LOVE, MARRIAGE, AND FAMILY
"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them, and God said to them,
"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it."
Book of Genesis 1:27-28
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother
and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Book of Genesis 2:24
One can see from the Bible and the very biology of the human body that it is natural for a man and a woman to be together. God created woman because "it is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). From the beginning of time, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, God planned for man and woman to unite in love and harmony for continuity of his creation, the human race.
True love between a man and a woman leads to marriage. Marriage brings mutual comfort and a family. Children are the fruit and bond of a marriage. The family provides a framework for each family member to grow as a person in love and security.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Gospel of Matthew 22:37-39
"The aim of our charge is love
that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith."
First Letter of Timothy 1:5
Love is the favorite subject of artists and poets throughout the ages. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare's story about two star-crossed lovers, is one of the most moving plays ever written. Mary's love for the Christ child is evident on her facial expression on paintings throughout the West. We are familiar with Alfred Lord Tennyson's famous line, "Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all;" The poet Kahlil Gibran wrote "Love is to know the pain of too much tenderness," and "Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation." A Severe Mercy, the 1980 National Book Award winner by Sheldon Vanauken, is a beautiful novel about love. Popular music is filled with the subject of love, such as the number one song Love is a Many Splendored Thing by the Four Aces in 1955; the 1929 classic Stardust, the last popular rendition by Spanky and Our Gang in 1968; My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion, the theme song from the 1997 movie Titanic; and the number one country song by Josh Turner, Would You Go With Me, one of the most popular songs on Valentine's Day, 2006. Love makes the world go round!
Loving someone and being loved brings happiness. There are many loves in one's life, such as your spouse or sweetheart, your parents, your family and children, or your best friend. We all want and need love. This is essential to the human race. We need to help each other, cooperate with each other, and reaffirm each other.
Mystery and a kind of mysticism surround love. Why do people fall in love? The heart is the seat of the emotions, one of the three spiritual centers of the person, along with the intellect and the will. It was the French writer Blaise Pascal in his PensÃ©es who said "Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point" - "the heart has its reasons of which the mind knows nothing." The higher emotions, such as love, joy, sorrow, or contrition, cannot be willed, but suddenly well up in a person, and pervade his whole being.
God is important to your love relationship! Love of God grows as you mature in life. We become grateful for all his gifts, such as the beauty of creation and our family. And we become especially grateful for his forgiveness when we fall. His gifts to us are so plentiful that it is only just that we love him. We begin to appreciate that "God is love!" (1 John 4:8). He is a wonderful example of love, because His love is unconditional. We find that if we live in harmony with God and nature, we are the happiest. Someone who loves God will strive to be good, honest, and faithful, and develop all the values necessary to sustain a love relationship through the years. Loving God means you are both trying to live His way and that you are being fair and true to each other.
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) stresses this important point in Works of Love: "Worldly wisdom thinks that love is a relationship between man and woman. Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between man-God-woman, that is, that God is the middle term." He then contrasts this with romantic love: "when love ceases - when in erotic love, in friendship, that is, when in the love-relationship between two persons something intervenes and love ceases - then as people say, these two have a falling out. The bond is broken. When a relationship is only between two, one always has the upper hand in the relationship by being able to break it, for as soon as one has broken, the relationship is broken. But when there are three, one person cannot do this. The third, as mentioned, is love itself, which the innocent sufferer can hold to in the break, and then the break has no power over him."
Love gives one a sense of immortality. The existentialist Kierkegaard described love as uniting the temporal with the eternal. This is best understood when you lose someone you love, such as your mother or father. Even though your loved one has died and is no longer with you on earth, your love lives on for the one you cherish.
Karol Wojtyla, who became our beloved Pope John Paul II, wrote about the development of love in his book Love and Responsibility in 1960. In true love between a man and woman, there is an evolution from attraction and desire to a feeling of good will towards the other person. A healthy integration of sensuality, sentiment, and loving kindness takes place, so that one looks at the other with love, and treasures the other person. Chastity is important, for each person moderates desire and sexuality to allow friendship, tenderness, and a spiritual bond to grow. If you truly love someone, you feel responsible for them. Love finds its natural and proper expression in the union of two persons. Respect for the dignity of the beloved is given in union through marriage. Both man and woman affirm each other, until a commitment of the will and union through marriage takes place, a self-surrender of each for the other.
C. S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves describes four kinds of human love: affection, romantic love, friendship, and the love of God. Storge, or affection, is the natural love a parent has for a child. Eros, or romantic love, is the desire two have for each other. Plato considered eros something like poetic rapture upon seeing the beauty of another. Eros is the longing for the beauty and company of the beloved when two persons fall in love. This is in contrast to someone who has sexual desire without being in love, who wants to use the other strictly for selfish pleasure. A utilitarian relationship, in which the sexual partner becomes an object for use, holds no long-term possibility for joy, fulfillment, or happiness, but rather leaves one empty, disappointed, and ultimately alone. Philia is the love of friendship, but may have conditions. It gives, but may expect something equal in return. Agape is true, unconditional love, a generosity of spirit which gives and expects nothing in return. It is the love that God has for us. It is love at the highest level. The more true love there is between a man and a woman, or among family and friends, the more successful the relationship.
The following are some famous Biblical passages about love and choosing a husband or wife.
"Place me as a seal upon your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its ardor endures to the grave.
It burns with blazing flame,
a raging fire.
Torrents of rain cannot quench love;
nor floods sweep it away.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7
Love is patient,
love is kind;
love is not jealous or boastful;
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 13:4-8
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:
that you abstain from sexual immorality;
that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor,
not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God.
First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians 4:3-5
Marriage is the institution of our Creator and blessed in the ceremony of our Churches to realize in man God's design for love. Marriage recognizes the interpersonal relationship of man and woman, in which the well-being and self-realization of each partner become a priority for the other. Marriage provides a framework for the mutual love and self-giving of man and woman to each other in human sexuality, and in so doing, provides for continuity of the human family. Religions have always protected the sanctity of marriage and the family.
Marriage provides a solid foundation for romantic love. The union of a man and a woman is natural. The natural language -indeed, the very biology- of the human body is such that the man gives to the woman and the woman receives the man. The love and friendship between a man and a woman grow into a desire for marriage. Marriage gives the couple the grace to grow into a union of heart and soul, to provide stability for themselves and their children. Children are the fruit and bond of a marriage.
The bond of marriage between a man and a woman lasts all the days of their lives, and the form of the ceremony consists of the mutual exchange of vows by a couple. The man gives the woman a ring, but often there is a mutual exchange of rings. The Church celebration and requirements vary with each particular faith. In the Sacrament of Marriage, both members of the couple have been baptized. In the Catholic and Jewish faiths, the couple marry each other through an exchange of solemn vows and ring(s), with the priest or rabbi serving only as a witness. During the Middle Ages and in times of persecution, such as in England, Ireland, and the British colonies such as Maryland Colony, where public Catholic ceremonies were forbidden, clandestine marriages were considered valid. The marriage could later be blessed from the beginning with a Catholic priest as witness. In many Protestant and Eastern rites, the minister himself marries the couple by pronouncing the couple man and wife after the exchange of vows and ring(s). The marriage is later sealed during the honeymoon through consummation of the marriage act.
Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God, and concludes with a vision of the "wedding-feast of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7, 9). The bond of marriage is compared to God's undying love for Israel in the Old Testament, and Christ's love for his Church in the New Testament.
Jesus stresses the importance of the marriage bond in his Ministry (Matthew 19:6, 8). The importance of marriage is substantiated by the presence of Christ at the wedding feast of Cana, where he began his public ministry at the request of his mother Mary by performing his first miracle (John 2). It is the Apostle Paul who identifies the marriage of man and woman with the unity of Christ and his Church.
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.
What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."
Gospel of St. Mark 10:6-9
"The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does."
First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 7:2-4
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church.
This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself,
and the wife should respect her husband."
St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:25, 32-33
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
A child is a blessing from God!
The theme of the gift of Life as a blessing of God reverberates throughout Hebrew Scripture, our Old Testament of the Bible (Examples: Genesis 1:27-28; Psalms 127:3-5 and 139:13-16; Proverbs 13:22 and 17:6). We learn in the New Testament that Jesus Christ treasured children in his midst, and in fact said that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).
The family is the basic building block of society. The family is a community of life and love, founded upon marriage, to protect each family member and to communicate love. Marriage provides commitment and security to each member of the family. A family gives you your identity and background, and a sense of belonging. Within our family we are able to share our daily experiences, and give our life meaning. The family is there to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and those important passages in life. The joy of a new baby entering your world is overwhelming. Just as moving is to see children care for parents when they are ill or dying. The family is there when you fall, to protect and support you in times of hardship. Your family is an opportunity to grow in virtue, such as love, generosity, and, yes, patience! And one quickly learns that forgiveness is the key to peace.
A young family is especially lots of fun. All of us would play baseball in the back yard. Everyone liked to dance together in the family room to some of the latest songs. Board games such as Clue and Sorry were popular. One of our favorite family games was a version of "Hide and Go Seek in the Dark" - we would put on the theme song from Close Encounters of the Third Kind while everyone would hide, and when the music stopped, the person who was it would look for everybody with a flashlight.
Dinnertime together was a chance to pray and review the day, as well as a time to laugh. After bedtime stories, our children were very good about saying prayers at bedtime. Sunday was our family day. We would start the day all going to Mass. Then we would take a ride and go out for dinner, and in the summer, we would go to the beach and pick up supper and ice cream on the way home.
Pope John Paul II calls the family the sanctuary of life in his encyclical The Gospel of Life. "Within the family each member is accepted, respected, and honored precisely because he or she is a person; and if any family member is in greater need, the care which she or he receives is all the more intense and attentive."
As the parents have given life to their children, they have the primary responsibility in the education of their children. The family is the principle school of the social virtues which are necessary for every society.
The Bible offers some excellent advice on raising children, advice that our permissive society would be wise to heed!
"He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves his son is diligent to discipline him."
Book of Proverbs 13:24
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
"Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise),
"that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth."
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
St. Paul to the Ephesians 6:1-4
"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged."
St. Paul to the Colossians 3:20-21
References and Further Reading
1 Michael J. Healy, PhD. The Nature of Love. Class Lectures, Texts, and Notes, Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, 2006.
2 Kahlil Gibran. The Prophet. AA Knopf, New York, 1977.
3 William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. The Norton Shakespeare, New York, 865-939, 1997.
4 Ignatius RSV Bible, San Francisco, California, 1965.
5 Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005). Love and Responsibility. First published in 1960. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1993.
6 Sheldon Vanauken. A Severe Mercy. Harper San Francisco, 1977, 1980.
7 Four Aces. Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Music by Sammy Fain and words by Paul Frances Webster, 1955.
8 Spanky and Our Gang. Stardust. Music by Hoagy Carmichael and words by Mitchell Parish, 1929.
9 Celine Dion. My Heart Will Go On. Theme Song from Titanic. Songwriter, James Horner, 1997.
10 Josh Turner. Would You Go With Me. Written by Shawn Camp and John Scott Sherrill, MCA Nashville, 2006.
11 CS (Clive Staples) Lewis (1898-1963). The Four Loves. Harcourt-Brace, Orlando, Florida, 1960.
12 Soren Kierkegaard. Works of Love. Original Publication, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1847. Translation, Harper & Row, New York, 1964.
13 Dietrich von Hildebrand. The Heart. Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1977.
14 Pope John Paul II. Evangelium Vitae - The Gospel of Life, Times Books, Random House, New York, 1995.
15 Pope John Paul II. The Original Unity of Man and Woman, in The Theology of the Body - Human Love in the Divine Plan. Pauline Books and Media, Boston, 1997.
16 Henry Gray. Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body. 40th Edition, edited by Susan Standring. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, Orlando, Florida, 2008.
17 Cunningham FG, MD, Editor: William's Obstetrics, 23rd Edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2010.
18 Plato. Phaedrus. Penguin Classics, London, England, 2005.
19 St. Thomas Aquinas. The Virtues, in Summa Theologica. Volume lll. Second Part of the Second Part, Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Christian Classics, Allen, Texas, St. Thomas More Press, 1912.
20 John Williams. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Composed and Conducted by John Williams, Arista Records, New York, 1977.
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