Christian Marriage as a Journey Together.
If you marry an acquaintance, then you are likely to become a quitter. If you marry a colleague, then you are likely to become a caretaker. If you marry a stranger, then you are likely to become a visitor in your own house. But if you marry a friend, then you will surely become friends in love forever.
Marriage is an attempt to show that amidst the changing face of our societal values, Christian marriage when authentically understood and expressed, proves that deep and transparent lifelong marital love is really possible. This Christian marriage will help to correct the misconstrued understanding of marriage. This reflection will focus on “Christian marriage as a journey together, mutual understanding and companionship through life and procreation and education of children”.
Christian Marriage as a Journey Together.
An essential element, one that forms the core of every celebration of a Christian marriage is a public declaration of consent by the couple. Usually, the format is; “I ‘X’ take you ‘Y’ to be my wife (husband). I promise to be true to you in good time and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life”. These words signify the beginning of a life-long journey. This is essentially a journey that terminates only at the death of one or both of the party.
Indeed, it takes the time to make a good Christian marriage. Christian marriage is a voyage of discovery. Though a divine institution, by the very fact of its human elements, it is full of perils and surprises. It is a journey through an uncharted territory. There will be many crisis periods, each of which contains an opportunity to discover new things about each other. Some of these discoveries will be painful, others may cause great delight. Above these human elements, however, Christian marriage is a task to accomplish. It is a mission to fulfil. It is a journey together which necessarily implies changing together. Life itself means change; change is the only permanent thing in life.
As husband and wife change, their relationship changes. Each partner sees the other in the light of these new events and it is like seeing each other the first time. New knowledge means new love. Love is constantly renewed. Christian marital union is seasoned through change. Thus, Christian married couples are constantly reminded not to take each other for granted. They ought not to assume that their love and understanding will remain the same in the face of the changing events in their life without personal and relational efforts. Each of the partners must keep abreast of the changes that occur in their life’s journey together. Thus, Christian married couples should constantly keep in tune with the changing face of our contemporary world. They must further use the opportunities offered by changes to enhance their marriage and to promote the growth of the family life.
Christian married couples are called to utilize the many opportunities that will certainly present themselves along with their life’s journey. These opportunities must be used to deepen their marital relationship. In marriage then, deep and honest and intensive love is set in motion when couples learn to weigh the strength and weaknesses of their marriage not in terms of calculated ‘days ‘ and ‘nights’, but in terms of the different opportunities their marriage provides. These opportunities must draw them towards each other and towards God, the creator and sustenance of their marital union.
Married couples must learn how to draw their strength from God. Their journey together is devoid of its essential values when married couples begin to see the success of their marital union solely in the light of personal input. Christian marriage is a task to accomplish. It is a journey together. It is a life-long journey ordained and sustained by God the creator of all.
Mutual Assistance and Companionship Through Life.
Mutual assistance and companionship through life are based on the principle of complementary, which in turn has its basis in Genesis 2:18. The text says: “Then the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”. In this account of creation, God sees Adam struggling with loneliness. It was because of this loneliness that God the gave him a companion that was suitable and caused him to exclaim: “This at least is the bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”. (Genesis 2:23). Saint Bonaventure wrote: “Man and woman, according to their nature and their sexes, were so made that they are united to one another and thus have rest and support in and through each other”. In marriage, men and women are drawn together to complete and complement each other in a relationship which is specifically marital. Marriage is thus, the completion of both man and woman. Hence, married couples are called to mutually assist each other to discover the richness of their persons, equal before God and before each other.
It follows, therefore, that as they face each other, each can see something of a true reflection of himself or herself. The unreserved interpersonal relationship in marriage requires self-standing wholeness of each partner. Hence, mutual integrity is necessary for a love relationship. The married couples must see themselves as equal. One is not a slave to the other. The marriage partner is not to be seen simply as an instrument of self-enrichment. This will not give room for growth but regression. “If the partner is more an object of worship or veneration, interpersonal distance is perpetuated, preventing quite effectively the type of mutual exchange ideally found in marriage”.
There must not only be a genuine giving, but also a genuine act of receiving, exchanging and sharing among married couples. As each partner extends towards the other, mutual enrichment is established on all levels of life. This is “Gift of Love” which as it were, is an “offering of one’s talents, insight and deeds to one’s spouse”. This love is creative and not deductive. It brings out what is best in each of the married partners. The growth and the sustenance of any genuinely Christian union depend to a large extent on the ability of the married couples to share their love, their time and resources together.
Procreation and Education of Children.
The procreation aspect of the union between a man and a woman has its basis in Genesis 1:28. The text says, “God bless them saying, be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it…..” In the past, this verse was seen exclusively as restricting the basic end of marriage to procreation. Since Vatican 11, there has been a significant shift in emphasis. The Council categorically placed more emphasis on the aspect of creative love in Christian marriage. This creative love by its very nature includes both the presence of love and the value of life.
The value of begetting children in any marital relationship cannot be underscored. The primary value associated with procreation is life: new life brought into the world. Life is a gift from God. Thus, married couples who are the privilege to assist God in creating human life must also exert full personal responsibility for decisions which relate to the procreation of new life. Its occurrence should not be left to chance, arbitrary choice or blind fate. Vatican 11 asserts this with the phrase. “Responsible Parenthood”. It is in begetting children that the conjugal love finds its true meaning. Hence, the decision to have a child should stem from a foundation of love. This love is rooted in freedom and in conscious decisions which make married couples creative and caring Christian parents.
The procreative aspect of Christian marriage is intrinsically related to the love between wife and husband. This love must further be extended to the persons who may issue from their love. These children must adequately be catered for. Therefore, the procreative value demands the complementary value of educating the children. “The task of giving is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God’s creative activity”. For this reason, Vatican 11 further described the Christian family as the ‘Domestic Church’ where parents are “the first preachers of the faith to their children”. Procreation and education of children are inseparable. If one intends or deliberately exclude the other then the marriage is invalid. The two are essential ends of marriage. Even a sterile marriage remains essentially ordered to procreation.
I want to conclude this discussion with a beautiful reflection on marriage offered by a 17year old girl. She says: I came into this world through marriage. Marriage for me is a union of two people who wish to spend their lives together, to be around when they need the help of each other; to share their joys and sorrows. Above all, it is a union of begetting and training of offspring. These are all things expected in marriage. But nowadays, the whole affair has been misunderstood. People get married for fame, money, power…..there are also, so many broken marriages around. But marriages do not have to end up this way; they are meant to be best of all. This make me think at times whether I will want to get married or not whether I will want to put my life, that of my partner and the children that will come to us into complete disaster, but then I think I have come to this world for a purpose; to bring forth some lovely children, so that the world can leave in peace and harmony as a family. This is what I always pray for and I know God will not fail me.
It is indeed a relief to note that there are still in our contemporary society, well informed youth who have a clear understanding and a sound appreciation of the marriage institution as expressed above. It is our unshakable conviction, therefore that the seemingly break up of the marriage institution in our contemporary society is merely an illusion. As long as the human society continues to exist, the marriage institution remains a major cohesive factor, the prism of human society.
© 2017 ODEWOYE FRANCIS SUNDAY