Archive for the ‘NFP Week 2017’ Category

2. Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Bodily gift of self
A third similarity is found in the expression of love through a bodily giving of self. Christ’s love for men was incarnate and anything but angelistic: throughout his public life we see Him performing bodily good works among men as well as the spiritual healing of forgiving sins. Did this cost Him something?  Certainly his weariness at Jacob’s well shows his personal human expense.  However, the example that Christ called our attention to was his giving up of his life in order to save men and in order to establish once again a union between God and men: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This is also the example to which St. Paul points in his marriage discourse in which he directs husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her. . .” (Eph. 5:25-26).

In the act of sexual intercourse in marriage we likewise have the possibility of a bodily expression of love which represents a real giving of self in order to increase the union between husband and wife. This possibility is not realized in every act of sexual intercourse, even that which is morally permissible in marriage. Of itself, looked at on the lowest level, it is simply a union of two bodies. As to the human value of this union, we will have an unfortunately large range . . . the gross outrage of rape, the commercial use of prostitution, adultery and fornication (in both of which the level of affection can be very high while still lacking utterly the total meaning of human love) and the various meanings of sexual intercourse within marriage.  For within marriage, there is still a range of human significance of the sexual union sometimes paralleling those outside of marriage: the act which is little more than an act of legalized rape in which there is no affection, to say nothing of love; the acts which positively exclude a real acceptance of the other person in the sense of accepting further responsibility for that person or any other person; acts which embody total acceptance of the other person and of the responsibilities which their mutual love entails; and finally that act which, as a real embodiment of their mutual self-giving love, consciously seeks to personify this love in a third person, as the communitarian love of the Father and the Son is personified in the third person of the Holy Spirit.

At this highest level, we have a love which seeks to love in the image and likeness of God, to be freely creative, a love which is Christian for it incarnates itself, not shrinking from the self-sacrifice which will undoubtedly follow from this “incarnation,” this expression of their love through a bodily giving of self. What must be understood in all of this is that the marital act is meant to be the bodily expression of the personal love between the two persons, an expression of their union with each other through a mutual giving of self.

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

1. A Series on Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

With an increasing emphasis being given to the personalist values of sexual intercourse in marriage, additional light can be gained from comparing the marriage act with another very personal type of intercourse, that of the encounter with Christ in the reception of Holy Communion. Both communions take place within the context of communities that are creations of God—the Church and matrimony, and these communities are so closely linked that St. Paul explains the community of marriage in terms of the Church (Eph. 5:21-33). Both are meant to be truly personal communions; both are meant to be a simultaneous giving and receiving; both are meant to lead men and women to lives of holiness.

Everyone is agreed today that of itself the act of sexual intercourse is a good and that in marriage it can be a means of expressing married love and be conducive to true Christian holiness. In marriage it is meant to be a true communion of persons whose bodily actions represent the communion of the total persons.  Because this communion is likewise meant to lead the couple to holiness, it can very aptly be called a holy communion.

Result of sacraments
There are a number of marked similarities between these two communions—Eucharistic and matrimonial. First of all, they are both the result of sacraments given us by Christ for our salvation. If it isn’t just word-picking, I think we usually refer to the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord as the “Holy Eucharist” as He becomes present to us through the consecration. Then when the faithful actually receive Him in the sacrament, we usually refer to this reception as “Holy Communion.” The sacrament of Matrimony is likewise a sacrament establishing a new and sacred union between husband and wife and making it morally good to express this union in the communion of sexual intercourse.

Sacrificial offerings
Secondly, both of these communions come about as a result of a sacrificial offering. In the case of Holy Communion we have the offering of Christ to his Father, an offering at the Last Supper which looked forward to and included the fullness of giving in his death on the cross the next day. “This is my body which is given up for you” (Luke 22:19).  In the case of the holy communion of matrimony we likewise have a delivering of the bodies of husband and wife to each other. As they confer the sacrament upon each other, they deliver themselves to each other without respect to circumstances, i.e., for poorer, sickness and worse as well as for richer, health and better. This is an explicit and formal recognition that in the giving of themselves to each other they are making a sacrifice.

Here we can use the word sacrifice in its common connotation of enduring difficulty or of giving up something, or we can look upon it in its etymological meaning of making holy. Perhaps the best way to take it here is that husband and wife will each grow in holiness according to the measure in which they give of self in trying to build up the other person. St. Paul is explicit in his instruction to the husband to sanctify his wife as Christ gave of Himself to sanctify the Church. The current emphasis on reform in the Church is an embodiment of the Church’s belief that she must always seek to be ever faithful and true to her head and savior, Christ.  Likewise are wives instructed in this spirit of obedience to a loving spouse who does not selfishly seek his own benefit but rather that of their mutual union. It is, then, this sacramental offering of self to each other, this true sacrificial offering, that makes morally good and humanly meaningful their subsequent communion in sexual intercourse.

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