-of the Godhead, in which
the Father is the Source-of the Eternal Generation of the Son (refer to
above Table). The Gift-of Generation is not a Push-from-below; it is a Gift-from-above. It comes not from
the Animals-of the Field, but rather, it descends-from Heaven, as a reflection-of the
Father, saying to His Son: "This day
have I Begotten Thee".
This Primary End of Matrimony brings the Couple in relationship-to
Divine Trinity, as the Duality (2) of Husband and Wife, ends-in the Begetting-of children, the
Third (3rd) Term in their Love. This is in keeping with the very Nature-of
Love, which may be defined as a Mutual self-Giving which ends in
Self-recovery. All Love must be a 'Giving', for without a 'Giving', there is not
Goodness; without 'Self-outpouring', there is no Love. In
Marriage, Love is First a Mutual self-Giving; for
Love's Greatest Joy is to Gird-its-Loins, and Serve.
But, if Love were only Mutual self-Giving,
it would end-in Self-Exhaustion, or else become a
'Flame', in which both would be
Consumed. Mutual self-Giving also implies self-Recovery. The Mutual
self-Giving of Husband and Wife, like the Love of Earth and Tree, becomes
Fruitful in new-Love. There is a Mutual self-Surrender,
as they overcome their Individual Impotence, by filling-up at the Store-of the other, the Lacking Measure. There is self-Recovery, as they beget not
the mere sum-of themselves, but a new-Life, which makes them an Earthly Trinity. Love that is ever-Seeking
to 'Give', and is ever-Defeated by 'Receiving', is the Shadow-of the Trinity on Earth; therefore, a
Behind the Urge-to Procreate, is the Hidden Desire-of every Human, to participate-in the Eternal.
Since Man, cannot do this in-himself, he compensates-for it by continuing-Life, in another. Our inability-to
'Externalize' ourselves, is overcome-by 'Giving',
with God's Help, something Immortal to the Human Race. Thus,
the Parents become Co-creators with God, as the Angel told Tobias:
"Then, when the Third Night is past, take the Maid to thyself with the Fear of the Lord upon thee, moved rather by the Hope of
Begetting children, than by any Lust of thine. So, in the True Line of Abraham, thus shalt have Joy of thy Fatherhood" (Tobias 6:22).
Instead then, of Reflecting in any way upon Sex, the
Sacrament sees 'Generation', as a Reflection-of the Eternal Generation of the Son in the
Bosom-of the Father. As Saint Thomas Aquinas puts it: "If one is led to perform
the Marriage Act, either by Virtue of Justice, in order to render the Debt to the Partner, or by Virtue of Religion, that children may be Procreated for
the Worship of God, the Act is Meritorious".
As the Sacrament sees in the Father-of the Family, the Reflection-of Divine
Paternity, so there is in Motherhood, a relation-to the Eucharist. The Mother says-to her
child, "As I live because of Christ, so you will live because of me". As, under the
Species of Bread, day-by-day, Christ Nourishes the Christian
Soul, so drop-by-drop the Mother Nourishes the Child. As the Divine Eucharist gives
Immortality, so this 'Human Eucharist' of Motherhood, is the guarantee-of Temporal Life. The
Angel that once stood-at the Gate of Paradise to prevent Man
from eating the Tree of Life, now Sheathes the Sword. Life comes into its own. There is Communion-with Human
Life at the Breast, and Communion-with
Divine Life at the Altar.
When the Son of God espoused Humanity and became a Child,
there was a new-emphasis on Fecundity. It placed Primacy, at a point never before seen in-History. Up until the
Incarnation, the Order had been Father, Mother, and Child. Now it was turned-Backwards, and became
Child, Mother, and Father. For centuries, Humans looked-up to the
Heavens and said: "God is away up there". But when a
Mother held a Child in her arms, it could
truly be said that she looked-down-to Heaven.
God was way-down there in the Dust-of Human Lives. If it be Objected-that
Mary had only One (1) Child, it must be repeated
that she had only One (1) Child
according-to the Flesh, but she had other children,
according-to the Spirit, for Our Blessed Lord said to
her, at the Foot-of the Cross: "Behold,
thy son", referring-to John. And John, 'Unnamed', stood-for all Humanity. At that Moment, she
became-by Divine Decree, the Mother of all whom
Christ Redeemed, and the Patroness of all Mothers.
For Better or for Worse
Because of Human Frailty, there may be, despite Love's effort, a
Failure to achieve Common Union in Mind and Body;
but this does not give the Offended Party, the Right to-contract a New Marriage. "What
God, then, has joined, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6).
When Human Love and Sex-Love break-down, there is
always Christian Love, which steps-in to suggest that the other-Person is to be regarded-as a
Gift of God. Most of God's Gifts are
Sweet; a few of them, however, are Bitter. But whether
Bitter or Sweet, the Partner is still a Gift of God, for whom
the other must Sacrifice Himself or Herself. Selfish-Love would seek
to get-rid-of the Burden of the other Person, simply because he is a Burden.
Christian Love takes-on the Burden in Obedience-to
the Command: "Bear the Burden of one another's Failings; then you will be fulfilling
the Law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
What Sickness is to an Individual, an Unhappy Marriage may be to
a Couple; namely, a Trial sent-by God, in-order-to 'Perfect' them
Spiritually. If a Husband were Suffering from
Pneumonia, the Wife would not leave him. In like manner, if the Husband is Unfaithful
or Unkind, the Wife will not leave him for another Marriage. The acceptance-of the Trial
of Marriage is not a sentence-to Death. As a Soldier is not sentenced-to
Death because he takes an Oath to his Country, but admits that he is ready-to-face
Death, rather than Lose Honor. Being Wounded-for the Country
we Love is Noble; being Wounded-for
the God we Love, is
Just as there is a Communication-of Vital Forces between Husband and Wife, so too, there can be a
Communication-of Spiritual Forces: "The Unbelieving Husband has shared-in his Wife's
Consecration, and the Unbelieving Wife has shared-in the Consecration of one who is a Brother" (1Corinthians 7:14). What a Blood Transfusion is
to the Body, Reparation-for the
Sins of another, is to the Spirit. Instead of 'Separating', when there are
Trials, the Christian Solution is to 'Bear' the Cross,
for the sake-of the Sanctification of the other. A Wife can Redeem a
Husband, and a Husband can Redeem a Wife, as Christ Offered
Himself, for His Spouse, the
Church. As Skin can be grafted-from the Back to the
Face, so Merit can be applied-from Spouse-to-Spouse. This
Spiritual Communication may not have the Romantic Satisfaction in it, of
Carnal Communication, but its 'Returns' are Eternal.
The great difference between a Christian and a Pagan,
in such a Trial, is that the Christian 'Receives'
Suffering; he even speaks-of it as coming-from the Hands of the
Crucified; the Unbeliever, however, finds no place for it, in the
Universe, because it Negates his Egotism; it
Cancels-out his Love
of Pleasure, and it begets an Inferno within him. A
Cross to the Christian is 'Outside' him, and therefore Bearable;
the Double (2) Cross on the 'Inside' of the
Unbeliever is Insoluble, Unbearable.
Christian Love not only can make such Suffering
'Bearable'; it can even make it Sweet. The Son of God, voluntarily ended-on
a Cross; but it did not Conquer Him, because it came from
'Without': "He suffered under Pontius Pilate". The Christian, in like
manner, sees that if Innocence did not Spurn the Cross,
then somehow or other, it must fit-into his Life, which is far-from Innocent. Since
Marital Love is the Shadow cast-on Earth, by the Love of Christ for His
Church, then it must Reflect Christ's Redemptive Quality. As
Christ delivered Himself up, for His Spouse, so there
will be some Wives and some Husbands, who will deliver themselves up-to Golgotha, for the sake-of their Spouse.
Just as in the Spiritual Life, there is the "Dark Night of the
Soul"; so in Marriage, there is the Dark Night of the
Body. The Ecstasy does not always 'Endure'. In the Days-of Romance,
the emphasis is on the Ego's Durability-in Love. Later on, the
Christian sees that Marriage is not Two (2) Persons
directed-toward one another, but rather, Two (2) going out to a Common Purpose, beyond themselves.
When the Incarnate Son of God, burst the Bonds-of Death,
and rose-to Glory, Scripture revealed that the
Physical Universe is groaning in Pain, until it is destined to be Transformed, as a
Perfect Instrument of the Spirit; that is, until there is a
New Heaven and a New Earth. In the meantime, the
Church makes use of the Material Things of this Creation, and associates 'Action' and 'Prayer'
with it. Water, Bread, Wine, Oil and other things, are made the Effectual Signs-of the Spiritual Gifts which
God bestows-upon His People, through the Church,
as His Agency. As Cardinal Newman put it:
"We approach, and in spite of the Darkness, our Hands, our Head, our Brow, or our Lips become, as it were, Sensible of the
Contact of something more than Earthly. We know not where we are, but we have been Bathing in Water, and a Voice tells us that it is Blood. Or we have
a Mark signed upon our Forehead, and it speaks of Calvary. Or we recollect a Hand laid upon our Heads, and surely it had the Print of the Nails upon it,
and resembled Him Who gave Sight to the Blind, and Raised the Dead. Or we have been Eating or Drinking, and it was not a Dream surely, that One fed us
from His Wounded Side and renewed our Nature by the Heavenly Meat He gave us".
It would be a False View, to look-on Water, Oil, Bread, and the Matter-of
Sacraments, as having any Power of-and-by themselves. This was the 'Mistake' made-by Naaman,
the Syrian General, when Eliseus told him that he could be Cured-of his Leprosy,
if he would Bathe-in the Jordan, Seven (7) Times. Naaman answered: "Has not Damascus
its Rivers, Abana and Pharphar, such water as is not to be found in Israel?" (2Kings 5:12). Thinking that the
Cure would be wrought-through Water-alone, Naaman argued that the 'Dirty' Water-of the Jordan could not compare-with the 'Purer'
Waters-of his own Land. Finally, at the urging-of a Servant, Naaman was Healed, and immediately saw that it was due-to the
Power of God, not to the Power-of the Waters. So it is in
the Sacraments. God uses Men and Matter; the
Power is not in them, but in God.