A reasoned defense of the understanding of marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman Part 2.
Although there have been so many written works and treatises both from the Scriptures and writings of the Church fathers on the above subject; my aim at this juncture is simple; to establish a concise defense for the above topic using the “Conjugal and Revisionist views on the concept of Marriage as well as St. Augustine’s position that “Marriage was Christ’s gift of Stability to Christian union.
But before going into the discourse, it won’t be a bad idea to pause and reflect on the two most important part in my opening move. Namely, the Definition of Marriage as summarised from various constituent elements and the two views of marriage by Trent Horn.
Marriage is defined as a union of Man and Woman who above all make permanent commitment of lifelong gift of self to one another (in a bodily union) ordered to the good of procreation. The nature of Marriage union from a conjugal perspective aims at debunking all forms of human commitments (in the name of Marriage) that does not conform to the above definition. Accordingly, the union is seen to be an enduringly self-giving of oneself to another between man and woman in only a lifelong commitment that has the ultimate intention to procreate.
The above understanding is the bases of our Catholic teaching on marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman. Although, the Revisionists’ over the years have attempted to establish an understanding of Marriage from an incorrect relational views of what the secular world dictates as the true Marriage without having recourse to the ontological forms of normativity that identifies Marriage as the first natural bond of human society which came from husband and wife and continues to sustain it in a lifelong union.
Meanwhile, as the incorrect view of marriage discusses all forms of relational assumptions like kissing, hugging and sex etc. The correct view embodies marriage as something deeper, according to Trent Horn, he thinks Marriage is a thing of the mind which involves human emotions and transcends to the conjugal nature of love. It is solely on the bases of the point of view of the conjugal nature of marriage that my reasoned defence of the Catholic understanding of marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman would be gravitating.
The Holy Bible as the source of all natural, civil and ecclesiastical laws gave us the first insight into what a true Catholic marriage is expected to be so that man by his gift of great commission Gen …(explore and till the earth and procreate) might draw inferences from the divine will. The scripture also says, male and female he created them; when God saw that it was not good that man be left to live alone by himself, he formed his woman from his side so that he will continue to be an extension of the community of love that exists in the Godhead with the attributes of conjugal love.
To think of the Holy Trinity as the life source of marital union brings us to imagine about what could be there in the unity of the Godhead that should become of interest for the Catholic marriage. Analogically, the Trinity has the epitome of love (that is self-giving to the world by Incarnation (John 3:16, and through the Sacraments). Just as the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the love between the father and the Son, so it is with the Marriage union whereby the love existing between a man and his wife who have given themselves to one another in a lifelong union comes into fruition with their children.
The Catholic understanding of Marriage also shares the identity of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) who are though distinct in themselves with different roles in the economy of salvation, yet remain eternally inseparable in the Godhead as God. Same thought reflects on the marriage union, where man and woman may be said to retain their individual identities as John and Mary, yet share in the indivisibility of their common identity as a couple with one body, hence the scripture referred to it as two joining together to become one.
There are also other aspects of the Catholic tradition that speaks about marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman which St. Augustine is known to have championed in the crusade. According to Peter Elliott, he maintained that while the Church was besieged by eastern and western heresies Augustine’s responses in the defence of the marital union became a clarion call and a mode of life for all Catholics.
In his very words, Augustine “looked back to Eden, which as we believe raised Marriage to the status of an unbreakable, permanent, life-long union” (Elliott 1990, 79). What does that mean in our day to day Catholic understanding of Marriage? It simply refers to “in facto esse,” otherwise known as the sacramentalization of consent made by two individuals who love each other for the sole purpose of having an unbreakable union. This sacred significance is lived not “in fieri” as a marriage in the making, but in and through the sacraments of the Church in which Christ is the Head.
Augustine also conceived the Catholic notion of marriage as “a created reality” which embodies three notable intrinsic goods that define its nature and character namely; the Proles, which sees the procreation of children as part of the component of the indivisible union of marriage. Recall, as I mentioned earlier that marriage as an extension of the Trinitarian community of love imitates the fruit of the Godhead (which is the Holy Spirit). Hence, children by virtue of the procreative life in a self-giving lifelong union between a man and his wife mimic this very essential nature of Marriage.
The next good of the marriage “Fides” addresses the mutual fidelity of the spouses. meanwhile, looking at the Blessed Trinity, for instance, we find Jesus saying that ‘His food is to do the will of the one who sent him” (John 4:34). Jesus’s obedience to the father and the sending of the Holy Spirit manifested such a great fidelity in the Trinitarian union of love. In Catholic Marriage, the idea of fidelity as expected by God was depicted in Prophet Hosea’s ministry over Israel’s disobedience and harlotry. Marriage as an extension of the Trinitarian union of love and life typifies this same fidelity and trust among couples as its indispensable constituent element.
On the last good of the Marriage as “sacrament,” Augustine establishes the concept; “permanence of the Union,” using “res sacramenti” (indissolubility) which takes its roots from the indelible and unchangeable imprints the Holy sacraments of the Church and the sacramental life bears upon a human soul. Here, marriage as sacrament, simply means that the consent undertaken by two individuals who love themselves (in a conjugal way) with the intent to collaborate in God’s act of creation (procreation) is no longer a human affair, but a divine journey in the form of a call (a vocation), therefore it cannot be revised in any way by man or be broken apart. That’s why the scripture affirms that “therefore, God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).
Furthermore, in Augustine’s view, the union of the Catholic Marriage replicates the great mystery and “sacred significance of Christs’ love for his Church (as the spouse) in an everlasting union that foreshadows the great mystery of Incarnation, Passion and the eternity of Resurrection”” (Elliott 1990, 80/82). In this sense, as Christ did not abandon his Church in any situation as the head, but continues to care and cater for her needs through the indelible sacramental signs. Augustine adds, “That this indissolubility is safeguarded in Christ and the Church which, living with Christ who lives forever, may never be divorced from him” (Elliott 1990, 82).
In Conclusion, the Catholic understanding of marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman embodies a great mystery of God’s presence (the Trinity) as the sole initiator, and the sustainer under the causalities of the Sacraments whereby Christ infuses himself indissolubly in a lifelong union of trust and self-giving of oneself to another. Having objectively looked at the imbued supernatural qualities and the permanent casualties of the sacraments, Augustine decided to compare the sacramental good of marriage to the functions of the indelible characters of Baptism and Holy Orders “which goes well beyond the concept of sacrament as a binding religious commitment” (Elliott 1990, 81) for all Catholics to a living extension of Christ’s life as his member (Ephesians 5:30). This understanding about Marriage is what we believe today as Catholics, and it is the grace-filled undertaken that has enabled every Catholic Marriage to survive and continue to sustain itself so as to be able to live out the three goods of Marriage.
written by Anthony UD ©