Scripture is clear that everything on the face of the planet was made from the dust of the earth. Rocks, trees, vegetables, animals, fish, even Adam, the first man, were formed from the dust of the earth. Of course there was one exception to this “creatures from clay” regulation, and that was Eve. Eve was created from Adam’s body, as the Book of Genesis tenderly informs believers. Now Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib did not indicate that she was a cheaper cut, as Archie Bunker once quipped, but rather Scripture from the start wanted to emphasize that the relationship between man and woman was radically different from the relationships that mankind would have with the rest of creation. Fashioning Eve out of Adam’s rib, the bone nearest to his heart, clearly indicates that God intended man and woman to share a distinctive involvement, a unique intimacy, a loving union. No other relationship that a human being might happily enjoy would ever compare in the mind of God to the spousal relationship that would come to be called marriage.
Again from the start, marriage meant not only a heart-felt male/female bond of mutual emotional and material support but also a physical bond. Genesis clearly states and Christ in this coming Sunday’s Gospel passage shrewdly repeats, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Mk.10:5).” The bodily intimacy of man and woman is certainly an opportunity for the couple to express affection, tenderness, and indeed love for one another. True married life goes beyond room and board; warmth and closeness must be sustained as well.
Physical intercourse especially within the context of a loving marriage happily implies the possibility of new life. Children are an integral part of God’s plan for married life. The Christian couple must acknowledge from the start, in fact, must embrace from the start the likelihood that children will be an important part of their life together. Spouses must embrace the Divinely ordained probability that they will not only be husband and wife but also father and mother, a paired vocation with its own consolations and its own challenges.
It is the likelihood of off-spring that consequently demands that marriage be an enduring lifelong relationship that will conscientiously and regularly nurture, that is, feed, clothe, instruct, and love such new life. Children need a stable example and encouraging guidance as well as a roof over their head and food on the table effectively provided by both the masculine and feminine parent. Divorce not only shatters the spousal relationship, it also splinters family life, as anyone who deals with children can relate.
“One man and one woman.” No other duality constitutes an authentic marriage. So called same sex-marriage could never fulfill God’s plans for humanity. “Open to new life.” Especially in today’s self-absorbed society, believers must remember that a true marriage anticipates children. While not all marriages are blest with off-spring, couples must welcome children as the fruit of their intimacy. A couple who becomes one flesh should expect to be productive. Contraception denies this dynamic aspect of married love. “Enduring bond.” In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, marriage still is “…until death do us part…,” or as the new rite of matrimony reads, “all the days of my life.” Divorce is not on the horizon for the committed couple. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Such indissolubility is not primarily for the comfort of the couple but actually to provide for the perennial care of the children. That such permanence is demanded primarily for the benefit of children is happily emphasized by St. Mark. He closely follows Jesus’ rather strict injunction, “…what God has joined together, no human being must separate,” with the very tender incident of Jesus’ welcoming children and even cuddling them. “…people were bringing children to him that he might touch them…he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.”
So reducing four thousand years of Scripture and two thousand years of Christian life into a single phrase, one could happily write that marriage is “one man, one woman, open to new life, in an enduring bond.” Each element must be present for a marriage to be authentically human and sacramentally Christian.
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