Saturday, January 5, 2008

Vows

The incomparable Fr. Neuhaus has a lovely blog post on the future of marriage over at First Things. It is mostly about questions of same-sex "marriage," but also on the post-modern metamorphosis of marriage into a private commitment between two people based on emotion.

He mentions a line from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "who wrote to a young couple getting married that it is not only their love that will sustain their marriage but also their marriage that will sustain their love." This hits the nail on the head. How many times have you heard a divorce justified because "we just don't love each other any more"? That is to say, "we have ceased to feel loving at a level of intensity that we feels makes worthwhile the continuance of life together."

But of what value is a marriage if the vows, made in perhaps (perhaps not) a time of intense emotion, do not mean what they say: "In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health..." Surely loving feelings will not carry us through sickness, months of forced celibacy, endless sleepless nights, infidelity, poverty, disfigurement... They will not. The marriage--the promise made before the God "who will not abandon you" and the Church, "the eternal bride"--will sustain the love. Perhaps not the feelings of love, although I'm told they usually return in the later years to those who persevere, but rather the love of self-gift and the Cross. The marriage will sustain the love. And, in moments of need and plenty, the love will strengthen the marriage.

Yet another "both-and" moment!

2 comments:

CresceNet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
op-ed said...

Erika: But of what value is a marriage if the vows, made in perhaps (perhaps not) a time of intense emotion, do not mean what they say

This is a deliberate devaluing of marriage by the campaign to neuter it. It is also a natural consequence of that campaign. When one removes procreation from marriage what else can one make it about other than the emotions of the adults involved? What are emotions if not fickle? This has been my point all along:

"So when people ask me, 'How is your marriage weakened by allowing same-sex marriage?' ...
"In order for same-sex couples to marry they have to make the definition all about the feelings of the two people involved and not about children. They have to remove the very social responsibility that warrants state notice of marriage to begin with."

Probably the biggest mistake proponents of neutering marriage make is assuming that the institution itself will not change when its definition does. You point out one way, at least, that it definitely will.