The Status of Marriage II

Basis of Marriage

This reading is in support of the call of our Holy Father, Pope Francis for a Synod regarding family issues. It is an attempt to bring to light the current pressures and realities of the world we live in. It is not a discussion to pass judgment but rather to highlight the issues, which will be discussed during the upcoming Synod.
We discussed last week the major changes occurring in marriage. Divorce rates are 50%, People are waiting longer to get married, A large percentage of couples are living together prior to getting married and these marriages are statistically more prone to divorce. The results are that in the U.S. and the EU, 40% of today’s children are born without their parents being married, in the UK the rate is 48% and expected to go over 50% by 2016
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With that in mind: How does the Church influence our lives as Married Couples? What are the divine principles? How has this developed over time and what role does the church play in family life?
In Genesis we witness the creation of woman: (Genesis 2:22 – 24) 22 And the Lord God built the rib, which he took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam. 23 And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. 24 Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.
In Mark and Mathew, this message is repeated almost verbatim, although both authors add the verse “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”
Marriage predates written history. With a wife being among the most valuable things a man could have. She was therefore looked after and protected. There are many references to wives having a tent of their own (a real luxury in the tribal nomadic days) and later the innermost tent was the realm of the wife.
Modern marriage and ceremony traces its roots to the middle ages. If you were to get married in the middle ages, you would have to declare to the priest, that you intended to get married, normally a complete moon cycle (month) ahead of time. Many times the decision to wed was made by the families and not the betrothed, but that is another subject.
The priest placed a notice of your intentions on the Church as an announcement to the community. Each week your upcoming wedding plans would be announced, in order to provide ample opportunity for protest. Inquiries would be made to ensure that there were no reasons the couple should no be married.
On the wedding day, the couple would stand outside the church, the man on the right in deference to the rib taken from the left side of man to create woman. Vows were exchanged and a ring was given before entering the church. The placement of the ring is on the fourth finger, in deference to the trinity.
The ceremony then moved inside the inner sanctum, where prayers were made and the Eucharist was celebrated. It was a ceremony that most of us would recognize.
Later, the priest would accompany the newlywed couple to their home, where he would bless the bed and explain the solemn commitment under God to be together. It was clearly explained that a woman must make herself available to the man, whenever he wished. Further, that the man must make himself available at the wish of his wife. The act of love was considered sacred and it promoted family stability. The reinforcement of unity and of deepening love for one another was considered a natural and holy part of the marriage bed.
Contrary to popular rumor, it has never been Church doctrine for this act to be “only” for the sake of procreation. Although in the middle ages, there were days during the year when the act was forbidden. These were feast days and at times three days prior to taking communion. Thank God that communion was only given a few times a year in those days.
During the Middle Ages there was a growing movement of those who believed that the right way one to pursue a relationship with God was the Monastic life. This movement grew in numbers and in power within the leadership of the church. This culminated in Gregory I being named the first Pope, which had come from a monastic background. The search for redemption had become more focused on self-denial, sacrifice, and chastity. Church tradition slowly elevated the procreation function of this matter above all in order to explain more clearly its position on contraception. They are presented as equal in today’s teachings as they were in the beginning. The Church recognizes both equally today officially in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2362 – 2367)
In the next reading, we will review the ramifications from the break-up of the traditional family and the influence of religion.

God Bless.