Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Marriage: a participation in the saving power of the covenant bond

A few years ago while on annual retreat with my brother deacons of my diocese and their wives, we had the tremendous privilege of having Fr. Ray Carey as our retreat master. In one of our conferences, Fr. Carey, who is a psychologist, said something in passing that struck me as quite true, namely that the Roman Catholic Church did not really have a theology of marriage until the Second Vatican Council.

The theology to which Fr. Carey referred was first articulated in the first chapter of the second part of Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (par. 47-52).

Wedding Feast at Cana, by Vladimir Grygorenko

The late Fr. Lawrence Boadt, a well-regarded Scripture scholar, stated what Fr. Carey only alluded to and did so succinctly and plainly in an article entitled "Scriptural Reflections on Marriage and Marital Love":
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church's emphasis on marriage has been expressed much more in the spiritual categories of salvation, grace, and divine promise than in the language of legal contracts. By choosing the language of the Scriptures rather than canon law to redefine marriage, the Church avoids the appearance of stressing the need to merely hold on through the problems of married life and instead positively encourage couples to develop their relationship to Christ in order to turn difficulties into opportunities of loving concern and reject any indulgent self-love as the basis of their union. Through prayer, they may be assured that their marriage can survive and flourish, because it participates in the saving power of the covenant bond between God and Israel, Christ and the Church


  1. In covenant you become identified with the other individual and there is a supernatural commingling of two lives.

  2. Some people want to marry a person with higher or lower status than them. Others want to marry people who have similar status. In many societies women marry men who are of higher social status. There are marriages where each party has sought a partner of similar status. There are other marriages in which the man is older than the woman.

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  3. Yes, but all of that is merely to point out the obvious. In some societies, like in Western countries, people meet and marry for love without giving a great deal of thought to social status. There are marriages, I know several, in which the woman is older than the man.

    The point here is that for Christians, despite any and all of that, marriage is saving reality.