From scripture we have seen that, according to God’s plan, marriage can only occur between equal partners. Thus we heard that, having encountered and named all other living creatures on the earth, Adam found none who was adequate to be his partner in life. Therefore, God created Eve, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh; his perfect equal. In her he found an adequate partner with whom he could enter into the bond of marriage, becoming ’one flesh.’
It is because of this first necessary condition that the bond of marriage can never be shared between human and any other creature on the planet. We might love our pets, but they would never be equal partners!
The second necessary condition for marriage is also found immediately in the first chapters of Genesis: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he create them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fertile and multiply.’”
From the outset, God created marriage to be an institution ordered to the generation of new life. Indeed, throughout scripture, the fruitfulness of a married couple in bearing children was seen as a direct indication of God’s blessing upon spouses. We hear this truth sung about in the Psalms: “Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them” (Ps. 127). Also, in the wisdom literature of Sacred Scripture we read: “Children’s children are the crown of the elderly” (Proverbs 17). Though this connection between children and marriage is manifold and pervasive throughout the Sacred Scriptures, no greater example of this essential connection can be found then the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
There are no limitations on the way in which God could have chosen to enter into our world. He could have simply descended to earth with the fullness of our adult humanity. He could have come as a child and simply been cared for by the priests of the temple until he was of age. He could just have been the son of the Virgin Mary, without St. Joseph.
He chose none of these things. The eternal God chose the best and most fitting way in which to enter the world. He chose to be a part of a family. He chose to be a child, born with a mother and father in the bond of holy matrimony. If even the chaste marital union of the Ever Virgin Mary and St. Joseph was ordered to the generation of new life, how can it be doubted that this openness to life is an essential part of God’s plan for marriage? He has demonstrated this truth by his own birth.
This intrinsic connection between marriage and children is expressed in the opening prayer of the nuptial Mass: “Be attentive to our prayers, O Lord, and in your kindness uphold what you have established for the increase of the human race.”
Because of this necessary connection between an openness to life and marriage, the priest asks the couple before they exchange their vows: “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”
Later, in the nuptial blessing itself we hear: “O God, by whom woman is joined to man and the companionship they had in the beginning is endowed with the one blessing not forfeited by original sin nor washed away by the flood […] We implore you: may these your servants hold fast to the faith and keep your commandments; made one in the flesh, may they be blameless in all they do; and with the strength that comes from the Gospel, may they bear true witness to Christ before all; may they be blessed with children, and prove themselves virtuous parents, who live to see their children’s children.”
The essential unity between an openness to new life and marriage are undeniably manifest in scripture, the lived faith of God’s people, and the example of Jesus Christ. Yet, God does nothing without reason. Though obedience is always sufficient to God’s will, our faith and love impel us to delve into the mystery of his plan; we strive to understand more fully why he has established this necessary link between new life and marital love. It is to pondering this mystery that we will turn next week.
Praised be Jesus Christ; now and forever!