INSTITUTION AND PURPOSE
[continued from yesterday]
The state of marriage, therefore, as reflected in the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Church is seen to have the high function not only of procreating human beings to replenish the earth, but also of training them in the higher life of grace and thus preparing them for the still higher life of glory.
Christ came into the world solely to save sinners. The end of the Church is merely the salvation of souls. If, therefore, matrimony is a figure of the Incarnation and the Church, then its chief end is the population of heaven with immortal souls.
Seeing, then, that the chief end of matrimony is so high and noble, the means ordained for the accomplishment of that end must be proportionately high and noble. And so we find that nature has provided such means. These may be summed up in the two properties of marriage, its unity and its indissolubility.
And if we would probe further into the mystery and find the common source of these properties of marriage we discern it in that all-attractive beauty of the state, conjugal love. The mere procreation of children could not possibly be the end of matrimony; for this could be done without the bond, without the unity, without the perpetuity, without the love.
Manifestly, then, the chief reason for the institution of matrimony was the welfare of the offspring, not merely the existence of the offspring, but its growth and development, the promotion of all its interests.
Therefore it was that God so made man and woman that they should love each other, that they should foster that love and concentrate it on each other by excluding all other love of the same kind, that they should make it so strong and lasting that only death should be able to bring about a breach of the union.
All this points to the fact that the marriage bond is a law of nature. It is a mutual agreement by which a man and a woman give themselves to each other until death, and this chiefly for the sake of the highest interest of the children which shall be born to them.
Its natural perfection, however, in course of time became corrupted. Impurity then, even as now, led to hardness of heart. Consequently Moses allowed divorce. The Pharisees, knowing this, brought it as an objection to Our Lord's teaching. Our Lord, however, was able to quote an earlier and more fundamental law.
"Have ye not read that He who made man from the beginning, made them male and female? And He said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh." Moses had taken into consideration the hardness of their hearts and for the sake of preventing greater evils had permitted them to put away their wives." But," Our Lord reminded them, "from the beginning it was not so."
In this, as in many other matters, God had a greater design in view. He desired to provide a remedy for all this irregular life by raising the natural state of marriage to a supernatural plane.
Forbidding divorce and insisting on the essential unity and indissolubility of the marriage tie, Christ raised it to the dignity of a Sacrament. Thus it became a more perfect figure of the Incarnation and the Church. Through the union of the Godhead and the Manhood, Christ in His human nature was filled with all grace and knowledge compatible with His created nature.
Through the union of Christ with the Church, the Church is sanctified as His one perfect and unspotted bride. So likewise through the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of matrimony, there is conferred on them all the graces needful to enable them to carry out the arduous duties of that state.
"Husbands," says St. Paul, " love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life. ... So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. This is a great Sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church."...
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.