If marriage were like looking for a car you would first need to know what's out there. What are my options?
More than ever there is a need today to define Holy Matrimony and marriage. These words used to be used interchangeably but not any more. What the Church means by Holy Matrimony and what the current culture and government means by marriage are now radically different. It used to be apples and oranges, now it's apples and volkswagons. It is a sad fact that they are no longer in the same species.
Three 'makes and models':
Civil ‘Marriage’ (the 1970's Ford Pinto):
A civil contract (man-made) between any two people recognized by the government. It is indifferent to God or religion. It can be broken at any time for any reason. It is not concerned with procreation or family. The culture's definition for civil marriage has split so far away from the theological and biblical roots of marriage that it will eventually be open to polygamy, marriage to self and marriage to an object. Essentially the word 'marriage' no longer has any meaning. It doesn't matter what you fuel it with because 'Luv is luv'.
Natural Marriage (the 2015 Honda Civic):
A civil contract (man-made) between a biological man and a biological woman. It may be non-religious. It may be traditional, and religious, it may be open to life, it may be faithful and it may be until death but it is not a sacrament. It is not open to the grace of the sacrament. It is operating only on the fuel of ‘natural love’ (see below).
Holy Matrimony (The Most Updated Version of the Batmobile):
A God-made, marital covenant between God and two baptized persons-a biological man and a biological woman where eros (romantic, mostly self-centered) love becomes ‘agapified’ (Christian,other-centered) through grace. This marital love is marked by three signs of total self-giving: 1.open to life, ‘life giving’, 2. faithfulness, monogamy and 3. indissolubility, committed until death.
Holy Matrimony is the Batmobile
When we look at these three types of marriage, we are left with the realization that the sacrament of Holy Matrimony is qualitatively unique. It has so many advantages and extra knobs, bells, whistles. It comes with turbo charged grace that elevates the love within marriage and transforms the couple into an image of the New Covenant between Christ and the Church. The capabilities of Holy Matrimony to be indissoluble, open to life and faithful until death are no longer thought possible by most people in our culture. Natural and civil marriage don't have the same specs, the same quality, the same capabilities or the same design.
They are like regular affordable and repurposed used cars a 2015 Honda Civic and a 1970's Pinto being compared to the 2024 version of the Batmobile. They lack the engine, transmission, sound sysytem and safetey features of a basic luxury vehicle let alone that Batmobile.
The Batmobile is out of this world! The basic Batmobile model has 1) Powerful Engine 2) Jet Afterburners 3) Cloaking Ability 4) Bullet Resistance 5) Weapons System (Usually machine guns and or missiles) 6) Comms to Batcave 7) Voice Controls/Remote Control & Auto-Pilot 8) Scanning/Tracking Abilities 9) Batcomputer connection and 10) Night vision & Thermal vision.
Ok we get the analogy, but what does this mean when it comes to the benefits of choosing the sacrament of Holy Matrimony? What are the special features exclusive to Holy Matrimony? Why is it at a 'Batmobile' status?
Only Holy Matrimony is rooted in a New Testament, biblical tradition. The whole story of the Bible could be thought of as having an emphasis on marriage. There are many stories and teachings on marriage sandwiched between two book end stories in Genesis and Revelation. Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter two give us the blue-print for Holy Matrimony and the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation chapter nineteen gives us the end of Holy Matrimony.
Marriage goes through three phases in Scripture...
Phase One: is the proto-type marriage between Adam and Eve. Before the fall, they had love, peace and happiness with each other and their union was a triangular covenant that included God as a third party. This is how covenants differ from contracts. Contracts are between two or more people and covenants are between people and God. Adam and Eve and God are united and in communion in a life-giving covenant that resembles the Holy Trinity until Genesis chapter three.
Phase two: Through sin Adam and Eve break their covenant with God and as a result their marriage fell with them as they entered a self-inflicted exile from God's presence and communion. They go from a supernatural covenant to the fallen and degraded state of natural marriage. This is marriage in Phase Two. It is marked by discord, lust, insecurity, power plays and jealousy. Phase Two, which allows for divorce and polygamy, is in place throughout the entire Old Testament. Most marriages today are still in this phase.
Phase Three: is the blessing that Jesus gives to marriage in his words and deeds. It is the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In his first public miracle Jesus is at a wedding. He changes water into wine as a sign of marriage going from phase two to phase three and the love in marriage goes from natural to supernatural. He also states, in Mt.19, that divorce and remarriage is not an option.
Holy Matrimony is not a man made contract. The reason Holy Matrimony is epic is because it is a covenant between a husband and wife as an image of and participation in the covenant between Christ and the Church.
Only in Holy Matrimony are the bride and groom the ministers of a sacrament, acting in the person of Christ. This means they are capable of participating in divine love in both giving and receieving.
Only in Holy Matrimony are the man and woman given sacramental grace to transform their natural love into a supernatural quality.
"So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Eph 5). This is the kind of love that is supernatural and divine.
No word is more misunderstood and so misused than our English word 'love'. We as Christians have no excuse. We must be experts in understanding love because God is love incarnate. We hear so much confusion in our post-Christian culture about the meaning of love. We are told that 'love is love' in order justify the change in the definition of marriage. But is this true? is love all the same?
There are four types of loves in two basic categories. Three loves, philia, eros and storge are classified as natural, human love. One love, agape, is classified as supernatural, divine love.
Luv is not Love: Which of these loves is the proper fuel for The Batmobile?
The natural loves are universal and engaged in by every human person to one degree or another. They are known by all cultures and all people.
Philia love is also known as friendship love. Two people come together side by side and share as the object of their love a third thing, hobby or interest. This brotherly love is reciprocal. Each party only associates and engages in friendship, philia love if he is receiving from the other the same or close to the same level of love.
Storge love is also known as family love. It is what C.S. Lewis calls a need love. Beginning with a parent's love for his or her child and then the child's love for the parents. Sibling love and even relationships with animals or objects can fall into this category. It is the most unconditional of the natural loves. For instance, a mother's love knows no bounds.
Eros love is also known as romantic love and as the kind of love which is the least rational. It is feelings based. When someone uses the expression, 'falling in love' this is what they mean. A man and a woman who can't explain the attraction or the obsession not just with each other's physical attributes but with the person.
Agape love stands apart and above the natural loves because it has a supernatural source. It is also known as Christian love. When we read in John's gospel that God is Love, agape is the word used. Not every person has participated in agape love but every person is loved by God. Jesus demonstrated the meaning of agape love par excellence in the passion and death on the cross. Christian spouses are given the gift of agape love in baptism.
Christians are given the capacity to receive and to give away this higher qualitative love. The secret of the saints is that they grew in their capacity to receive agape love because they desired to give it away. They truly followed the Great Command, the law of love that Jesus gave to the rich young man. To Love God and love neighbor is a summation of the commandments as a whole. Agape love seeks the best interest of the other. It is not reciprocal because it is self-less rather than selfish. It is unconditional, and undeserved.
Many couples who enter the covenant of Holy Matrimony choose St. Paul's description of agape love in his first letter to the Corinthians for their wedding Mass. It says, "Love (agape) is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails".
Agape love is the only kind that can fuel the Batmobile but the other natural loves are transformed and magnified by agape love in Holy Matrimony. Natural romantic love and natural friendship love are constantly transformed, in the grace of the sacrament, by supernatural divine love. When received well and when cooperated with the spiritual effect of the sacrament is like love transformed from ‘water to wine’. "The covenant of the couple is integrated into God’s covenant with mankind" ( CCC 1639). “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love” (CCC 1639). What are the distinctive attributes of this supercharged love in Holy Matrimony? (CCC1643).
Holy Matrimony is the only kind of marriage that comes with a feature that requires openness to life.
Holy Matrimony is the only kind of marriage that comes with a feature that requires indissolubility.
Holy Matrimony is the only kind of marriage that comes with a feature that requires faithfulness and exclusive love.
When we are surrounded by second hand, regular ordinary clunkers, it is a great honor and privledge to own and operate the Batmobile. Learn what it is capable of by studying the operations manual (Scripture and the CCC), fill it with the most pure grade fuel (Agape Love), have regular maintainance (Mass and Confession), keep it clean and polished, protect it from the elements, drive it carefully and enjoy it to the fullest.
*Note: There are some incredible people who manage to get to the end with their marriage intact and strong even though it was not Holy Matrimony. God's grace breaks through even outside the sacrament in some cases.