But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 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” (Lk 10:2-9).
God is not about division, he is about unity. The very core of the Trinitarian reality represents this truth. As St Augustine taught: “The Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. There is one and only one God.” Each person of the Trinity is distinct in their operation, the Father begets, the Son is begotten, and the Holy Spirit is the Love shared between the two, yet, while at the same time they are one, one because of their divine giving, receiving and sharing of all that they are.
The sacrament of Matrimony mirrors this divine love and union here on earth. The two that seek to become one do so in their willingness to sacrifice and give of themselves one to the other. The bride and groom thus are the ministers of the sacrament. The bishop, priest, or deacon is but a public witness. The key is that the union of the two is to be grounded in love. Our understanding of love has multiple meanings.
The Greeks had four words for love: eros, philios, storge and agape. We can look at each of these as a maturing of love. Eros, is that first step of attraction, the drawing of self out toward another. If love stays only at this level though, it dissipates and returns to the self and can become no longer love, but manipulation, exploitation, and at worse abusive and objectifying. Philios, can be seen as the next level, the beginning of friendship. This is where we get to know another as other, see the places where there is commonality, mutual pursuits, and compatibility. Yet, in both of these stages, there is still a heavy focus on self gratification, pleasure and self focus; what is in it for me?
Storge, offers a deeper bond on the level of familial love. This is a bond that runs deeper, where identity and commitment to one another is firmer. Here we can experience a looking out beyond our self to be there for another. There is mutual giving. Yet, the limitation is that being there for one another, can still be affected by external circumstances, this love is not yet unconditional.
Agape, is the highest form of love we can reach and experience in this life. This is unconditional love, in which we become capable of and open to will the good of the other as other as St. Thomas Aquinas defines. This is where we love without seeking love in return, we love without limit, this is the love that is to be sought in Matrimony, a mutual giving and receiving, sacrificing and accompanying the other together.
The Sacrament of Matrimony is a sacrament of service in that the union of the two in becoming one is to be a mirror for others of the Trinitarian love of sacrifice, self-giving to one another, and communion. Matrimony is considered a vocation, not an emotion because each one is supporting the other to be holy, to be saints, to empower and lead each other to accept the gift of Jesus who is our salvation. The husband and wife become one and are open in their union of love to receive a third which is the possibility of the new life of a child. Again, a mirroring of the reality that all of creation exists because of the outpouring of the love of the unity of the Trinity.
The two seeking to marry, are to seek willingly and continually to sacrifice, to give of themselves to each other, and model and teach their children and those in their realm of influence to do the same. In this way, the family is to be the domestic Church that is to be the foundation for a society of love. We as laity, religious, or clergy, single or married, with or without children, can reclaim this foundational principle that Jesus gives us today. When we are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hard hearts, to smooth our rough edges, we will be more open to loving one another as Jesus loves us, unconditionally and without limit.
Photo: Renewing our vows on our tenth anniversary!