39. FIDELITY OF HEART. Both will be only one flesh

Created: Wednesday, 01 January 2014 Last Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014

39. FIDELITY OF HEART
Both will be only one flesh

1. In our times, in one way or another, same questions are repeated: What is marriage? What is the sacrament of marriage? Is the Christian marriage a signal for the world? Is God´s original project obscured? Is it licit to divorce for some cause? Which is Jesus´ position?  ¿How do the first Christians marry? What does it mean to marry in the Lord?
2. In the first centuries, it is said in the Letter to Diogneto (in the middle of the second century), the Christians marry like everybody, for instance, according to the Jewish rules or to the roman ones. They accept the imperial laws, while they do not go against the Gospel. The marriage is celebrated “in the Lord” (1 Co 7, 39), like any other event of life, in the community, without any special ceremony
3. In the Jewish world (See Gn 24; Tb 7, 9,10; Jn 2, 1-12) the wedding is a familiar business. It is not celebrated in the synagogue, but at home. The celebration includes prayer and blessing. The wedding is preceded by the troth. The fiancés or spouses (from latin “sponsus”, from “spondere”, to solemnly promise) are mutually compromised (Dt 22, 23; Mt 1, 18).
4. In the roman world three ways of getting married have , successively, taken place: The “confarreactio” (with wedding pie), the oldest way, includes juridical and religious character ceremonies. In the imperial epoch this type of union rarely lakes place. The usual way of getting married  is the “coemtio” (a rite that symbolizes the purchase of the wife) and the “usus” (use, simple cohabitation behind the mutual conjugal consent). The “consensus” or consent constitutes the essential factor of the conjugal union. Justinian’s  Code in the sixth century says: “It is not the sexual intercourse what makes up the marriage, but the consent” (Digesta 35, 1, 15). As such, neither any particular rite nor the presence of a magistrate is required. The only roll of the civil power is to recognize the existence of the marriage and, in a certain way, to protect the conjugal union establishing certain conditions.
5. Ignatius of Antioch  (about year 107) invites the Christians to marry “with the knowledge of the bishop, so that the wedding is in agreement with the Lord and not by only the desire” (A Polycarp 5, 2). Tertulian (about (169 – 220) comments the grace to marry in the Lord: “How do we want to be able to acclaim so great happiness of a wedding like that, a wedding united by the Church, that confirms the offering, that the blessing marks, that the angels announce, that the Father ratifies?... The two children of the same Father, servers of the same Lord; nobody separates them, neither in the spirit nor in the flesh” (Ad uxorem 2, 9)
6. From the fourth century to the eleventh the ecclesial character of the wedding between Christians is underlined and it is well established that the ceremonies are not compulsory for the validity of the union. The first testimony that talks about truly liturgical nuptial blessing is dated in the pope Damascus´ epoch (366 -384) and it is found in the works of the pseudo-Ambrosio. It is confirmed the deep influence of the roman law, according to which only the consent is strictly necessary for the marriage, whichever were its way. Pope Nicholas I (Year 866) says to the Bulgarians that consult him about the essential way of the marriage: “According to the laws it is enough the consent of those which union is to take place. In the nuptials, if by chance this consent is missing, all the rest, even the sexual intercourse, is meaningless”(Dz 334)
7. It is in the later centuries when the Church claims the juridical responsibility upon the marriage. The circumstances favour it. The Church begins to demand, with more and more rigour, that the mutual consent is to be made publically, in the presence of a priest, in the church, or, more often, at the gate of the church, as several rituals of the XI-XIV centuries indicate. With this, what was before made by the father or guardian, now is carried out by the priest, with sentences like these: “I deliver you to N. as wife” (Meaux ritual), “And I join you in marriage” (Council of Trent, Roman Ritual)
8. The II Council of Letrán (1139) includes the marriage among the sacraments (Dz 367). The council of Trent, reacting against the statement of the reformers, not only defends the sacramental character of the Christian marriage, but also the right of the Church to regulate it. By council decree, it establishes (wherever possible) a canonical way to celebrate it. From now on, the marriage of the baptized will not be valid, it be null, if it is not celebrated “in the presence of the parish priest or of other priest with licence of that priest or of the Bishop, and before two or three witnesses” (Dz 992), It is desired to guarantee the validity of the sacrament and to avoid the danger of the underground and of the impediments, but they attempt against the common human right.
9.  In the old Code of Canonical Right (1917) the canonical way of marriage is imposed to those baptized or admitted in the Catholic Church, although they would had afterwards abandoned it (c. 1099). In the new Code of Canonical Right (1983), the formal abandonment takes with it the non obligatory nature of the canonical  way, when both brides find themselves in this situation; therefore, marriage that they carry out without a canonical way will be, before the Church, true marriage, if it meets all due conditions (c. 1117).
10. The second Vatican Council requests to revise the marriage rite to express better the grace of the sacrament and the duties of the spouses (SC 77). The new Marriage Ritual (1969 and 1990), in the mass or out of it, in the frame of the celebration of the Word, enunciate the celebration in four moments: the questions, the consent, the blessing and delivery of the rings, the prayer of the faithful. The old prayer of blessing of the wife extends to the husband too.
11.  The Gospel sends us to God´s original project. According to God´s project, husband and wife are called to form “only one flesh”. (Gn 2, 24). Such is the paradisiacal and original figure of the marriage in a world that, as far as coming from God´s hands, is good, a human and habitable world, a garden (2, 8). The relationship between husband and wife is harmonious, communication is transparent: “They were not ashamed one of the other” (2, 25). Diversity and reciprocity of male and female are presented like God´s image (1, 27); fertility like blessing: “Grow up and multiply yourselves” (1, 28); conjugal love, like liberation of the solitude: “mutual help” (2, 18). Nevertheless, something very deep provokes the loss of that figure, the curse, the lack of affection, the separation, the abandonment.
12. Narration of Gn 3 is applied to any specific couple. Male and female, in their deepest mistake, avoid God´s presence. They hide. God has the habit to walk in the garden of human history. But they believe that God is not interesting for their life, that God is envious, enemy of their happiness and of their life: “Your eyes will open and you will be like gods, expert in the good and the evil.” (3, 5). God appears not just like an illusion, but like a lie, an oppression from which it is necessary to liberate ourselves. Therefore, the couple rejects God, but with it the only thing they get is to close the way that leads to the tree of life (3, 24). They rest out of the garden, out of the wonderful world, full of happiness and of life, that God had created for them. Alliance rupture among both is already manifested in the accusation (3, 12). Own responsibility is not assumed. Love relationship becomes a relationship of strength, of domination. The woman does not feel anymore the queen of the household, but the slave. She lives maternity like a weight, with pain. The world of work appears hard, thorny, slaving. Before the fact of the death, husband and wife become hopeless (3, 16 – 19).
13. In the biblical experience, marriage is God´s work, from whom all true love comes. A love that may have been originated in apparent chance circumstances, but in which the believer acknowledges God´s hand. In this way is make by Abraham’s servant sent, according to he uses of the epoch, to the fiancée’s home, to manage the marriage of Isaac with Rebecca: he blesses the Lord, who placed him on the good way (Gn 24, 48). Thus is also made by the fiancée’s relatives: “This business came out from the Lord” (24, 50) Same happens with Tobias. Tobias is an exiled. His meeting with Sarah, is providential. The distance that separates both, immense. The way very long, and not exempt of risks. Raphael’s mediation can not be paid with money (Tb 12, 2). Marriage is entrust to God.: “May he unite you and fulfil you of blessing” (7, 12). Psalm 127 is sung: “May the Lord build your home”
14. The Gospel considers the marriage in the perspective of God´s original project. Conjugal union is the love’s alliance: “The man shall abandon his father and his mother, and he shall join his wife and both shall be only one flesh”. (Mt 19, 5). Jesus returns to the marriage the perfection of the origins, attacking the evil in its roots. The case is not only not to commit adultery (Ex 20, 14), but to love each other with all the heart and for ever, with a strong heart that “large waters cannot switch off” (Ct 8, 6 – 7). Fidelity is a heart’s problem. It is the heart the root that needs to be healed (Mt 15, 19 – 20). If that is so, the couple will be a signal amidst the world. And it will be said: Look, those do not divorce, their love do not die.
15. For Jesus all marriage is indissoluble. It is written down in the prophets: “Do no betray the woman of your youth. Since I hate the repudiation” (Ml 2, 15 – 16). John the Baptist, who paid it with his life, told to Herod: “It is not licit to you to live with your brother’s wife” (Mk 6, 18). By that time, like now, the problem of divorce is acute. The Old Testament admits it (Dt 24, 1). The large schools of the epoch discuss the cases in which it may be applied. That of the rabbi Shammai admits the divorce only in the case of adultery; that of Hillel adds: “and  any other thing that can disturb the husband”. Well then, to those who do not accept the indissolubility, Jesus calls to conversion, he does not annuls the marriage.
16. To test him, it is to say, to see if he teaches the official doctrine, some Pharisees ask him: May anyone to repudiate his wife for some motive? Jesus sends us to God´s original project: “What God joined let the man not to separate it” (Mt 19, 6). The Pharisees reply: “So, why Moses prescribed to give act of divorce and to repudiate her? Jesus replies: “Moses, taking into account your hearts´ hardness, allowed you to repudiate your wives; but at the beginning it was not like that. Therefore I say to you: who ever divorces his wife, unless it be for concubinage, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Mt 19, 8 – 9). The illegal union (in greek, porneia) refers to the illicit unions, forbidden in the Law (see Lv 18 – 19 and Acts 15, 22 – 29). The disciples understand (with difficulty) that for Jesus there is no exception. Therefore, they tell him: “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift.” (Mt 19, 10 – 11)
17. In Mark´s evangel there is no exception either (Mk 10, 11 – 12). Same happens in Luke´s evangel: “Anyone who repudiates his wife and he marries another one, he commits adultery, and that who marries a woman repudiated by her husband commits adultery” (Lk 16, 18). In John´s evangel, Jesus says to the Samaritan female: “For you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband.” (Jn 4, 18). On his part, Paul resumes Jesus´ position as follows: “I command married couples – not I but the Lord – that the wife should not separate from her husband. If she separates from him, let her not marry again, or let her make peace with her husband. Similarly the husband should not divorce his wife.”
18. And the so called Pauline exception? The first author that interprets Paul’s passage (1 Co 7, 12 – 16) like “Pauline exception” is the Pseudo – Ambrosio, at the end of the fourth century. The attribution of such interpretation to Saint Ambrosio (and to Saint Gregorio Magnum) favoured its introduction in the western Church. Pope Innocence III, at the end of the twelfth century, acknowledges it officially. But Saint Paul speaks only about the possibility of a new marriage in the case of the death of one of the spouses (1 Co 7, 39; see CDC, cc 1141 – 1150). In the cases in which there are problems due to difference of faith, Saint Paul exhorts to the believer part to do not take initiative of separation, since the believer part sanctifies the other part. Otherwise, “your children (not baptized) would be impure, but now they are saints”. But now, “if the non believer part wants to separate, let it to separate, since the brother or sister are not submitted to slavery” ) Saint Jerome’s  translation, century IV). It is not to support a situation of slavery: “to live in peace we are called by the Lord”. Saint Paul ends his exhortation: “then, what do you know, woman, if you would save your husband? And, what do you know, husband, if you would save your wife?”
19. In his Shepherd, Hermas shows that for the Church of the century I and the beginning of the century II the repudiation declared lawful by the Judaism is a separation after which a new marriage would be adultery. In the first centuries, adultery means rupture of communion, id est, rupture of relationship with the community (1 Co 5, 9 – 11). The community is governed by the Gospel: it is not imposed to anybody, it is there for that who wants to follow it. And the others? Saint Paul says: Why am I going to judge to those in the outside? Are not to those inside to whom you judge? To those outside, God will judge” (1 Co 5, 12 – 13)
20. In the face of Jesus´ message about the marriage, the large Christian churches are tested: Do they overcome it? Or, rather, do they nullify God´s word by its own tradition? For instance, Gregorio Nacianceno, Constantinople Bishop (330 – 390), maintains the “condescension” of the Eastern Church: “The first marriage conforms the law, the second is tolerance and indulgence, the third is evil” (PG 36, col. 292). The secular practice of the Western Churches dissolves the marriage if there is adultery and also for other causes. Mathew’s  incise is misinterpreted (19, 9). Divorce sentence is pronounced “by virtue of the sacred canons and of the imperial laws”. In the Reform Churches, divorce is admitted in case of adultery or abandonment. And among us, there are many divorces under the nullifying blanket.
21. According to the Vatican Council II, the intimae conjugal community of life and love is established by the marriage alliance, it is to say, by the personal and irrevocable consent of the spouses: “Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone” (GS 48). Love between husband and wife is manifested” in diverse ways according to the honest habits of peoples and epochs” (GS 49)

22. Common marriage is raised to sacrament by Christ. Christ meets the Christian spouses and stays with them so that they love each other with fidelity and they are strengthened in their mission like spouses or like parents (GS 48). The Lord comes to heal their love and to improve it “with the special gift of the grace and the charity” (GS 49). Such a love overcomes the purely erotic dimension. The eros is not able to support any human relationship for a long time, unless other forces serve like support when it cease talking: the forces of the fidelity, of the love, of the confidence.

23. Being Christ´s sacrament, it is lived in community. Christ makes himself “only one flesh” with it: “Large mystery is this, says Paul, but I refer it to Christ and to the Church” (Eph 5, 32). It is in a community where it is easier to live “in the Lord” God´s original project about husband and wife. It is in a community where it is easier to acknowledge the living God who walks through the garden of this world. It is in a community where the faith in ordinary life is fed. The spouses can join others “in friendship associations” for mutual help (PO 6). With their fidelity and with their love, the spouse evangelize in the middle of a society that  “the epidemics of the divorce” (GS 47)

24. The decision about the number of children belongs to the spouses. It is a question of responsible parenthood. The spouses “are co-operators of the love of God Creator and their interpreters. So that, they will accomplish their mission with human and Christian responsibility and with docile reverence towards God they both will make an effort, in common agreement and effort, to achieve a right judgement, attending both their own personal good and that of their children, already born or still to be born, discerning the circumstances of the times and of the life status both material and spiritual, and, finally, taking into account the good of the familiar community, of the temporal society and of the Church itself”. The spouses “may find themselves in situations in which the number of children, at least for some time, cannot be increased”, “there are those who dare to give immoral solutions to these problems”, “life from its conception must be safeguarded with maximum care; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (GS 50 – 51)

25. Certain questions that needed more diligent investigation were entrusted by Paul VI to the Commission for Population, Family and Birth rate, so that, when this finished its task, the Pope could issue his judgement. During its study, the Commission, formed by 75 experts (theologians, moralists, doctors, psychologists, sociologists, couples), resided in Rome´s Spanish College. Little by little the Commission defined its position. At the end, the majority judged that birth artificial control had the same morality that natural control, as long as it neither were abortive nor clinically counter indicated (because of pain for the woman or the foetus)

26. One thing is the Genesis general commandment: “Grow up and multiply” (Gn 1, 28)  - or a prophetic call to the peoples that grow older due to its scarce birth rate – and a very different thing is the principle according to which every sexual act must remain open to fecundation, and if it is not done so, a “a grave fault “ is committed. (Pius XI, Casti connubii, 1930, DS 3717; see Pius XII, To the Midwives Italian Union Congress, AAS 43, 1951, 835 – 854). According to this principle, natural control too (once acknowledged by the science) should be forbidden, since it expects the same. But this is not what Saint Paul says; he formulates an ample criterion about the sexual relationship among the couple: “The wife is not the owner of her own body: the husband is. Similarly, the husband is not the owner of his own body: the wife is. (1 Co 1, 7,4)

27. The strictness of the conservative position (“they tie heavy loads”, Mt 23, 4) would be understood if it still professed the old Aristotle biology,  according to which in the masculine semen the whole man in being (homunculus) would be contained, while the woman would stay passive in the generation (she would only be “receiver container”). If this were so, every couple sexual act closed to fecundation would be similar to abortion. But today we know that the new human being begins with the fecundation of the feminine ovule.

28. Well then, on July the 25th 1968, Paul VI published the encyclical Humanae vitae, opting for the minority position and accepting only natural control Deception was large, since another decision was expected. In a pastoral letter, Bishop Luciani, them Pope John Paul I, said to his diocesans: “I confess that, although not revealing in writing, I had the intimae hope that the very grave existing difficulties could be overcome and that the answer from the master, who talks with special charisma in the name of the Lord, could coincide, at least partially, with the hopes conceived by many couples, once constituted the adequate pontifical commission to examine the theme” (July, 29th 1968).

29. An evolution in the question of the marriage fecundity is confirmed.  If in a given moment the major worry was the legitimacy of the techniques (which measure are we going to use to avoid delivering more children?), more and more the exigency of a programme is taking place (do we have a child now or is it better to wait?), and also the apparition of other forms of fecundity, For instance, adoption, acceptance, social activity, collaboration in the service of the Gospel (Like Achila and Priscilla, Rm 16, 3 – 5)

30. The religious marriage is requested by people who find themselves in very diverse situations: “It is convenient to distinguish between those persons of living faith (personal, active), from others of ambient faith (childish, in heritage, not personal), and of those de-Christianized (who have lost their faith or it does not influence their life). These circumstances can take place equally in both parts of the couple or can be different in each one, creating complex situations that must be taken into account in the celebration and in the previous catechesis” (RM 10)

31. Like in Cana, we can count on the presence of Jesus and to make what he says (Jn 2, 1 – 12), We can celebrate the marriage with the old wine, symbol of the law. The wine is perhaps scarce and it is finished in the middle of the banquet. We can be sent to the purification stone water jars. It could appear, in some way, the obsession for the fault and the needed purification. The stone water jars can be empty (the old ritual does not work) and it is necessary to fill them up. Finally, we can see the transformation of water into wine, true signal of the Gospel
Dialogue: Which is Jesus´ position on the marriage?