In a culture that abases sacramental marriage; a culture that is more sexualized, secular and sinful, perhaps marriage is harder. Nonetheless, marriage is a light in the darkness, a covenant gift of God wherein family is formed in life-giving, sacrificial love.
Sacramental marriages are born of God’s light and contribute inestimable good in the world. Marriage threatens the kingdom of darkness because it mirrors Trinitarian life and builds up the kingdom of God. Satan seeks to build his kingdom of eternal death by leading others into his fall from God. Observing the tactics of the devil during the Church’s rite of exorcism, it is obvious that Satan hates Godly relationships, and aims to destroy what God has joined together for good. Demonic tactics include sowing seeds of division, lies, confusion, doubt, suspicion and hatred between spouses. He introduces subtle seductions to self-indulgence and self-reliance, often through temptations to illicit relationships outside of marriage. Sometimes the gateway to marital infidelity is through viewing pornographic material wherein emotional adultery develops and becomes a spiritual cancer. Then the human will often mistakenly follows the emotions.
Satan cannot read our mind but he is an astute ancient observer of fallen human nature who knows how to strike at our proverbial Achilles heel. By closely observing us he may know more about you and me than we do about ourselves. That is why the saints teach the necessity of self-knowledge together with knowledge of God. Authentic self-knowledge is a personal awareness, “I am a sinner in need of redemption!” It is easy to point to the darkness that is outside of us, but Christ reminds us to see the darkness that is within the human heart. Recently at a conference an experienced exorcist priest exclaimed, “You are worse than you think you are, but Divine Mercy is greater than your sin sickness!”
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s book Three to Get Married teaches that God is in the middle of sacramental marriage as the binding charity between the man and woman.
It takes three to make love. What binds lover and beloved together on earth is an ideal outside both. As it is impossible to have rain without clouds, so it is impossible to understand love without God. …Here is the answer to the riddle of love. Love implies relation. If lived in isolation, it becomes selfishness; if absorbed in collectivity, it loses its personality and, therefore the right to love. The ultimate reason it takes three to make love is that God is love, and His Love is Triune. All earthly love worthy of the name is the echo of “This Tremendous Lover,” Who is not an individual Ego, but a Society of Love. …All love implies a triple relationship of Lover, a Beloved, and the Unifying Love. (Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married, pg. 51-52)
Over summer I re-read Screwtape Letters and the experience was like that of a flashlight revealing how often I fell prey to the subtle tactics of the evil one in my marriage. C.S. Lewis’s classic portrays the reality of an evil protagonist assigned to several missions, one of which is to corrupt a marriage and family through an array of cunning tactics. It is wise to know our enemy and his strategy to divide and conquer what God has designed to bless humanity and to perpetuate joy.
In his classic book, C. S. Lewis portrays Screwtape as an experienced demon assigned to train Wormwood, a novice demon, in the tactics of seducing men away from Christianity.
Here Screwtape is talking to Wormwood: The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart), has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable. But He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence.
…Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions: Is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now, if we keep men asking: “Is it in accordance with the general movements of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?” they will neglect relevant questions. (C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, pg. 118)
Neglecting the relevant questions, dancing around the heart of the matter for political correctness, avoiding proper discernment, relying on self or the spirit of the world to re-define marriage? Prudence is a cardinal virtue. The Holy Spirit helps us to discern what is of the light or darkness, truth or lie. Often, Satan erects smoke screens of confusion and half-truths. Defending the sacredness of marriage begs courage, sacrifice and prayer from members of the Body of Christ.
In my forty-years of marriage I have been blessed by seasons of inestimable joy and fruitfulness, but there have been seasons of longsuffering in the fire of purification. Complete surrender of my will to the Divine Will is required. I am not inferring a grin and bear it mode. Rather, I will what God wills for our lives because I trust that He is about the business of purifying our love and leading us toward salvation in Him. When our marriage was most threatened, the grace of God held us together even if only by a tiny thread. How golden and strong that thin thread in the hand of Almighty God! When things were dark, I looked to God and His Church for light, truth and wisdom. I have always known that there is wisdom from above that provides if I surrender to God’s plan.
I trust the Church’s teaching on marriage since she is our holy Mother. The lives of married saints also inspire me—the truth of marital grace as we see in St. Rita of Cascia married to Paolo Mancini, St. Bridget of Sweden married to Ulf Gudmarsson, St. Catherine of Genoa married to Julian Adorno, and St. Jane Frances de Chantal married to Christopher de Rabutin. (Ferdinand Holbock, Married Saints and Blessed Through the Centuries)
I close this little reflection with wisdom from the encyclical letter of Pope Pius XI on Christian Marriage (Casti Connubii) written in 1930, and completely relevant today.
III. False Theories: When we consider the great excellence of chaste wedlock, it appears all the more regrettable that particularly in our day we should witness this divine institution often scorned and on every side degraded.
For now, not secretly nor under cover, but openly, with all sense of shame put aside, now by word, again by writings, by theatrical productions of every kind, by romantic fiction, by amorous and frivolous novels, by cinema portraying in vivid sense, in addresses broadcast by radio telephony, in short by all the inventions of modern science, the sanctity of marriage is trampled upon and derided; divorce, adultery, all the basest vices either are extolled or at least depicted in such colors as to appear to be free of all reproach and infamy. Books are not lacking which dare to pronounce themselves as scientific but which in truth are merely coated with a veneer of science in order that they may the more easily insinuate their ideas. The doctrines defended in these are offered for sale as the productions of modern genius, of that genius namely, which, anxious only for truth, is considered to have emancipated itself from all those old-fashioned and immature opinions of the ancients; and to the number of these antiquated opinions they regulate the traditional doctrine of Christian marriage.
These thoughts are instilled into men of every class, rich and poor, masters and workers, lettered and unlettered, married and single, the godly and the godless, old and young, but for these last, as easiest prey, the worst snares are laid.
And since, in order that the deceits of the enemy may be avoided, it is necessary first of all that they be laid bare; since much is to be gained by denouncing these fallacies for the sake of the unwary. (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Letter on Christian Marriage)
Lord Jesus, graciously grant us the courage and wisdom to discern light from darkness and preserve sacramental marriage according to the divine will. Amen.