We know that marriage is important to God because the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) indicates that it has been given the dignity of a sacrament by Jesus Christ (§1601). In addition, throughout scripture marriage is referred to not only as having its own significance, but as mirroring the relationship between Christ, the bridegroom and his church, the bride (see Ephesians 5:21-23).
I believe that God wants to answer our prayers for a spouse. This is because the theological reasons regarding the importance of marriage have much to be expounded upon. In this series of blog posts, I plan to unearth some of them. I have divided the reasons into two (2) categories in order to lay them out more clearly. Please note that I have come up with these categorical names on my own. There is “Human Marriage” and “Spiritual Marriage.” I want to first delve into Human Marriage, why it is so important, and why we can approach God with confidence in our prayers to see it fulfilled in our lives.
Under the category of “Human Marriage,” I plan to discuss some of the reasons that marriage is not only important but is needed. I also want to proffer that we need to look at marriage through the lens of what God says to be true about it, not what our culture currently says is true.
Of course, to begin we are heading back to Genesis! Let’s take a deep dive into two scripture passages in their entirety in order to ascertain what I think the creation scriptures might be telling us about marriage:
“Then God said, “And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. They will have power over the fish, the birds, and all animals, domestic and wild, large and small.” So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female, blessed them, and said, “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wilds animals. I have provided all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit for you to eat; but for all the wild animals and for all the birds I have provided grass and leafy plants for food” – and it was done. God looked at everything he had made, and he was very pleased. Evening passed and morning came – that was the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:26-31)
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.” So, he took some soil from the ground and formed all the animals and all the birds. Then he brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and that is how they all got their names. So the man named all the birds and all the animals; but not one of them was a suitable companion to help him. Then the Lord God made the man fall into a deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, he took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the flesh. He formed a woman out of the rib and brought her to him. Then the man said, “At last, here is one of my own kind – bone taken from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. ‘Woman’ is her name because she was take out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one. The man and woman were both naked, but they were not embarrassed.” (Genesis 2:18-25)
There is so much that can be gleaned from the creation account about why marriage is inherently important to who we are. Let’s unpack this, shall we?
First, God states that “we” will make humans in our image, male and female we will create them. He then blesses the human beings he just created (Adam and Eve), telling them to be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth and subduing it. We know that when we believe in God, we believe in the Most Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. This is who God is. Therefore, when God uses the pronoun “us,” he is talking about more than one. He is talking about three persons.
Second, God said let’s create human beings in our image and likeness. Individually we do resemble God in many of our characteristics and attributes. In what way, however, do we resemble God in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity? It is through marriage that we do. As the Most Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – God is never alone. It is in marriage that the image of God is most authentically reflected. Not only is the image of the Most Holy Trinity lived out, but the creative powers of God to beget new life are possible.
Next, God clearly said that it was not good for man to be alone, that he would bring a helpmate for him. This was demonstrated when Adam was working in the garden naming all the animals. Adam saw that something was quite not right. Adam saw that there was no one else like him, that he was by himself – he had no suitable companion! This realization occurred while Adam was working in the newly created garden; he was naming animals and work had not yet become a sweaty toil. Aloneness was clearly the problem and marriage was clearly God’s antidote.
This all occurred prior to the fall. Eve had not yet been created, the serpent had not deceived her into willingly eating the forbidden fruit (then offering it to her husband who willingly ate of it), and the married couple had not been cast out of the Garden of Eden. God stated that it was not good for man to be alone prior to the fall, before sin entered the world. God thought marriage was a necessity for them, that it was essential to their identity and well-being. All before the fall.
After the fall, Paul provides additional grounds for the support of Human Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:1-6:
“Now, to deal with the matters you wrote about. A man does well not to marry. But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. A man should fulfill his duty as a husband, and a wife should fulfill her duty as a wife, each satisfy the other’s needs. A wife is not the master of her own body, but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body but his wife is. Do not deny yourselves to each other, unless you first agree to do so for a while in order to spend your time in prayer; but then resume normal marital relations. In this way you will be kept from giving in to Satan’s temptation because of your lack of self-control. I tell you this not as an order, but simply as a permission.”
Since sin has entered the world, immorality is a real concern. Fornication and adultery were then (and still are) a serious problem. As St. Paul points out in the scriptures, marriage is the remedy to these evils as well. He goes on to point out that the gift of marital love should be generously shared between the spouses so as not to embitter each other or tempt either one to immorality, physically, or emotionally.
When I was single, I went back to the scriptures and studied in detail the Genesis creation account of marriage. I wanted to understand why God created marriage for human beings. I shared some of my findings here with you in this blog post. In the next part of this series, I will discuss the mystery of Christ and his church: the bridegroom and the bride. Our need for marriage isn’t just about the here and now. It has to do with the there and then.