July 2, 2011

The Spirituality of Faithful Love

Marriage contains a spirituality primordially established by God and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  In marriage, God joins what no man can separate and when this is done with Christian faith, the Risen Lord raises up this love as a sign to reveal the nuptial meaning of all of creation.  Grace-imbued married love affords a true opportunity to step up into the mystery of being fully human and fully alive.  When marriage becomes a school of love it attains an eternal quality: it glorifies the living God.  This is why the capacity of a man and woman to solemnly pledge themselves to one another in an indissoluble friendship of faithful love open to the gift of life is so sacred, so beautiful, so worthy of being protected.

This sacred capacity cannot be aped even if those who think we are but apes try to do so.  No pretense of marriage lays claim to the sacredness manifest in the love of husband and wife.  Such artificial attempts are merely different forms of fornication. Fornication always dehumanizes.  It is a counterfeit of the real thing.  In these relationships, what St. Augustine says of Pagan Rome applies: whatever joy is attained has the fragile brilliance of crystal, a joy for outweighed by the fear it will be shattered in an instant.

When a man and a woman fall in love with each other, they see at once how very different the other is and at the same time they cannot imagine ever being whole without this difference in their life.   It is impressed on anyone who has tasted this realization, even if only briefly, in God's love for us, He did not create us simply to function and exist.  He created us to thrive to the full, and to help one another thrive.  Just as a man and woman discover in their differences a desire for communion, God likewise looks on us and yearns for us, and this divine regard stirs something in us for Him.

This is why Marriage is a communion of love which reveals God's presence to the world.  Accordingly, God is very concerned about this particular institution. protecting it and promoting it throughout the history of salvation.  Christ's first miracle was performed at a wedding banquet out of concern for protecting the reputation of the Bridegroom and the Bride.  God designed marriage with so many graces, joys and consolations to support it because He knew this communion would push humanity beyond itself, into places it could not bear alone.  This is why the redemptive work of Christ extends to it and transforms it.

Those generous enough to God and to each other to say "yes" to everything marriage is meant to be are driven by a divine passion.  The consolations and joys themselves are not enough for them.  Nor are they aware of sufferings or sacrifices that must be made. They stand firm no matter the cost.

The friendship love of marriage, even the most difficult marriage, speaks to the primordial, faithful and suffering love with which God fashioned our humanity.  God's love is firm and unshaken even if human love sometimes fails to be so.  Marriage can withstand any trial when the spouses together discover their marriage is worth the struggle and that their suffering in love is for a purpose greater than themselves.  More aware of their own shortcomings than those of their beloved, but also more confident in God's love than their own weakness, they turn to God in prayer to provide what they most need that their love might thrive.  When offered with faith and perseverance, such prayers are heard by God and the Lord helps us realize what we cannot realize on our own.

What wisdom do those in married friendship learn in such prayer?  Their eyes twinkle with a holy courage come what come may.  They are so grateful for their friendship, grateful to each other, and grateful to God, that no matter the cost, they would not have it any other way.  True spousal love which the Lord entrusts to us has something in it even stronger than death.  Such love stretches out and yearns to realize the unity of heart and mind which even death cannot vanquish.  To this end, St. John Chrysostom puts these words into the mouth of a husband:

"I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself.  For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us ... I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you."  As cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2365.