Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Icon of Marriage

Much of today's discussion around marriage (and the attack on it as an institution) is limited to its pragmatic, contractural aspects and focuses on "fairness" in only this context. Fresh off another guest spot during Relevant Radio's Morning Air today, Fr. Tharp has posted his notes on the Sacrament of Marriage. I recommend the whole post, but one section strikes a chord. Today's double-click culture has seemingly lost the idea that, among other things, a marriage itself points to something else, and as such is an authentic three-fold icon:

First, the Sacrament of Marriage points to the restoration of the fallen human couple. Christ, by raising marriage from the natural order to the order of Grace, points backward initially to show where it was headed. Therefore, the shame and division represented in the fall, because of Christ, is patched by the two in marriage who become one flesh.

Second, the Sacrament of Marriage points to the mystery of redemption and the union of Christ and His Church. This is what St. Paul is referring to in Ephesians 5. The relationship in marriage is one based in mutual service, not mutual one-upmanship. Just as Christ gives his life for His Spouse, the married couple make a gift of themselves in the service of one another and their children.

Third, the Sacrament of Marriage points to the Holy Trinity. Just as in the Holy Trinity, life begets life. The Father and the Son make such a total gift of themselves one to the other that a third person, the person-bond of love, is breathed forth. In the married union this is the fruitful goal of fertility. The child is not a prize; he is a gift generated first by the mutual love and realized in the conjugal act.

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