A Love That Is Lifelong: A Marriage God Wants For You

A Love That Is Lifelong: A Marriage God Wants For You

A Love That Is Lifelong
We honor Augustine of Hippo as one of the great saints of the Church. Aside from the biblical authors, he is the writer most often cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It was he who laid theological foundations for the Church’s doctrine of marriage, and it was he who gave moral thinkers a vocabulary for the discussion of sexual ethics.

I’m pretty sure that all of these achievements would have surprised the neighbors and friends of the young Augustine. Though brilliant even in his adolescence, he was prideful and inclined toward trouble. His mother had raised him to be a Christian, but his pride and appetites led him to reject the life of faith.

He was sexually promiscuous for a time, and when he finally settled down with one woman in his young adulthood, they didn’t bother to get married. They had a child out of wedlock, and they lived together for two decades, raising their child to adulthood before they finally parted ways.

Augustine eventually repented, converted to his childhood faith, and became a bishop. He wrote on many topics, from the Trinity to the proper ordering of society, but his writings on marriage and family are especially profound. Perhaps he understood the value of marriage so well because he had sinned against it so grievously in so many ways and for so many years. He knew the heartaches and heartbreaks he himself had caused. He saw the effects of his sins on his companion, his child, his mother, and his friends. He regretted the scandal he had caused, which had led others astray.

Writing in a psychologically and morally astute way, Augustine spoke often and beautifully of the “goods” of marriage. Perhaps that’s because he had failed to understand them in his youth—and he had personally experienced the consequences of rejecting those goods.

He said that marriage is good because of three basic values: fidelity, permanence, and the potential for offspring. The convergence of these three goods is what distinguishes marriage from any other human relationship. And each of those three depends upon the others. If one element is missing, the others inevitably falter.

The marriage bond is faithful, and by that we mean monogamous and exclusive. A husband’s affections and attention belong to his wife, and a wife’s to her husband. From the earliest days of Christianity, sins of infidelity have been counted among the gravest offenses.

The marriage bond is permanent. It is unbreakable, secured by God. Separation cannot end it. Divorce cannot dissolve it. It is not dependent on feelings or desires. It is a commitment, a lifelong covenant, a new creation intended to endure.

Marriage is open to new life. Male and female are attracted to one another by nature, and the natural purpose of their attraction is the procreation of offspring. Human love grows from that simple fact of human nature. Men and women are fulfilled, not simply in drawing together, but rather in seeing their love extended to the next generation and beyond. Children help their parents to grow in many virtues, large and small: patience, generosity, unselfishness, industry, and frugality, to name just a few. As spouses draw together in loving their children, they become more lovable to one another.

Faithfulness. Permanence. Fruitfulness. These qualities are essential to marriage. Without all three of them, marriage loses its coherence. Without all three, the sign fails to signify what it should. It does not reflect the life of God, who is perfectly faithful, whose love is everlasting, and whose creation is abundantly fruitful.

* * * * * *

How do you tell a church from a supermarket? How do you tell a parking garage from a family home? Different structures have different characteristics—distinctive features that serve their particular purposes. The building is designed to accommodate the activities that will take place inside. That’s why a gas station won’t look like a church, and a church won’t look like a supermarket. They have different functions, and so they have different designs.

So it is with marriage. We can identify a true marriage, not just the coming together of two people. We can identify a true marriage by those qualities, those goods, that we learned from St. Augustine—and that St. Augustine learned from Scripture. For Jesus was clear and uncompromising when he spoke of the permanent quality of the marriage covenant:

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 19:3-6)

The Pharisees pressed Jesus on the question, asking why he forbade divorce when Moses had permitted it.

Jesus responded that Moses had granted divorce as a concession to the weakness of his people. Divorce was not part of the original plan established in Genesis. It was not part of the original law given by God on Mount Sinai. It appears only later in the Book of Deuteronomy, the “second law” given by Moses on the plains of Moab after the Israelites’ initial failures to keep God’s law. Divorce was allowed, Jesus explained, “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:8). Then he declared a second marriage after divorce to be “adultery,” unless the original marriage had been unlawful (19:9).

Even in the Old Testament, however—even when there was a legal concession for divorce—God made it clear through the prophets that the practice was to be abhorred. “For I hate divorce, / says the Lord, the God of Israel… . / You must not break faith” (Malachi 2:16).

Jesus’ strong statements made clear that marriage need no longer be subject to its former weakened status. His saving action would restore marriage to its original dignity—and then raise it still further to be a sacrament of his new covenant.

In addressing the Pharisees’ question, Jesus established a new, or rather renewed, norm for the faithfulness and permanence of marriage.

It is significant that he concludes his dialogue with an exhortation about openness to children: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Couples who live by Jesus’ clear instructions are bringing about the kingdom.

Read more from the source & comments: http://wau.org/resources/article/re_4/

Excerpted from Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s latest book, The Marriage God Wants for You: Why the Sacrament Makes All the Difference (The Word Among Us Press, 2015). Available at wau.org/books

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Here-under are some articles about marriage for you to read or watch: 

  1. Getting to know you, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=284
  2. Be Positive, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=288
  3. Love and Marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=292
  4. Endless Love – Marriage after all, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=294
  5. Say it with love, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=298
  6. Quality family moments, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=300
  7. Secret of successful marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=302
  8. The vocation of marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1968
  9. Marriage as Covenant, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1974
  10. Humility: Foundation for Marital Happiness, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1986
  11. Gratitude: Foundation for marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1980
  12. True Meaning of marriage, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=1972
  13. Marriage and incompatibility, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2112
  14. Love is a garden, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2116
  15. Three kinds of love, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2095

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