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제목 On Marriage (2017-07-08)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2017-07-09



On Marriage (2017-07-08)


My dear brethren,


We continue our instructions on the sacrament with the last sacrament, Holy Matrimony. Marriage is the life-long union of one man and one woman for the purpose of having children in a holy family. That bond of matrimony existed from the very creation of Adam and Eve: as soon as Eve was formed of the side of Adam, she was united with him in this holy bond: “Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). St Thomas explains that Eve was formed not of the head of Adam, so that she would not dominate over the man, nor from the foot of Adam so that the man would not crush her, but from the side of Adam so that they would love one another faithfully. We see in the Old Testament some famous marriages such as the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca or of Tobias and Sarah, who were instructed by the Archangel Raphael himself.


It is a dogma of faith that marriage was raised to the level of a Sacrament by our Lord Jesus Christ when He attended the Wedding of Cana and sanctified it by the miracle of changing water into wine. Indeed, that miracle signifies first the changing of the Old to the New Testament; it also signifies the Holy Eucharist, i.e. the changing of wine into His own Blood, which our Lord would perform at the end of His life on Holy Thursday: now the Holy Eucharist is the very Sacrament of the wedding of Christ and His Church, as I will explain later.


Marriage itself is a contract that sets the starts of a bonded life: the ceremony is short, but the effects last for the whole life. It consists in the “exchange of consent”, that is, the giving and taking of one another for husband and wife. By this contract, husband and wife give to each another a full right on the other’s body for the “act of marriage”. Note in passing that the Church’s vocabulary is always modest. St Paul says: “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud not one another, except, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency” (1 Cor. 7:4-5). God has so instituted that children should be born in a holy marriage, for the good of the children themselves, because they need a father and a mother, and also for the good of the parents because good children are the best reward of good parents. It is not right to have children outside of wedlock, because it deprives the children of their father.


By nature marriage is a life-long union: it is indissoluble; one may not divorce. Our Lord is very clear: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt. 19:6). This is first of all required for the good of the children. Indeed, when you compare humans with other animals, you notice that other animals reach adulthood much faster than humans: many animals such as birds or rabbit are adult within less than a year! Some bigger ones such as lions require two or three years, very rarely more. But for humans, even after ten years, children have not yet reached adulthood! The reason is that humans are not lead by blind instincts but must lead themselves by their intelligence, and it takes time to learn, to develop one’s intelligence to the point that one is able to take responsibility not only for one’s own life but for a whole family. Therefore, parents ought to stay together for years and years because the children need their parents for that many years! And through these years, the parents have even more children; and even after their last child has reached adulthood, the parents need to give to these children the good example of fidelity. So, they ought to stay together not only for the many years when they have young children but for their whole life.


In the Old Testament, divorce was permitted because of the hardness of their hearts, as our Lord says: “Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt. 19:8). Our Lord Jesus Christ has restored marriage to the holiness of its pristine state, and very strictly forbids divorce and remarriage: “Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery” (Lk. 16:18). In exceptional cases, e.g. when there is family violence and beating, one may ask permission from the bishop for “separation”, i.e. for living separately – but this is NOT a divorce, and does NOT allow remarriage at all.


By nature, marriage is exclusive; one may NOT have relations outside the marriage: this is adultery and a very grievous sin. In the early Church big public penances were given for three crimes: apostasy, murder and adultery. This shows how grievous such a sin is. St Paul is very clear: “For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5). A good family should have an atmosphere of holiness and purity, so necessary that the children may blossom and grow in all virtues.


By nature, marriage is for the procreation of children, and one may not frustrate the act of marriage of its natural efficacy. Any form of contraception is against the Law of God and a grave sin. Even worse is abortion, which is the absolute refusal of life, and involves four mortal sins and three aggravating circumstances: it is against the 6th Commandment as being the ultimate refusal of transmitting life; it is against the 5th commandment as killing an innocent; it is against the 4th commandment as the ultimate child abuse, against the duty of parents towards their children; and it is against the 1st Commandment as it deprives the child of baptism, which against the grave duty of parents to provide to their children. And the three aggravating circumstance are that the more innocent the victim, the worse the murder; the weaker the victim the worse the murder and the more cruel the murder the worse it is: and who is more innocent than a baby in the womb? Who is weaker than a baby? And if one would do to an adult what is done to babies in the womb, there would be an outcry against such cruelty.


Marriage is not a permission for all kinds of sins against chastity at all: the act of marriage is good and holy within the marriage, but perversions of it are wrong even in the marriage: thus, all forms of sodomy are grievously sinful even in the marriage. St Paul says: “let marriage be honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. For fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).


The first good of marriage is thus the children, and the blessing of marriage is a blessing of fecundity, “that you may see your children, and your children's children, unto the third and fourth generation: and that your seed may be blessed by the God of Israel, who reigneth for ever and ever.” (Tob. 9:11) Yet it is not sufficient to give life to the children, they need education. It is the great mission of parents to give their children a good Catholic education, not only at the natural level to develop their body, their intelligence, their temperament, but above all to transmit to them the spiritual life by providing baptism as soon as possible, by educating them in the faith from their tenderest youth, in all the Christian virtues, especially charity and chastity. Good children will be the best reward of good parents, but it does require some effort!


The second good of marriage is mutual support. “The Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself” (Gen. 2:18). And the wise man explains: “It is better therefore that two should be together, than one: for they have the advantage of their society: If one fall he shall be supported by the other: woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth, he hath none to lift him up. And if two lie together, they shall warm one another: how shall one alone be warmed? And if a man prevail against one, two shall withstand him” (Eccle. 4:9-12). To love and to be loved is a great consolation and support; this mutual love makes of marriage the deepest friendship at the natural level.


Fidelity deepens this friendship with each passing year. I remember my grandfather telling us on his fiftieth anniversary of marriage: “my little ones, when you reach 50 years of marriage, the joy is not the same as at the beginning, but if you can look back at your life and see 50 years of fidelity, the joy is not less!”


The third good of marriage is the sacrament. This is the fact that the union of one man and one woman in a Catholic marriage signifies the union of Christ and His Church, the Catholic Church. This mystical marriage is the model of the earthly marriage and it is the source of many graces for each married couple. Indeed, this mystical dimension of marriage strengthens its indissolubility, because the union of Christ and His Church is everlasting, it will continue for ever in Heaven, it is not even dissolved by death. Moreover, this union is most holy and chaste, and the source of all holy love. This union is spiritually fecund, with the innumerable number of Saints who are its fruits.


This model shows clearly that true love should be a gift of self to the point of sacrifice, “as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives” (Eph. 5:25-28).


As Eve, being formed from his open side, was married to Adam, so was the Church born of the open side of Christ on the Cross and married to Him right there! The water and blood that flowed from the Sacred Heart when it was opened on the Cross signify Baptism and the Blessed Sacrament, by which the Church is gathered and sanctified. Our Lady at the foot of the Cross stands for the whole Church; as in Cana, our Lord addresses her as “woman”, not as “mother”, and He gives her a child: “Woman, behold thy son” (Jn. 19:26). The Gospel does not say it was “John”, but rather “the beloved disciple”: thus, it is all the beloved disciples who are begotten from that holy union of Christ and His Church, and this happened on the Cross. The Cross is a mystery of love, a mystical marriage most fecund in many children: all the Saints.


If the Sacrifice of the Cross is the actual marriage of Christ and His Church, then the unbloody renewal of that Sacrifice in the Mass is most apt to renew the graces of marriage for all Catholic marriages. There, at the foot of the altar, the married spouses renew their gift of self to each other; they learn to sacrifice themselves for their spouse, for their children. They draw from the union of Christ and His Church the grace of fidelity, the grace of mutual love and all the graces they need for their children.


The matter and form of the marriage is the exchange of consent of the spouse; thus, the ministers of the sacraments are the spouses themselves: they marry each other. The priest is there to bless them and to witness their contract in the name of the Church – there is also need of two other witnesses, so “that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand” (Mt. 18:16).


Indeed marriage, being the foundation of a family, which is the building block of society, is never a private thing: it is a public good for society, both civil and religious. Therefore, it falls under the authority of the state and most of all under the authority of the Church. Civil states have the duty to protect marriage and its indissolubility, and NOT to equate marriage with all kinds of unnatural unions. The Catholic Church has been the staunch protector of marriage; it is the only religion that fully protects its indissolubility. All the protestant sects accept divorce, which is not surprising because as these sects are themselves divorced from the Christ, separated from the Church.


The Church has the right to legislate about marriage. In particular, it has put some impediments, in order to protect the sanctity of marriage and family. An impediment is a circumstance that prevents either the validity or the liceity of marriage. Thus impotency, consanguinity, a previous marriage, priestly ordination, certain kinds of crimes are impediments that prevent the validity of marriage.


The effects of the sacraments are at a double level: the first effect is the bond of marriage, a spiritual bond that will last for the whole life, until death. That bond is signified by the rings that they give to one another. That bond signifies the bond between Christ and the Church, and is the source of the second effect: grace. Well received, the sacrament of marriage does give an increase of sanctifying grace, and many actual graces throughout the married life, to help the spouses fulfil the mission God gave them in the family. One great mean to continue to receive these actual graces in abundance is family prayer: every day the whole family gathers to pray together. Regularity is the key: it is more important to have daily even a short prayer, than once in a while the whole Rosary. In my own family when we were little children, we only had one decade but every single day without fail; when we grew up my father added a second decade at the occasion of a Lent, and the next year a third decade; but we had the whole Rosary only later when we were all grown up. That family prayer is a very important means to continue receiving in abundance the graces of the Sacrament.

Young people ought to prepare themselves for a good and holy marriage by faith and purity: these are the two most important ingredients of a good preparation for a holy marriage. Purity and virginity before the marriage prepares for perfect fidelity afterwards, and is thus a source of great joy and peace. Faith gives union at the spiritual level and not only the physical level, so that the spouses have one overview of the purpose of life, of the education of children, of the importance of true worship in their life, etc. There is also need of much prayer, so that the Lord would direct you as He directly young Tobias to find a good wife.


Let us pray for all those who are married, that they may be faithful, faithful to God and faithful to one another, that they may receive abundant graces of true life and true love so that by imitating faithfully Mary and Joseph, they may go to Heaven!


Sincerely yours in Jesus and Mary,
Father François Laisney