he matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses. This clearly articulated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (CCC, 1601)
Marriage, then, is no mystery but is well defined. And I might well continue to unpack this definition, exploring what marriage is and isn’t by citing Church Fathers, Church documents, philosophers, and theologians.
But this would be talking about marriage from the outside, and it would be a mistake. I want to speak of marriage from the inside. That is, I want to speak from the heart, not about what marriage is, but what marriage means. For marriage is not merely a solemnly defined article in a catechism; it is not an abstraction or an idea for academics to toy with. Like all sacraments, it is a lived experienced, a concrete reality. And it is of this reality that I want to speak.
When I was younger, and indeed more immature, I viewed marriage as the fulfillment of my longings. It was the answer, I believed, to my hunger for intimacy, to my desire for affirmation, and yes, even to my sexual urges. If only I could find a wife, I imagined, I would be content.
Eventually, I did find a beautiful woman whom I loved, and who, wonder of wonders, loved me in return. We quickly became engaged and began preparing for marriage. I eagerly pored over marriage books and articles and listened to countless talks about how to be a good husband.
In my naivete, I was quite convinced that I knew exactly what marriage was about, and I would no doubt be a wonderful and enviable husband. I understood marriage from the outside, and not from the inside.
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