Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Theological Virtues in Marriage

A friend sent this to me. "Identity through the vocation of marriage is the sanctifying of oneself in the freeing relationship of self-donation to one another in Christ."

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From NLM
Let's dig deeper into this. Everyone is a unique and unrepeatable being, individually thought and willed by God. God wills that we might have union with Himself, and so He grants us the mechanism that makes it happen, i.e. grace. "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." At a minimum, nothing of this world is satisfactory, as we were made for Heaven. As the old Baltimore Catechism says, our purpose in this life is to know, love, and serve God, so that we might be with Him in the next.


In short, we are called to be saints, displaying heroic virtue in unique and at the same time similar ways. We must participate in the sacramental life regularly and with great devotion so that grace might flood our souls and that Our Lord might dwell in there. Devotion to Our Lady, especially as the centuries progress, is a unifying aspects of the saints. Our Lady leads us to her Son and is the "most perfect embodiment of Faith" as the Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us. But there are many ways to do this, e.g. Marian consecration, the Miraculous Medal, and especially the Holy Rosary.

Some of us men are called to the priesthood, for dioceses or religious orders. Some men and women are called to be lay brothers and sisters in religious communities. Then there are those who are consecrated virgins, in private vows, or who are unmarried without any form of vows. Finally, the rest of us are called to marriage.

I think the best discussion of marriage in the Sacred Scriptures is in St, Paul's epistle to the Ephesians in chapter 5, from v. 21 to the end of the chapter.
21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
For this to make any sense, we must first have faith and be continuously converting, "turning back" as we realize that we are not the Master, that we are weak when we look only towards the visible world. One probably isn't going to have perfect faith, but if a couple is committed towards growing in faith together, however slowly, over the course of their marriage, then they are on the right track. This notion of coming out of oneself is further shown when the procreative aspect of marriage is considered for one also must give to one's children.

Now, we also delve into the second and third of the theological virtues, hope and charity. I love this passage from St. John Chrysostom's Homily on Ephesians.
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. 
Clearly, one should desire for those things which are yet to come, and through the virtue of charity these shall be obtained, by "willing the good of another for the sake of God." Loving one's spouse, children, and neighbors based on the qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is a surefire way to Heaven, and St. John Chrysostom builds on that throughout the text. Maybe I'll read it and offer more thoughts on the section which covers chapter 5 of the epistle...

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