Friday, July 17, 2015
This weekend is the kick-off for Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. This dovetails very nicely with our ongoing discussion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefel decision attempting to redefine marriage (which, I guess, they did – legally; but not naturally, etymologically, or morally). Deacon Sam and I will both be giving witness this weekend to the great good of Natural Family Planning. What I’d like to focus on in this column in extending the discussion both about Natural Family Planning and the Obergefel decision is the meaning and purpose of sexual intercourse.
As I am preparing couples for marriage they are typically surprised to hear that sexual intercourse is not only a good thing, and a morally good thing, but also a HOLY thing. In fact, the marriage bond is not cemented until the marriage has been consummated by non-contraceptive, sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse expresses and fulfills the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage. This physical act is also an essentially spiritual act.
In its unitive sense it draws the man and the woman closer together. This we also know through medical science and psychology. Particularly on the part of the woman there are chemical processes which occur which bond her in a particular way to the man with whom she has chosen to bond and to whom she gives herself. There is a ton of literature on this and I need not go into it any deeper here. Let us suffice to add that in the Gospels, the Lord, Jesus, when questioned about divorce points out that “in the beginning it was not so. It is written that a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife. Therefore, what God has joined let no man tear apart”.
The procreative purpose of marriage is also set out from the very first chapters of the Holy Bible, in the book of Genesis. In those first chapters we hear the command of God: “He called upon them to multiply and to fill and subdue the earth”. We also recognize through theological reflection on the nature of God - the Holy Trinity that in Christian Marriage the nature of God is given an outward, physical expression. God’s nature is to be fruitful in the act of total self-giving between the first and second persons of the Holy Trinity (the Father and the Son). Thus, the Holy Spirit spirates out from that relational communion – AND IT DOESN’T STOP THERE! Out of this perfect communion of three persons in one god the world and all that is in it was created. This is why marriage is a sacrament! (an outward expression of an inner reality instituted by Christ to give grace). This is also an integral part of humanity’s witness to God. In this way husband and wife give physical expression in their total, self-giving love for one another (which is both unitive and procreative) to God, Who is Love.
Unfortunately, with the advent of contraception, abortion, and now so-called gay marriage one of the principle components of marriage, and therefore – that which makes it a moral good and a blessing, has been decisively excluded. What is more, that absence of the procreative aspect of marriage must also inhibit, fracture, even destroy the unitive aspect of marriage. This is why all three of these things are grave moral evils which separate one from full communion. It is also why those who engage in contraception, abortion, or sexual activity outside of marriage (of any kind) find themselves in a state of mortal sin.
God’s plan for marriage is entirely wrapped up in His plan for our salvation which is His plan for our complete joy and fulfillment. What is physically expressed always has serious (to the good or to the bad) consequences. And thus we are reminded of the passage from the Gospels which says: “I bring you peace. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give.” And also: “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.