This is the third installment in the series “A Kiss Should Mean Something”. This series explores the Church’s teachings with regard to human sexuality.
There is a song that has been burning up the Top 40 airwaves in the last several months. It is currently #3 (week of January 31 to February 6) with 16,686 spins this week in the USA. The name of the song is “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. I have heard this song at least a couple hundred times. However, it was just recently that a particular line caught my attention. The line is as follows, “My church offers no absolutes, she tells me ‘Worship in the bedroom’. The only heaven I’ll be sent to is when I’m alone with you”.
Although this song seems to be approaching sex from a lustful position, the words themselves are still convicting. When I heard “Worship in the bedroom”, it made me think about the Church’s teaching with regard to marriage and sexuality. The Catechism tells us, “God is love and in himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image… God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation and thus the capacity and responsibility of love and communion” (CCC, 2331)¹. There is no closer bond between a man and woman than the marital embrace. In that embrace, we get as close as we can to the relationship that exists between Christ and the Church.
I am reminded of the story of Tobias and Sarah from the Book of Tobit. Sarah is a young woman from Media who is in great despair, for she has been married seven times and each husband has died on their wedding night before they could consummate the marriage. They were killed by the demon of lust. After Tobias and Sarah are married, but before they are to consummate the marriage, Tobias said to Sarah, “Sister, get up, and let us pray and implore our Lord that he grant us mercy and safety” (Tobit 8:4)². After they prayed together Tobias said, “And now, O Lord, I am not taking this sister of mine because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that I may find mercy and may grow old together with her” (Tobit 8:7)³. Needless to say, Tobias is not killed by the demon of lust. This story is one that reminds us not only of the importance of prayer in a marriage, but specifically in the bedroom. I am also reminded of Father Patrick Peyton’s famous quote, “The family that prays together stays together”.
As human beings, we are sensual creatures. We experience the world around us with our senses and through our bodies. It is also through our bodies that we worship God – especially in the marital embrace. When a husband and wife give themselves to one another wholly and completely, they leave nothing back. Just as Christ left nothing back when He gave Himself to the Church on the Cross. Saint Paul tells us, “Be subject to one another in reverence to Christ… For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:21, 31)4. In being subject to one another, we give ourselves at all times to our spouse. If we use contraception, we hold a part of ourselves back – our fertility. We do not give ourselves wholly and completely to our spouse. Likewise, a husband and wife may become one flesh through the union of bodies, but marriage is ordered toward the procreation of children (CCC, 1601)5. Only through procreation does the flesh of the man and woman literally become one new flesh.
As I witness all the hype surrounding the theatrical release of 50 Shades of Grey it is extremely evident that our society has completely lost sight of what sex is. It has been demoted from the holiest of human acts (outside of the Mass) to a recreational activity. WE, the Church are at least partly to blame for that. Clergy and the laity alike do not speak out enough against the prevailing culture. We live in a society that hates Scripture but loves to take Scripture out of context. Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not”6 and that is where most people stop reading. “Who are we to judge what someone else does in the bedroom?” I was asked yesterday. We are our brother’s keep, regardless of how Cain felt. It is our duty as Christians to see that our brothers and sisters make it to Heaven. Yes, people will do what they want, but we cannot just sit back and watch them travel down the road to perdition without at least shouting out a few warnings.
Remember the next time you embrace your spouse that your relationship is a visible representation of Christ’s love for the Church. Embrace them the way Christ has embraced all of us and remember that marriage is a free, total, faithful and fruitful gift of yourself to your spouse.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2331
- Tobit 8:4 – Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition)
- Tobit 8:7 – Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition)
- Ephesians 5:21, 31 – Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1601
- Matthew 7:1 – Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition)