Marriage—Heaven on Earth?

Ah, but then there’s that glitch, ever-present in all our endeavors, scrambling our thoughts, our intentions, our perceptions, and even our actions as we try to carry them out — original sin.

Since the fall in the Garden, the relationship between men and women has been shaken to its very roots and what should have been our greatest exchange of gifts — marriage — has turned out in many cases to be our greatest and deepest source of pain and discontent. No marriage is without some suffering as two imperfect souls attempt to live in very close quarters, often surrounded by a growing number of imperfect offspring. (Not to mention imperfect in-laws, imperfect neighbors, imperfect co-workers, etc.) But statistics now show that fewer couples than ever have found ways to persevere in lifelong marriages. Is there hope for the institution itself?

Faith tells us that original sin corrupted man’s ability to love, and yet Christ insists that marriage is still indissoluble and the true foundation of civilization — so what are we to do? The Holy Father, guided by the Holy Spirit, points back to the Garden — before the fall — in order to discern how to combat the corruption in a way that is based on the truth about man. Thus, if original sin affected men and women in definite but unique ways, we can look at how this affects our marriages and establish a program to attack it — realistically.

Truth shows us the enemy, not phantoms or confusing distractions. Truth also shows us what marriage is meant to be so that we are pursuing the right path to begin with. If we undertake what we call marriage with a different relationship, contract, or expectation in mind, we will never accomplish a fulfilled union providing lasting happiness for both. That would be tantamount to buying a model submarine at the hobby shop and expending great efforts to put it together right in order to make it fly.

For example, to enter into a marriage in order to sustain on a daily basis the warm feeling of romantic love is to misunderstand the foundation and the realistic expectation of marriage. Given our human nature, this dream is doomed to fail. But to establish a union with the true understanding of self-giving love, knowing that it will at times be hard, unrequited, and even misunderstood, is to base a marriage on a far better foundation and it stands a greater chance to not only survive but thrive over the years.

To add to this a desire to know Christ and to imitate His love for His bride the Church would lead a couple to grow in their understanding of ways to serve each other better. This would benefit their immediate family and provide a witness to the greater community about the nature of God and His unstinting love for His creation. Rough times would still come and winds would still buffet the house but the marriage would be built on a rock that would sustain it throughout.

Grace is essential for successful marriages. The Catechism knows this and it prescribes means to accrue what is necessary — being married in the Church, staying close to the Sacraments, being open to new life, catechizing the children in the Faith, and fostering a strong family prayer life. God wants our marriages to reflect the beautiful love of the Blessed Trinity and if we can make Christ the foundation of our marriage — we will actually have here in our homes on earth a foretaste of heaven.

(This article is reprinted with permission from Canticle Magazine, the Voice of Today's Catholic Woman.)

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