O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

You Can't Understand Marriage Without Understanding Love.

I found this homily via Facebook and what I want to say is too long for a Fb comment and I want more people to see it anyway.

The homily is good and much of it can be considered great, but I have one and a half gripes about the priest's understanding of marriage, which seems rather limited and basic. It's understandable because he's celibate so no one is expecting him to be an expert about marriage, but still. I can't hear this and not say something about love and marriage.

Now, he is looking at what marriage really is, but he is looking at it backwards. It proves to be a flawed and selfish view of marriage. He evaluates a (potential) spouse on the basis of what the other person does to get you to Heaven, as if that is the bottom line and all that matters. That is still selfish and you are still thinking about yourself. That is not love. Your vocation is not to have someone lug your fat behind to Heaven, but to get up and get her to Heaven, even if it kills you. If it is true love, then you will evaluate the person based on what you do to get that person to Heaven. It is not the value that they have to offer you that counts, but rather the value they have plus the value you can impart to them that matters. You see the salvation of the other person is the only determining factor of the success/failure of your life, not just the relationship, but your life. That person's salvation becomes an all-consuming obsession. Zelus domus tuae comedit me. (Ps 68:10)

Speaking of Psalm 68 (read it; it's good for you), you are willing to bear any amount of pain and suffering to get your beloved to Heaven, no matter how many people hate you for what you are doing to her/him or to yourself by being with her/him, or even if the person herself is mad at you for hating her sins. If it means converting a bad Catholic or non-Catholic, then that's what it means. Period. She has to get to heaven. She has to be holy. That's it. If the person is a bad person, then love will push you to convert the person into a good person, even if no one likes it. Their soul is all that matters. Your soul is completely forgotten, because it is spent on theirs. Marriage is not supposed to be comfortable where you marry someone holier than you so she can get you to Heaven. That's slothful and selfish. Marriage is a cross, where you pour yourself out for the sanctification of your spouse. You give everything to her, even your very body.

That leads me to my half-gripe. He acts as if the priesthood and the religious life is far superior to marriage, arrogantly calling it "a much higher calling", as if it's a different and higher reality. Marriage is a mutual self-sacrifice made as a mirror image of the sacrifice of Christ. The love of bridegroom and bride is not a natural emotion; it is a supernatural grace that has the sanctification of the other as its all consuming obsession. In marriage (properly so called), the love that unites bridegroom and bride is the same self-sacrificial Divine Love that unites God the Father and God the Son, as well as Christ the Nymphios (Bridegroom) and His Bride the Church.

God the Son, the Divine Nymphios, sacrificed Himself for His Bride to the Father for Her sanctification, giving His entire self to Her, even His very Body, which She receives in the Eucharist, which is His intimacy with Her. He did not seek any physical or spiritual good for Himself, but humbled Himself unto death, (Phil 2:6-10) seeking only the salvation of His Bride. That is all that mattered. It was an all-consuming obsession and He endured every kind of pain to attain that end. It is with that Love that bridegroom and bride are called to love each other, to accomplish the exact same end, living the same life, albeit on a smaller scale. That is their obligation, to get each other to Heaven by sacrificing themselves for each other's sanctification without any regard for themselves. When marriage is lived properly, we can see that same sacrifice of the Divine Nymphios reflected on the small scale of a man and a woman. The more clearly the Love of the Nymphios is reflected, the better the condition of marriage. Period. There is no room for debate or discussion. It's all or nothing. The only way to live it is to the extreme. No exceptions. Speaking of "extreme", the Icon of the Nymphios is also called "Extreme Humility".

Being a priest or a nun is not greater in terms of what is lived (for the same reality is lived), it is greater in terms of the scale on which it is lived. However, in comparison to a secular notion of marriage, then the priesthood and religious life are greater in terms of both what is lived and the scale on which it is lived. His comparison of marriage vs. the priesthood and religious life holds true in terms of a God-less, pleasure-seeking "marriage" based on human emotion. However, when you define marriage properly as the self-sacrificial Love of God for mutual sanctification and procreation, then his comparison is arrogant and displays an amateurish lack of knowledge about marriage.