Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 15, 2008
God's presence wraps a couple in a blessed loving commitment
A secular union is caught up in contract legalities and misses out on God's sustaining strength
As the couple reads their Bible, they weave a spiritual strength into their union.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Marriage is not an act of convenience. Nor is marriage simply a legal contract. Marriage goes beyond biology, the continuation of the human race. At the heart of marriage is God.
"Unfortunately, this view clashes with the way God is understood by some believers," said William Roberts, a religious studies professor at the University of Dayton.
In his book, Marriage: It's a God Thing, he writes, "The more we love God, the more deeply we love other humans. The more we grow in love of others, the more profound our growth in love of God. This applies to marital love, as well as it applies to all forms of human love."
The model for marital love is the life-giving love of God spoken of in Scripture.
"But there is a serious caution," wrote Roberts.
"God's love and giving is unilateral. The kind of giving love required to create marital intimacy must be mutual. Marriage is not a one-way street: It takes two to make it, one to break it."
Again highlighting the need for God's grace to sustain a marriage, Edmonton Retrouvaille, a Christian peer ministry, uses the quote, "Marriage is not hard. It's just not humanly possible."
"We believe that we are called to be a visible sign of God's love," said Brenda Love, a community coordinator with Retrouvaille.
"When you look at the sacrament, it's a visible sign of God's presence and grace. The way we can live out that sacred sign is through committed love.
"That is very different from a secular approach because in the secular approach, when the going gets tough, couples are encouraged through the media and their friends and books and TV to jump ship and perhaps try another relationship."
Paul Quist, associate director for the Edmonton Archdiocese's Office of Marriage and Family Life, said the Christian perspective is that marriage is God's means of perfecting laypeople for heaven.
"The secular view is that marriage is a social contract, an arrangement that may or may not be for a lifetime and, as far as our government is concerned, it may or may not be between a man and a woman.
"It may or may not involve the bearing of children and the nurture and care of those children," said Quist.
SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE
Christianity brings a whole new dimension to marriage that one cannot find in a purely secular approach. Marriage from the Catholic perspective is a sacrament, a means of grace, a sign that points us to a greater reality, explained Quist.
"I like to think of marriage as a rock tumbler," he said. "You've got two stones put in there, and if you stay in there long enough, like a lifetime, and other grist is put in there which might represent your family members and church involvement, the two people are polished and come out beautiful gems."
Quist drew a parallel between the sacraments and the magical port keys used in the seven-book saga of Harry Potter.
"(The port key) looks like a normal object, like a cup or an umbrella or something, and when the characters touch it, it transports them to another place.
"The sacraments of our Church are kind of like that. They look like normal things - they have form and matter. The form is the prayer, and the matter is the tangible stuff.
"But in faith they bring us to a new place," said Quist.
Marriage is the same way. The couple and the vows they take are the matter and form respectively.
"Through their care for each other and the care for their children, through the marital act, the sexual act, they communicate a divine life to each other. They transform each other and transform their children to be loving people," said Quist.
The married couple sheds their selfishness, and learns how to give and receive, and sacrifice. By doing so, society is transformed to be more loving and caring, one family at a time.
Love explained the four stages of marriage: romance, disillusionment, misery and reawakening.
Many people bail out in the second or third stage.
"Instead of the secular approach of jumping ship, we can work through those stages and know that the suffering has a purpose," said Love.
"Marriage calls us to go beyond ourselves, to grow, to move beyond dependent to interdependent.
"We believe at Retrouvaille that once we go through the process and take steps to heal our marriage that we are actually called into servant leadership, and that's where we reach out to help others."
Pain and suffering are unavoidable in marriage, which is disdained in most secular marriages, sometimes leading people to divorce and enter another relationship.
What they don't realize is that they take their unhealed pain into the next relationship.
"If we are able to take that pain that we experience within our marriage, and that suffering, and turn it into something beautiful and worthwhile through a servant leadership commitment, then there has been a purpose to it," said Love.
A servant-leader husband is a life-giver, protector, provider, lover, responsible for and developer of, his wife.
"Servant leadership certainly isn't a secular thought either. In a secular world, it's all about what's in it for us. It's not that we're going to be serving others," said Love.
The next Retrouvaille program begins on the Aug. 21-23 weekend.