Marriage is an institution for human beings but with a divine origin. Since it originates in the divine, it is no more simply a human institution whose purpose and meaning depend on purely human mores and collective decisions. Marriage is therefore a uniquely special bond between a man and woman; created by God Himself and as such sacred. The account of God’s institution of marriage in Genesis 2:18.24, underlies its sacredness and so compels man to treat it as such. Scripture says: And the Lord God said, ‘It is not right that the man should be alone. I shall make him a helper. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh’.This sacredness of marriage though tainted by man’s fall was restored by Christ to the original purity of its divine institution through his loving, redemptive sacrifice and accordingly entrusted all its discipline and care to his spouse the Church.
The Church in upholding this mandate tirelessly illuminates the minds of the faithful with the true teaching of Christ regarding it. By her teaching the will of Christian spouses is strengthened by the internal grace of God obtained through the Sacrament of holy matrimony. The grace of the sacrament shapes their way of thinking and assists them to act in conformity with that pure law of Christ regarding this divine institution of marriage. This way, they not only work to maintain its sacredness, but also to obtain true peace and happiness for themselves and their families.
Pope Pius XI in his December 31, 1930 Encyclical Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) brought forth a declaration that imprints on marriage it sacredness: “Let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed, and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture; this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.”
That marriage is by its very nature of divine institution, does not rule out the place and role of humanity. In obedience to this divine institution, a man and woman express their free will to become ‘one flesh’ in marriage. In every marriage, a man and woman give their free consent and accept those rights proper to the state of marriage, and which so necessarily constitute true marriage. This free consent, however, has to do only with whether the contracting parties really wish to enter into marriage with an awareness that no impediment stands in their way or not. It does not in any way have to do with either parties opting out of it in divorce. This means, the nature of marriage is entirely independent of the consensus of the human society or the will and desire of those who enter into it. That is why it is the case that once one has contracted marriage in the sacrament of matrimony the union becomes subject to divinely made laws alone.
Consequently, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies; the unity cemented not by any passing affection, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will. From this union of souls and by God's decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises between couples. It is, therefore, true that the sacred union in marriage is constituted both by the will of God and the will of man. On the one hand, the very institution of marriage, the ends for which it was instituted, the laws that govern it, the blessings that flow from it come from God. On the other hand, couples (male and female), through a generous surrender of themselves to each other for the whole span of their lives become, with the help of God, the author of each particular marriage, with the rights and obligations as well as the blessings from the divine institution.
Let it be known to all, Christians and non-Christians alike, that the sacred institution of marriage has been entrusted unto humanity and His Church by God. Therefore, we owe God a duty to safeguard it especially from those who in forgetting this divine work, either entirely ignore or shamelessly deny the sanctity of marriage. There are those who relying on the false principles of a new and utterly perverse morality (currently being experienced in our world), too often attempt to redefine the institution of marriage and even go as far as to try and destroy it. The need to rise up in defense and preservation of the sacredness of the institution of marriage is even more urgent in our world of today. This is because these most pernicious errors and depraved morals have begun to spread even amongst the faithful and are gradually gaining ground.
The fact that the sacredness of marriage is threatened today more than ever, means that Catholics must stand faithfully in defending the teaching of Christ and his Church. The Church is the conscience of the world and her mission is to constantly call humanity to order as did Christ, her Lord and saviour. We cannot be silent to a world that celebrates gay unions and reduces the divinely ordered process of procreation into mere laboratory gimmicks. To turn our backs against nature is to wrestle against the Mind that designed it. By doing this, we find ourselves building another Tower of Babel that is ultimately bound to crumble (see Gen. 11:1-9).
Humanity wants to rob God of everything: His existence, His place as the Creator of the world and His word as the only pathway to salvation. God’s teaching on eternal life is denied and all is reduced to temporality. It is true that the Creator has empowered us to conquer the world and subdue it (Gen. 1:28) but the primary mission of some forces today seems to be that of conquering the Creator!
Today, it is important that believers (especially Catholics) all over the world see themselves as the “remnant of Israel” and constantly call on the world not to destroy the foundation on which it is built. We are part of nature; to destroy it is to destroy ourselves!
I wish you all a blessed month of September.
Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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