Fall 2004

Theological Perspectives on Marriage

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

“The love of Christian spouses already participates in the ‘nuptial mystery’ that fulfills the promise of conjugal love in the eschatological love that Christ bears the Church.”

We are sufficiently aware of the massive influence of communication technologies on the civil authorities and the spectacular advances of lobby groups to keep from boldly offering the teaching of Christian revelation on marriage. The confusion that reigns in people’s minds is such, and the lobby groups so effective, that they succeed in imposing their ideologies and in provoking the legislative slippage that we have been witnessing. The millions of believers that we serve have a right to hear a clear statement to help them distinguish what is true from what is false and to dissipate the popular mental confusion and moral disarray.

What is at stake in the present discussion is not only the regulation of a universally recognized social institution, it is the redefinition of marriage, in independence from its divine origin and its proper nature as a social institution created by God for the propaga- tion of the human race. The homo technicus that Goethe already proclaimed two centuries ago seems to have taken the place of the homo sapiens of Christianized Greco-Roman civilization. He is in the process of reinventing himself and recreating himself without God, dismissing  the  fundamental  givens  of  human  reproduction.  This homunculus which has emerged from Faust’s laboratory no longer wishes to live on the basis of a gift that has been made to him and that he receives; instead, he wishes to reproduce himself in an autonomous and narcissistic fashion. He has lost his original reference to the Creator and he strives to draw from his own techniques the magic formula for his immortality. This adventure of the sorcerer’s apprentice can lead nowhere else but to absurdity and self-destruction.

As Christians, we know that Jesus Christ is the measure of man and that there is no genuine humanity outside of him, outside of the grace that he has come to bring to human beings, institutions, and societies. It is thus by taking Christ as our starting point that we are able to deepen the rational and sacramental foundations of marriage in a way that allows us better to judge the actual evolution of our secularized society and to propose a coherent alternative. The present anthropolo-gical crisis urgently demands a return to the foundations of Christian anthropology, without which our society risks losing the memory of its constitutive values and compromising its future.

As theological perspectives, I will develop three points that directly or indirectly concern the aforementioned problem. First, a call back to the creation of man in the image of God, as male and female, the conjugal relation expressing by its very nature the vital bond of dependence and service that defines the status and the vocation of the couple with respect to the Creator. Second, the vocation of man and woman in God’s plan is rooted even more profoundly in the grace of Christ who not only restores the conjugal relation by healing love’s wounds but elevates this relation to the eminent dignity of the sacrament of Christ’s union with the Church. Third, this “community of life and love” that we call the marriage institution, this domestic church, is a largely ignored and untapped sacramental resource that ought to nourish conjugal and familial spirituality and to offer a response to the moral and anthropological collapse that we witness at present with astonishment.

 

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