Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,and the two shall become one” [Gen.2:24].
This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-26, 29-32).
John William Godward,via Wikimedia Commons
A great mystery – a great sacrament in Latin. Because of Jesus’ redemptive power, the marriage of Christians is supernatural. Through their vows to love one another till death do them part, they become sacrament – a material conduit of Jesus’ union with the Father and the Church. Let me say it again, because of a Christian husband’s fusion to Jesus, he becomes the Lord’s unique, chosen instrument for expressing the Lord’s sacrificial love to his wife. The wife, in turn, becomes a conduit of Jesus’ love for her husband. They share in His “passion” in the truest sense of the word: through one, Jesus pours Himself out to the other and for the other, unconditionally. The struggles they inevitably face become their participation in the “passion” of Jesus’ suffering and death.
The transformation of marriage into sacrament is at the center of Jesus’ work of redemption. Remember what we saw in our discussion of humanity’s creation in the image of the Trinity? The love between a husband and wife is meant to be a sharing of all they are. It is so real, so completely imbued with life, that it becomes its own person – a son or daughter. The human family is a reflection of the God Who is Love, the Three in One! It is written into our very bodies; man and woman were made for union.
This view, expounded in great depth by Pope John Paul II, has come to be known as the Theology of the Body. It calls us to recognize the implications of Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection for married life, placing sexual expression within the context of living as images of God. Sex is meant to be an icon of both the Love between the Father and the Son, and a participation in Jesus’ Love for the Church. In the sexual act a man and woman say to each other, through their bodies,“I am making a complete gift of myself – my body, fertility, mind, and heart – to you, until death parts us.” This type of married love is only possible if it is animated by the Spirit, the very Love of God.
As we look at the world around us, perhaps even within us, we see how God’s plan for married love has been hi-jacked. Our culture has become obsessed with sex but terrified of commitment. We have allowed Satan to twist our vision of sexuality. Sex without the marriage bond, sex in which our God-given, God-imaging fertility is eliminated, is a bodily lie.
Historically Christianity has focused so much on the lie, the perversion, that it neglected to teach the infinitely more powerful, beautiful Truth that sex is the husband and wife’s way of imaging the Trinity. It is only when we have comprehended the magnificence of the original that we can recognize the counterfeits. The Truth is where the Church needs to begin her proclamation, in chastity and the Theology of the Body. With that in place, the flaws in the counterfeits of non-marital sex, contraceptive sex, cohabitation, divorce, and homosexual acts become glaring. Christians cannot be motivated by the desire to condemn, but to bring others to the full experience of God’s Life-giving Love.