Tuesday, July 06, 2010

What is marriage?

It's one of the little games floating around the internet. Go to Google, type in "[your name] is" and hit enter. The search results are frequently hilarious or poignant, conveying things like "Maggie is a banana," "Maggie is the girl for me," or "Maggie is a poet." To make it work, you mustn't forget to put the words in quotes.

Play the same good with the word marriage, and what do you get?

Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut
marriage is good for you
marriage is dead
marriage is not hopeless after an affair
marriage is like drinking a Slurpee
marriage is an instrument of salvation for society

And the negative... "marriage is not"...

Marriage is Not a Private Affair
Marriage Is Not About Procreation
marriage is not a love affair
marriage is not the same around the globe
marriage is not built on surprises
marriage is not a sport
marriage is not a commandment

On a more scientific basis than a simple Google search, one can say that marriage is a social instrument that binds a man and a woman together in a semi-permanent way so that they share financial and legal responsibilities. That's how the law would define it.

As a Christian, I understand marriage to be much more. Marriage is a sacrament, a path to holiness, a channel of grace, a reflection of the marriage between Christ and the Church; the creation of a new family, the core building block of society, and the gift of children. Something that changes the soul for all time, like baptism; irrevocable, unbreakable, forever.

I understand that marriage is not: a civil right. Call me a bigot, but I do not believe marriage is something we have a legal "right" to. Once you study the Enlightenment all the talk about "rights" makes you giggle a little - people swallow their grammar school propaganda whole! I wouldn't be surprised if many of the same people who talk about "marriage equality" also believe that Christopher Columbus discovered America and George Washington cut down the cherry tree. Rather than a right, marriage is a calling, a vocation (voca = Latin to call) . Not everyone is called to marriage, and that is OK. It is not a negative judgment on them as a person. It means they are called to something else., something equally amazing.

I understand that marriage is not: something that can be begun or ended by the government. In a legal sense, of course, the state has the power to contract, annul, and end marriages. But legal marriage is not real marriage - the real marriage is the commitment that takes place between two hearts. It is too deep and important a thing to be the property of a low-level bureaucrat in City Hall. It is a spiritual state and as such can only be governed with any authenticity by the Church. What God has joined, it's literally impossible for man to tear asunder - man doesn't have the authority, or the ability, to do so.

I've got to stop writing now, but I'm still thinking about this. What is marriage?


  1. It does seem like a call...with unexpected turns. On a humorous note, a man created a blanket specifically to help married people -- a fart blanket. :)

    In a history of the English Language class, I learned that in church history, a rather intense argument sprang up between someone who said that marriage was okay and holy and someone who wanted to prove that single people were more holy. Funny how pride can so easily enter into the mix, huh?

    Marriage, I think, is sharing life and being sacrificial at times (me, pretending to so that he will be more so):)

  2. Hi Maggie - And thank you for that wonderful post.

    Marriage has been slowly rusting away in our society, and it's a terrible shame. It saddens me to see how little marriage means to people, even as they enter into the sacrament. For many, it's nothing more than a way of legitimizing (briefly) a relationship, but there's a built-in thought that it's only intended to last as long as it's easy, comfortable, and fun.

    My husband and I have been married for 38 years now, and we've had our struggles. But despite them... even, perhaps, because of them... there is no one I trust more, no one who knows me better, and no one who loves me despite my many flaws. The knowledge, trust, and unconditional love of God for us is imperfectly reflected in our married lives, I know, but this is like the love of God for us.