Marriage. Everyone is talking about it. “People aren’t getting married anymore!” “We only want traditional marriage!” “Let’s have marriage equality!” “50% of marriages end in divorce!” Marriage, marriage, MARRIAGE!!!
What does marriage matter? When I was younger I would have said: Thems the rules! That obviously waaaay over simplifies the issue and frankly, I was good with catechism (all Baltimore, all the time), but I wasn’t really taught that all things are really the same in different ways. By that I mean, all “rules” to me seem to have a common underlying purpose which is Trinitarian communion. Everything springs from and pulls to that. (Also, I guess that answers the question on a grand scale as well.). Today I would say: What does marriage not touch? Give me one thing.
So why does the Church have such specific rules about marriage? *ahem* everything. I hear this a lot from friends. Legalism. I think the other day the Pope talked about ideology, but perhaps legalism would have been a better word. I read the article, then reread it thinking legalism instead of ideology and it made a lot more sense (personal opinion.) Perhaps with the modern negative subtext of ideology, it works just as well.
There is a lot of speculation about the new possibilities with pastoral care for marriage and individuals in special situations from the upcoming Synod. Having taken a pre-Cana class (in the past three years), I can attest to the continued need for a deeper understanding of the theology of marriage. I learned about money management as it pertains to sharing, NFP and personality types and appreciation. What I didn’t learn was anything about why on earth all of this “til death do us part” actually matters. I don’t even think that I’ve heard this deep theology explored in homilies.
Ideology (negative subtext) or legalism effectively kills the heart of a living thing, by reducing it to an equation. Does this means rules don’t matter? Quite the opposite. I understand the desire to educate persons looking to marry or needing care with marital problems as to the “Catholic way” of being in a sacramental marriage, but this is not what reaches the heart of people. This is not what causes a person to ache for unity. What reaches the hearts of people is WHY the Catholic Church has so many “rules” about marriage. Rules mean nothing without a why and make any attempt at how nearly impossible!
The institution of marriage is of no small importance. It is in fact (and holy orders should be included as a type of marriage) the closest thing to giving one’s life for one’s friend (short of martyrdom.) As Paul states this gift has the same salvific effect: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband” (1 Cor 7:14) Why: “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting.” (John 12:49-50) How: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it” (Eph 5:25-26.)
So the heart of marriage is conforming to the Trinity, as Christ said: “Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42) And the Trinity is what we are created to participate in: “And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God” (Rom 8:17)
So, why does marriage matter?