Sunday, 6 May 2012

Love and Marriage

One of the main arguments against the Catholic Church's stand on contraception is that if a loving, sensual relationship is going to develop between a man and a woman, then they really don't need the impediment of always being faced with the possibility of children whenever sexual relations take place.  The old joke; "Ques: What do you call a devout Catholic husband and wife? Ans: Parents" will always be thrown at us as if we are a bit simple in the head.

I'm not convinced that the cycle watching, fertility awareness of the reliable Billing's method will ever convince many of the evils of contraception either.  I do wonder if somehow we could do more to actually shout about the joys of chastity within marriage rather than the evils of contraception.  Chastity is positive, chastity is creative, chastity can be sensual.  We are all asked to be chaste, and you don't need me to tell you this is very different from celibate (though devout celibate marriages are allowed and can be extremely fruitful in other ways).

I've taken a trawl through Scripture, and there are some passages I'd like to meditate upon.

Genesis 6: 2
the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.

Here men are themselves choosing their wives based on looks and desires.  The subtext here is that to remain "sons of God", God and goodness ought to be involved in the process of wife choosing, not simply human senses.  God sent the flood shortly after this.  This fault in man is serious.

Ruth 3:
Here Ruth goes to comfort the man who is to be her future husband by lying at his feet whilst he sleeps (on the instructions of Naomi, the mother of her deceased husband).  And Boaz is no wimp, he's 100% real, genuine, masculine male.

There is no hint of lust or depravity here, just sensual comfort and companionship.  Nor am I saying that there isn't some sexual tension and temptation in this act.  Ruth makes herself very vulnerable and has to be very trusting, Boaz responds as he ought. It is the beautiful chastity and continence of faithful God fearing people, in control of their bodies. The later fecundity of Ruth and Boaz was vital in the salvation of mankind, but there is a time and a place for everything.

Psalm 37: 7-8 (look at the pain that lust and misdirected sensuality brings)

I am become miserable, and am bowed down even to the end; I walked sorrowful all the day long.  For my loins are filled with illusions; and there is no health in my flesh.

Tobit 8: 1-9
A demon is in pursuit of the blameless Sarah, and has already killed her previous 7 husbands on their wedding nights.  With the help of the archangel Raphael, Tobias is determined that a similar fate won't befall him. The demon is exorcised and bound by the angel.  But Tobias does something really profound, rather than go ahead straight away and consummate the marriage, he and his new wife pray at the end of the bed and then sleep without consummation for 3 nights.  Purity and self-control are so important when vanquishing demons and making sure they don't return with their mates.  The prayer is worth quoting in full:

Blessed are you, O God of our fathers, and blessed be your holy and glorious name for ever.  Let the heavens and all creatures bless you.  You made Adam and gave him Eve his wife as a helper and support. From them the race of mankind has sprung.  You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.' And now O Lord, I am not taking this sister of mine because of lust, but with sincerity.  Grant that I may find mercy and may grow old together with her. Amen.

Beautiful; it shows the majesty of procreation and the beauty of chastity and continence.

What I think I'm trying to say is that past obsessions with "spotted wedding sheets", the evils of not consummating a marriage and having sexual relations in marriage to prevent sins out of marriage, all leave out something that is beautiful.  Let God into the relationship, be lovingly continent and there is no need for contraception. True religion is true freedom.


Tobias and Sarah on their wedding night: stained glass in the V&A

1 comment:

Robert said...

Rita, this is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing these insights - much to think about.