Saturday, 19 May 2012

Defining Marriage

I've been mulling over the nature of marriage for some time now and I really do wonder if we are  theological enough in our definition of marriage.  The secular world will not pay any attention to an earth bound definition of marriage from religious leaders (man, woman, love, offspring...).  Why should they? The liberal mantra says everyone in entitled to their own view, but our view will be one among many and ultimately irrelevant as the secularist, egalitarian bandwagon rolls on.

In replying to the government's consultation on marriage I wrote something like this and it most likely will be ignored:

As a Catholic, marriage has a wide theological significance.  The marriage between a man and  a woman can not be separated  from an understanding of the marriage of Christ to His Church or an understanding of the marriage between Heaven and Earth.  Marriage is a divinely instituted covenant between two parties that are essentially and substantially different, the creative loving action of God flows through marriage to produce a unity between the two distinct parties.  Therefore it is impossible to accept a definition of marriage that allows for two creatures that are essentially and substantially similar to come together under that union.

I did not say that relationships between members of the same sex are not creative.  They do not produce the ultimate fruits of creation; children.  Nevertheless they can be life-affirming, loving, sacrificial and creative (and let's keep this celibate, I'm definitely not referring to sexual acts here).  They are not however sacramental or unitive (two creatures essentially and substantially the same can not become more one) and therefore as a lasting bond between two individuals they are contrary to God's ideal. 

Why am I trying so hard to define marriage without much reference to its primary function; offspring?

This is because, any secularist will point out to you perfectly functional nice couples who produce perfectly rounded, "nice" children "without the need for God".  Biologically, children happen without any need for religious input from the human parties involved.

Christian marriage has to be about sanctification.  For Catholics, the mutual sanctification of the spouses through the Sacraments adds a dimension to the bringing up of children that would not be there if this were not the case.  As Catholics I feel that we must see way beyond the earthbound view of traditional marriage (man, woman, love, children...) and whilst marriage is only a bond whilst the two parties are alive on earth, it is nevertheless aligned to the supernatural in the most fundamental and beautiful of ways, as the unity therein gives glory to God.

Is marriage not ultimately the most profound expression of the "priesthood of all believers"?

1 comment:

Robert said...

I think you're right about this, especially marriage being about mutual sanctification. A lot of emphasis gets put on having children. Well, what about childless couples? What about couples whose children have grown up? Are there lives now ended, purposeless? And isn't our primary (really, our sole) purpose here to give glory to God, which can only be done by sanctified people? Ultimately, God seems to have poured an awful lot of effort into salvaging humanity. He created the angels, some messed up and are condemned. Done deal. Animals and plants just exist, having no free will, they glorify God by being what they are, by the beauty in them that points to the beauty of God.

But we humans are not a done deal. So much effort for such miserable, disobedient, often failing beings, even to the point of becoming one of us, IN a human family. He showed us, thereby, that sanctification is possible, and glorification of God, within marriage is possible.

So, I think you're totally right, Rita. And I think most of us forget that whatever WE get out of marriage, and whatever we DO in marriage, whatever we produce in marriage, it's not really about us.

It's about God, and he helps and blesses us in the process.

I think that if we realize that marriage is, as you put it, "the most profound expression of the "priesthood of all believers"" will go a long way toward helping us survive or even save and lift up "bad" marriages, by striving to turn the focus off of "me" and onto God.

Anyway, a lot of words to say I agree with you. Thanks again!