Archive for the ‘NFP Week 2017’ Category

5. Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Sealing of the covenant

A fifth similarity [between the Eucharistic and marital communions] can be urged by looking at the way in which the covenant is sealed. The New Covenant made by Christ is sealed in his own blood the next day on Calvary. On his part there was a complete giving of self, an act of complete obedience, a perfect compliance with the will of the Father without regard to his own inconvenience and suffering. The matrimonial covenant is sealed by sexual intercourse which, if it symbolizes anything, symbolizes a complete mutual giving of self and acceptance of the other. In this aspect of the seal of the covenant we can see the full force of the marriage discourse of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Wives are to be subject to a loving husband.  Husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the Church: He gave up his life to sanctify the Church.  Likewise, the husband should not be seeking his own benefit but must be willing to sacrifice, to achieve a higher union with his spouse, through the giving of himself.  In marriage as in all other phases of life, the words of Christ have new bearing: “He who seeks his life will lose it; he who loses his life for my sake will gain it.”

The covenant of marriage is to sacramentalize the covenant of Christ with his Church. That is, it is to be the same reality only under difference appearances. The New Covenant was sealed by the death of him who in this way sanctified the Church, his body.  The covenant of Matrimony must be sealed likewise by the death to self in order to help the spouse, now joined in a unique oneness, to attain a life of holiness.

To be continued tomorrow.  (By John Kippley, Ave Maria 1967; Sex and the Marriage Covenant, Ignatius 2005)

4. Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Covenant renewal (continued)

A current [when first written in 1966] emphasis in the theology of Holy Communion is on the disposition of the person receiving the sacrament.  While not negating the minimum requirements for a valid reception of the Eucharist, increasing stress is laid upon the fact that the growth in holiness of the person, which is the intended effect of the sacrament, is not something which Christ will automatically produce even though he is infallibly present to the person in the sacrament.  It is clear that his historic presence during his public life did not automatically create a state of holiness within those about Him—witness Judas, for example.  Likewise today, although the grace of Christ is infinite, personal growth in grace depends not just upon the physical reception of the sacraments, but also upon the degree to which the person has responded to the actual grace of God in opening his heart to God and neighbor. And this is far from a sweet and pietistic desire to want to receive Jesus in one’s heart. The Eucharist was given us at the Last Supper in order to strengthen and nourish us to keep another gift of the Last Supper: the commandment to love one another as Christ loved us.

It would be a shame if today, during a time of development in the theology of marriage, undue emphasis were placed on either a merely valid sexual marital act or on purely subjective considerations, for this would run counter to the well-balanced emphasis now taking place in the other areas of sacramental theology.

The aspect of covenant helps to maintain a balance between the subjective and the objective elements by calling to mind that objectively, the act itself must be free from deliberate and positive exclusion of its natural effects or purposes, just as the original marriage covenant or contract. It also calls to mind that subjectively, the more the act is a renewal of the love that called forth the original marriage promises, the more holy a communion it becomes.

The aspect of covenant also offers an answer to one of the perennial mysteries of married love: How can an act which both parties enjoy so much, out of which each person can gain so much personal satisfaction at the sensual, psychological and deepest levels of being—how can such an act be at the same time one of self-giving love?  How if the persons are “getting” so much can they at the same time be giving of themselves? It should be noted first of all that many mature married people undoubtedly find great satisfaction from the fact that they have contributed to the pleasure of the other. In such cases, it seems that the communion of intercourse is a culmination of the real communion of their lives.

But even deeper than that, it is because their act is a renewal of their marriage covenant that they engage in a simultaneous giving and receiving. As the couple start out upon marriage, it is precisely because they have given of themselves without reservations to the other that they can now receive the beloved.  And throughout their married life, it will be precisely because they have each given of themselves, even denied themselves, on behalf of the other that they will reach that state of personal development which is the immediate goal of human life, a state of true inner freedom in regard both to oneself and to other things, a freedom which frees the person for unselfish service towards God and neighbor.

Thus, just as the truly Holy Communion with Christ in the Eucharist is the result of complete openness to all that the covenant with Him demands, likewise the truly holy communion of marital intercourse is that which is truly a renewal of the marriage covenant, open to all the demands of Christian marriage, an acceptance of each other and the consequences without reservation.

To be continued tomorrow.  (By John Kippley, Ave Maria 1967; Sex and the Marriage Covenant, Ignatius 2005)

3. Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Covenant renewal

The mutual self-giving in the communion of intercourse can be seen likewise in a fourth similarity between it and Holy Communion, the aspect of the covenant. In the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass, the New Covenant is constantly renewed. The person who worships devoutly at Mass and receives Holy Communion worthily is at least implicitly renewing on his part the covenant which Jesus established at the Last Supper. On the part of Christ there is no need for renewal of this covenant because as God’s Son his sacrifice was perfect, and God’s love as expressed in this covenant remains constant.  However, on the part of man, who is constantly changing—growing closer to God or growing away from him—there is the constant need to renew our covenant, our pledge of fidelity to the Father in and through the Son and with the help of the Holy Spirit. When the worthy communicant receives the Body of Christ and says “Amen,” he is in effect also saying, “I’m with you, too, all the way. If any sacrifice is demanded of me in order to be faithful to you, I am ready and willing to make it with your help.”

Sexual intercourse in marriage should likewise be a renewal of the covenant the couple first made as they exchanged their promises to be faithful to each other under all circumstances.  When they commune with each other in this way, they can once again renew their pledge, their covenant, to take each other completely, regardless of the consequences, be they wealth and health or poorness and sickness. Thus, sexual intercourse which is at least an implicit renewal of the marriage covenant is likewise a simultaneous giving and receiving, just as is the Holy Communion of the Eucharist.

Not every person who receives Holy Communion has these thoughts on his mind, nor is it necessary that the couples be thinking in these terms. Both of these are actions, and certain actions have a meaning in themselves and retain this meaning at the subjective level unless the human persons involved directly contradict it. For example, for the communicant’s reception of the Eucharist to be a Holy Communion, he must fulfill certain conditions at least negatively, lest what is meant to be a means of holiness for him becomes in fact a means of condemnation. He must be in the state of sanctifying grace, a friend of God, and have at the least nothing in his life which marks him as unwilling to give himself to God in any serious matter. To be opposed to God in any serious matter is to expel God from one’s heart, to lose the state of sanctifying grace. The more open to God that he is, the more he will receive in Holy Communion, but at the bare minimum he cannot have any deliberate obstacles to a true communion with God, a true willingness to give himself all the way to God in any serious matter.

For the communion of sexual intercourse to be a true renewal of the covenant, and therefore a true means of growing in holiness for each other, it likewise must fulfill those conditions laid down at the time of the first covenant of their wedding day.  If it is to be a truly meaningful and personal encounter with all the connotations of meetings between persons and not just bodies, if it is to be a simultaneous giving and taking, then it must involve that mutual pledge of giving to each other and acceptance of the other in this act without regard for the consequences. As with the reception of the Holy Eucharist, at the bare minimum, there can be no deliberate obstacles to this giving and receiving, lest what is meant to be a holy communion of spouses be turned into something considerably less than sacred and even sacrilegious.

To be continued tomorrow.  (By John Kippley, Ave Maria 1967; Sex and the Marriage Covenant, Ignatius 2005)