Marriage: For His Glory
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. –
Ephesians 5: 21-30
Some of you may know that I was engaged to be married as of last summer. Since the date was picked and the dress was bought, my future wedding and marriage have been the main things on my mind. I wake up and I see the boxes filled with things I’m packing from the home I’ve lived in almost my whole life. I see shelves filled with crafting supplies I’ve used to make the invitations and the bouquets. Everyday, something about the wedding comes up, and I’m bombarded with my own worries and stresses. As I prepare to get married, I constantly put myself in check and remind myself that this marriage is far more than just a new life with Michael, but it is a vocational call from God. I can try my best to seek all the marriage advice I can in Church teachings, apologetics, and the internet; but actually living out the vocation is where the real work begins. Wedding preparation calls us to reflect on the demands of marriage: freely given and life giving love, sacrifice, and forgiveness As I reread Ephesians 15, it radiates within my heart that this exhortation from St Paul summarizes the fundamental reality of marriage.
I have come to understand that marriage is not all about happiness. It is only part of it. In fact, some days it may be completely the opposite. Christ suffered for us on His way to Calvary. He hung for each of us personally on the Cross out of love so that we could be with Him. What a triumphant and profound proclamation of love is displayed when a person gives up their life for another! How can we not be moved to tears when we consider Christ on the cross? The sacrifice of Christ was done without reserve. By His actions, Christ declared once for all, “Yes, I truly love you and I will to die for you because I love you”. This type of sacrificial love is the fundamental model for marriage.
Marriage is often treated as a relationship of compromise, when on the contrary, it should more often be a relationship built on sacrifice. Christ, though experiencing the worst agony known to man, chose to forgive and lay down His life for those who persecuted Him. He knew that the result of His sacrifice would mean that all of humanity would again have the ability to be in communion with the Blessed Trinity. God desired that we would be truly happy and the only way for that to be possible would be through restoring union with Him.
The sacrifices we make in order to love our spouse may be great or small. It may mean watching the football game, even if we have no interest in it. It may mean not being able to go out and hang out with friends because our spouse asks us to stay and spend quality time with them. In my case, it is moving to a new city, away from all the friends and family I have known my whole life. This is no easy sacrifice for me but I know that I am called to remember Christ’s Sacrifice for His Bride and lay down my will for the sake of the one I love. Jesus offered up His life in order to give us new life in Him. This new life is a generous gift and a blessing to us, and we must remember that if we are bring life to our marriage, we must also be open to lay down our lives for the good of the other.
Having a foundation of union with God in prayer is essential to marriage. This is why it is important to begin working on building a prayer-centred relationship with our partner prior to marriage. In order to be able to call our spouse to holiness, we must first seek that holiness for ourselves. In doing so, we can then truly encourage our spouses to seek holiness because our lives already reflect what we are preaching. We must submit to God’s will joyfully in every aspect of our lives and this includes the planning of our future family when married. Our children (should God will it) will not really be our children, but are God’s children that He has given to us to take care of and bring up. We are called to introduce them to their Heavenly Father, who is also our Father. This responsibility must be accepted and acted upon with humility and that only comes by the grace given to us through prayer.
Forgiveness is one of the most humbling yet central parts of marriage. True forgiveness requires a lot love. Real forgiveness says, ” Yes, you have hurt me, but I forgive you, and I love you. I am willing to let this hurt go completely and not let it stand in the way of our relationship”. This past Sunday in the Novus Ordo Liturgical Calendar, the Gospel discussed how we will not be forgiven unless we forgive others:
So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in goodtime while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. In truth I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny. ( Matthew 5: 23-26)
So many marriages fall apart because of the lack of forgiveness. Hopelessness, distrust, and sorrow are just some of the things that come with this lack of forgiveness. Christ called out to God the Father on the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Even when He was on the cross, Christ still forgave those who had tortured Him, laughed at Him, and hated Him. We must imitate this kind of forgiveness in our relationships, even if it is not reciprocated. The ability to forgive in this way can only be granted by God’s grace. It is, however, a grace that God freely bestows on those who ask for it. It may take time, but it will come.
To truly forgive means to forgive not only the big things that hurt us but also the little things that hurt us. Sometimes those are the hardest things to forgive because the occurrences happen over and over. We may become angry with our spouse or friends because of these things, but doesn’t God have to deal with the same things in us? This can be seen in our need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We sin, we confess, we promise not to sin again, and because of our weakness, we sin again. Many times we sin in the exact same way we sinned before. Over and over we come to Christ in the Sacrament of Confession and ask for His forgiveness. God’s mercy is so great and His love is so true that He always takes us back with open arms if we are truly repentant. We have seen or heard of stories where a spouse opens their arms to their partner who has cheated on them. These courageous and loving souls choose to forgive. What an incredibly beautiful, selfless, and loving act! We must strive to forgive in the same way as Christ, who forgives our failures no matter how often we fail.
When all is said and done, I know that marriage is not for me, but for God. It is for His Glory. It is for the building of His Kingdom. Marriage is meant to help us grow in holiness. Christ did not die for His own sake, but for ours. Marriage is not about self-fulfilment, but the fulfilment of God’s will, which will inevitably make us truly happy. It is about doing what He desires so that we may help our spouse to love Christ more than us. Marriage is holy, for God made marriage to reflect His love in the Holy Trinity. It is sacrificial, because it is meant to be an imitation of the love of Christ for his Bride, the Church. True joy and love is only found in Christ, not in our spouse. It is not found in achieving the “life we have always wanted or dreamed of.” We must, therefore, seek to imitate Christ’s love for the Church in our marriages. We need to give God every tear, every pain, every joy, and He will do great things in us and in our marriages. Holiness is what marriage was designed for. Anything else falls short of the glory meant for it.
PS Check out this article that inspired me to write this post.
Posted on February 18, 2014, in Catholic, chastity, Confession, contraception, faith, family, Friendship, Love, marriage, Relationships, Vocations and tagged bridegroom, Christ, church, forgiveness, husband, love, marriage, sacrifice, wedding, wife. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.