Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Marriage as a Union Between Man and Woman

Last time I began series of reflections of the meaning of Christian marriage.  In the post I identified four major pillars of the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality; 1) Catholic marriage is the union of one baptized woman and one baptized man; 2) it demands mutual fidelity; 3) it is a life long union, dissolved only by death; 4) it is fruitful, open to the possibility of new life. This week we will reflect on the first point.

In the beginning God created the first man.  The second chapter of the book of Genesis says that God, after seeing that nothing in creation made a suitable partner for him, created woman (Gen. 2:18-25).  In her he saw, at last, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (23).  The man and the woman were the “same” in terms of their common humanity, but were, at the same time, marvelously different.  The two became a gift for one another, making up for what ever was lacking in the other.  In joining in that first marriage the man and woman became true partners, equal in all things.  In their conjugal union, the two imaged the creative action of God in their ability to have children. In their family life they formed a community of believers.  Today we would say that the Christian family forms the basic building blocks of Church and society.

The Church has always witnessed that marriage is a Sacrament, instituted by Christ.  In truth, marriage as a part of God’s plan goes back to the very creation of the world, so that it is sometimes called the “proto-sacrament.”  Since the family is the basic unit of society, as well as the Church, civil government asks that all people entering into marriage go to city hall and get a license, and gives certain benefits to these couples.  But matrimony as Catholics understand it is not a civil institution or contract.  It is, most profoundly, a holy covenant made between the couple and God.  God sets the terms for what the marriage covenant is, not the government. 

It is for these reasons that the Church has stood firmly against the move to give same sex unions the same legal status as traditional marriage.  A union between persons of the same sex simply can not fulfill the Catholic—Christian understanding of what marriage is, especially in the necessity that the union be open to new life.  This openness is not merely symbolic, but goes to the very heart of the conjugal act, as we shall see in later reflections.  Same sex unions go against the vision of marriage God instituted from the beginning.

I write these words not to condemn but to inform.  As a community of believers we should always have charity towards all, judging no one, knowing that we are children of the same God.  We are all sinners in need of His mercy. At the same time we should never be fearful to witness to the truth as given to us through Scripture and Tradition.

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