There are so many great mysteries in the world and throughout time it has been this way. Man has always sought to explain the incredible and mysterious truths that remain to be discovered. Perhaps one of the greatest of these mysteries is the most blessed Trinity. Many theologians have attempted to explain this great mystery, such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. However, in the end, the great mystery still remains just that. Through the eyes of faith we can begin to see a glimpse of this great mystery. Nonetheless, despite the mysteriousness, the blessed Trinity is our very source of life. It is the beginning and end of everything we do and the model for which we are to live our very lives according to. In particular, The Trinity is the model for all marriages to follow. The relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is what all married couples are called to imitate. In fact, the total self giving love or "agape" of the Trinity is the same love all marriages are called to imitate. It is this point that I would like to focus on in the following pages. Furthermore, in seeing that all marriages are called to imitate the Trinitarian love, it will be apparent that contraception is a complete rejection of that love.
Love- Philia and Storge
Love is a word that has taken on many meanings throughout history and sad to say it has been badly misinterpreted in modern society, sometimes even as self-centered, lust. Love is so complex that the Greeks had four words for it. "storge", "philia", "eros" , and "agape" were all words for love, showing the different kinds or aspects of it. "Storge" is an affectionate love, rooted in a familial bond of blood and birth. The affection of a parent to a child or vice versa is such an example of "storge". "Philia" was used to describe a love that was affectionate, or a concerned love. It was used to describe the love in a friendship where there is giving and receiving (Apostoli, 157). However, eros and agape are the two words that I would like to focus on here.
Eros was a love to describe passionate or sensual love. "For Eros, chief weight is undoubtedly given to self -love (Nygren,218)." Eros is a very egocentric love. Eros is a love of desire and longing for an object. It is a love that has a motivation behind it, and is not spontaneous. For example, love of neighbor may come about in a motivation to satisfy a need one has. Eros love seeks love of neighbor to gain ones own self ascent. The neighbor would be viewed as an object rather than seen in and of himself (Nygren,214). Love of God is possible with eros, since the desire of all, whether known or not, ultimately is God himself. However, eros is a limited love. It always begins with love of self and then moves to love of God, then to love of neighbor(Nygren,219). Eros is always comparing and seeking what is more satisfying. This is what makes it so difficult to love ones neighbor, especially ones enemy. One is distracted by an enemy or neighbor, when a higher satisfaction is being sought. This is why love of God is again possible with eros, since God is the complete and highest satisfaction of every desire there is. However, eros can be distracted and thus would not be considered a total surrender to God. In short, eros is driven by passion, seeking the highest satisfaction for self, focused on what one needs and desires. This is commendable when God is the object, but if it remains turned in on itself, it can be dangerous. Christians, seeking to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving neighbor as themselves, should strive to move beyond eros love. A love that surrenders oneself to God and neighbor is the ideal love. Self love is important only in so far as we see why we are to love ourselves. In particular, because we have been made in the image and likeness of God. This love in which we surrender totally to God and neighbor never asking, "what will I get", is called agape love.
Agape love is the ideal love in which we should all strive for. Agape, unlike eros, is theocentric, that is God centered. It does not compare one object to another, but is overwhelmed by the love of God, and seeks only to love freely and totally. In loving neighbor or even enemy, one views the neighbor in himself and not as an object. The neighbor is viewed as an icon of God. "Agape love is directed to the neighbor himself, with no further thought in mind and no side glances at anything else (Nygren,215)." Agape love begins with love of God and then proceeds to love of neighbor and finally to love of self. This is exactly the opposite of eros love, in which self love comes first. Agape love is a sacrificial love, in which one would lay down his life before asking "what do I want or need". These two words, agape and eros are both important and have there places in a Christian life. However, there is no doubt that the highest and most ideal love is that of agape. The question remains why and where can we see this agape love clearly presented. In the Blessed Trinity, we see why this love that is total, gratuitous, and sacrificial, is the ideal.
Relationship within the Trinity
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons in One God that make up the Blessed Trinity. Throughout history there have been many theologians that have used many images to portray this relationship in the Trinity. St. Patrick for example used the shamrock, but even that falls short in truly explaining the great mystery. There are basic teachings connected to the Trinity, even though many in the early Church fell into heresy trying to fathom it. The three distinct persons in the one God head are all equal. They are co-eternal, and not created. In addition, they are all of the same substance, or consubstantial. In fact, it would be wrong to say that the three are separate or different from one another. They are distinct, but each does not have something that the other does not have, so they are not different or separate, but distinct. That is why we can say God died on the cross, but then must clarify it with an understanding that the Father and the Holy Spirit did not die on the cross. Rather, the second person of the Trinity, the Son, died on the cross. The relationship of these three distinct persons in the Trinity is very complex. We call this relationship a subsistent one. This type of relationship is beyond our understanding, since on earth there exists no such relationship. All human relationships will eventually come to an end, unlike the eternal Trinity. There are four relationships within the Trinity itself. The Father to Son relationship is said to be an active generation or fatherhood. Eternal generation is another term beyond us, but can be applied to the Father and Son. The Son to Father relationship is one of passive generation or sonship. Father and Son to Holy Spirit is an active spiration, while Spirit to Father and Son is a passive spiration (Kasper, 27). In summary we have a paternal, filial, and spiral relationship within the Trinity.
"The Father is purely the giver and sender (Kasper, 308)." He sends the Son, and with the Son sends the Holy Spirit into the world. He desires humanity to be reconciled to himself and out of love He sends his only son into the world. This was done, so we could become his adopted sons and daughters. The Son in turn enters the world to glorify the Father and make his name known. "The Father not sent but glorified by all (Kelly, 196)." The Son carries out the Fathers plan in perfect obedience and humility in reconciling man back into covenant with the Father. What God the Father did not ask of Abraham to complete, the Father takes upon himself by sacrificing his only begotten son. The Son receives from the Father and then communicates to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to sanctify the adopted children on earth. By the death, resurrection, and ascension we now have the opportunity to have the life of Christ in us. While on earth, the Son was a model or example to follow. "If Jesus had remained on earth, he would always be outside of us, like an example to be copied, like a model outside of an artist. If he left and sent his Spirit, then he would be a veritable life to be lived. So Christ sends his Spirit to us (Sheen, 93)." On the cross he is revealed as Savior and by ascending and sitting at the right of the Father, the Holy Spirit descends upon the faithful. In this sacrificial act of love, we are able to receive the life of God within us or the Divine Indwelling.
In the Trinity there remains a mutual love. "Raised to the infinite, the Love that generates is the Father; the Love that is generated from all eternity is the Son. That such Love would there end would be less than loving. Love must circle upon itself, and that eternal bond of love uniting Father and Son is called the Holy Spirit (Sheen, 12 Love One Another)." The Son came into the world not because he was forced to by the Father, but he came out of free and gratuitous love. He freely chose to be incarnated and dwell among men, so that the name of his Father may be glorified and revealed to all. The goodness in the Trinity is diffusive of itself, and can only pour forth the love that is contained within. When the Son receives love from the Father, he in turn with the Father sends this love to the Holy Spirit for all the faithful to be sanctified. This love amongst the Blessed Trinity is sacrificial and gratuitous love.
Scriptural evidence- Incarnation
Sacred Scripture gives us a good insight into the agape love of the Trinity. At the incarnation, God becoming man, we see one of the first acts of agape love of the Trinity. In Lk 1:35 we see all three Divine persons involved in this great event. "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God." Here we see the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary, and the Most High or Father overshadowing her. "To have generation, you have to have love, and here the love was not supplied by a human person, it was supplied by God himself. That breath of God, that ruah that brooded over creation, brooded over Mary for the new creation, and God became man (Sheen, 91)." Jesus could only be incarnated by the love of the Father. The Holy Spirit, the ruah, the spouse of Mary, gives his entire self so that the Son may be born into the world to save mankind. The Father freely gives His only begotten Son to mankind, even though all three persons knew what would take place at the hands of men. The incarnation gives us one of the first pictures of all three distinct persons giving freely of themselves for the sake of others.
Baptism of Jesus
At the baptism of the Son, we again see the Trinity present. "...And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the bodily form as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased (Lk 3:22)." In this text we see how all three persons of the Trinity are present and sacrifice again. The Holy Spirit descends upon the Son and the Father speaks from Heaven and reveals that this is his beloved Son. "On the banks of the Jordan he named Jesus his Son and his agapetos, his beloved. Clearly, agape exists in God; it is the force uniting the two divine Persons unchangeably, from all eternity.... The Heavens opened, the divine voice spoke, the Holy Spirit descended- all to let men know this essential mystery of the life of the Trinity (Spicq I, 50)." Each Person in the Trinity give of themselves freely in a sacrificial manner. While the Father makes known the Son, the Son reveals the Father to men and the Holy Spirit reveals both the Father and the Son by descending and giving freely of himself.
The agape love is even more evident in studying the passion narratives. In the agony in the garden, we see the Son strengthened by the Father, as he prays fervently. "Father if thou art willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine , be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground (Lk 22:42-45)." Here we see the Son aware of what is to come, but in his humanity having a moment of fear. However, having also a divine nature and being a divine person, the Son obeying the Father, gives himself completely to him. The Father in turn strengthens the Son, showing once again the unity within the Trinity. " The whole scene, as well as the whole passion...can be read as a commentary..., in which Jesus loves his heavenly Father perfectly with his will, his soul, and his external well being (JBC,670)." It is a scene of complete surrender and dying to ones self for the sake of others. We see this again in the crucifixion of our Lord. In Mk 15:34, at the cross we see the Son cry out in a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, la ma sabachthani or "my God , my God, why hast thou forsaken me". It would seem as though the Son is despairing, but in reality this is an Aram version of Psalm 22:1 (JBC,628). Psalm 22:1 is about a righteous sufferer that ends with an act of trust in God. Further on in the crucifixion, the Son cries out and quotes Psalm 31:5 of the righteous sufferer, "Father into thy hands, I commit my Spirit! And having said this, he breathed his last (Lk 23:46)." In this scene we see once again the Son giving himself completely to the Father. "Completion takes place in the cross and exaltation of Jesus as the eschatological revelation of God. When the Father glorifies the Son by exalting him, the Father himself is in turn glorified by the Son; in the glorification of the Son the fathers own glorification is made manifest. The Sons gory is that which he has from eternity with the Father (Kasper, 303)."
Receive the Holy Spirit
After the passion and death of the Son we see explicitly the giving of the Holy Spirit by the Father and Son to all the faithful. After Jesus appears to the disciples he says in Jn 20:21, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he said this, he breathed on them, and said, Receive the Holy Spirit." The Son refers to the Father as the one who sent him. In Acts 2:1, we see the total self giving of the Holy Spirit of himself to the faithful at Pentecost. The Father sends the Son into the world to reconcile men to the Father. The Son in return dies to himself and glorifies the Father. The Father and Son then send forth the Holy Spirit to sanctify the Fathers new adopted children. All three persons, being equal and yet distinct give themselves to one another in complete sacrificial agape love.
So far we have seen how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the blessed Trinity give themselves to one another in a total self giving love. This love is called agape. Eros love must always point to agape love and lead us ultimately there, as the Trinity so clearly demonstrates. However, I would like to focus on how agape in the Trinity can be imitated and applied to mankind. In particular, how it is applied to all marriage covenants are called to engage in. To live in agape as the Trinity does, would be impossible if it were not for Divine grace and the promise of the Divine indwelling.
Marriage - In the Image of the Trinity
To see why a marriage is called to imitate the agape love of the Trinity we need not look further than Sacred Scripture. In Gen 1:26, we read, "Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." The question is; who is the "us" in this text, that made man? This certainly could be seen as one of the earliest Trinitarian references. This text could possibly be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit making man in their image. The second point gathered from this text is that man is made in the image of God. No other created being or material is made in the image of God, but man. In Gen 5:3 we get a clear picture of what this image means. "When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth." This image and likeness that we are made in makes us sons and daughters of God. He is our Father and he calls us into covenant with him. Man is made to be the steward of the rest of creation. In fact, after God creates everything except man, it is said to be "good". However, after man is created, God saw that it was "very good". So it is very apparent that man has a special place before God in the order of creation. This aspect of image is very important to understand. The function of the image is to reflect the one who is the model, to reproduce its own prototype...He is, in fact, right from the beginning not only an image in which there is reflected the solitude of a Person who rules the world, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of Persons (John Paul II, 74)." This image is a reflection of God in man. It is like that of a mirror, in which man looks at himself and sees the image of his Creator. To bare an image means to imitate as well. A true devotion to God is to be like Him in all things. We are called to imitate He, who we are made in the image of. We bare the image of God, and as a result we must always strive to imitate him as well. How does this all relate to the marriage covenant? The text reads that male and female are made in the image of God. It is clear that both men and women, who are distinct, bare this image and are called to imitate God. Furthermore, a marriage covenant is a union of two into one. Therefore, this union is now called as one to imitate the Trinity.
Two become One
In looking at another text of Sacred Scripture we can see the beauty of the marriage covenant. In Gen. 2:24, we read, "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." Here we see a bond or covenant that is formed when a man joins woman. Two distinct persons, with a common nature, become one flesh. This union is unbreakable by any man, because it is something that God himself has joined together. As a result of this union we now have one flesh, made in the image of the Trinity. We can also see that these two creatures now united are of the same substance. After God created man, he chose to give man a companion. This creature he called "woman" or "ishshah" in Hebrew. She was made to show the closeness of God to man. Man was lonely and needed to always be reminded of the closeness of God, in the presence of his companion, woman. Woman is made from the rib of man, who is sleeping. In the same way, the Church was born from the wounded side of our sleeping Lord, on the cross "like a new Eve (Mystici Corporis, 19,#28)." "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (Gen. 2:23)." Interestingly enough, "bones" means being, since there was no clear distinction between body and soul in the ancient Jewish world. Woman is not only "flesh of my flesh" but "being of my being" "Bones of my Bones can therefore be understood, in the relational sense, as being of my being (John Paul II, 68)." Man and woman are of the same substance or being. They share a common nature and at the same time are complimentary to one another. A part of man is taken from him but returned by God in the new creation of woman. "...Precisely because of the fact that they are a man and a woman, each of them is given to the other as a unique and unrepeatable subject, as self, as a person (John Paul II,150)." They are complimentary as the Church and Christ are. That is why God has called man and woman to live in a marital covenant, and not man and man or woman and woman. The two who become one flesh are given to one another as a gift to the other from God. Man and woman in a marital covenant are called to give themselves totally to one another as the Trinity gives totally to one another. This imitation of the Blessed Trinity is expected of marriage, since the two who are one are made in the image of the Trinity. To be made in the image of the Trinity means to live out pure agape love.
Magesterium on Marriage
The sacrament of marriage in modern day is in need of great witness by faithful couples. The family is under attack in so many ways. Contraception, homosexuality, adultery, modern feminism, etc.. are all threats today that have the potential to destroy marriages. The understanding of the marital covenant needs to be understood. Marriage is a word thrown around and many times entered into without real deep thought. The Church has always been consistent on Her teaching in respect to marriage. The general Council of Florence Decree for the Armenians in 1439 exposed the triple good of marriage. "The first is the begetting of children and their education to the worship of God. The second is the faithfulness which each spouse owes to each other. Third is the indissolubility of marriage, inasmuch as it represents the indissoluble union of Christ and the Church (Christian Faith, #1803, 715)." Casti Connubii by Pius XI in 1930 states, "matrimony was not instituted or restored by human beings, but by God, the Author of nature and Christ our Lord, the restorer of nature...(Christian Faith, #1824, 720)."
Lumen Gentium, calling to mind the necessity of grace within marriage and Familiaris Consortio, defending the sanctity of marriage, are two more recent documents. The Church can only echo what she has received from her Lord through revelation, especially in Sacred Scripture..
Christ & His Church/ Husband & His Wife
Sacred Scripture gives us great insight into marriage. In Ephesians, we can see in Chapter 5:21-34, that God has called man and woman to love one another in a total self giving manner. In the same way, St. Paul in Colossians 3:18-19, exhorts married couples to love and respect one another. However, in the Ephesians text St. Paul goes even deeper in explaining this love and compares it to Christs love for the Church. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church, and delivered himself for her...." The word for love used here, is agapan. Agapan is found in the Trinity and is asked of married couples here in Ephesians. "He who loves his wife, loves himself..." This love is one that requires one to love himself but also to go beyond self love and love his spouse with his whole self. Their is an eros love aspect here but then it must reach out and go further to agape love. The text goes on, "Now no one ever hates his own flesh: on the contrary he nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does for the Church, because we are members of His body." Here we must remember the Genesis passage talked about earlier. Gen: 2 :23 we read that woman was bone of mans bone and flesh of mans flesh. The church came forth from the wounded side of Christ and woman comes forth from the side of man. This connection is important because the wife, in being of mans being or bones and flesh, is like the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ. That is why St. Paul makes this comparison and exhorts men to love their own wives as they love themselves. The man, being the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church, can only love in an agapic way, since he is called to imitate the agapic love of Christ for his Church. "Subordination to a Christ-like headship expresses the wifes participation in the New Creation. In a manner of speaking, they become one flesh as Christ and the Church are already are one flesh Eph. 5:31-32 (Miletic,105)."The beauty of marriage shines forth when couples have this mutual love that Christ and his Church have for one another. Man loving his wife as he loves himself and woman loving and subordinating herself to Christs love through her husband, who is her head, imitate the agape love of Christ and his Church. "Husbands must love their wives with a love as total and as disinterested as Christs love on Calvary (Spicq, II, 78)." Calvary as we have seen displayed the total love of Christ for us, but also His Father, and the Holy Spirit. Here is a sacrificial love that all husbands are called to imitate. Christ gave his total self to the Father so that we may have life. "Unlike the man in the act of intercourse, Christ does not give away just a little of his substance. No Christ gives away his entire substance, just as the eternal Father, in begetting the Son, makes over to the Son his entire divine substance, and then again both of them give this substance over to the Holy Spirit, without division, in an act of communal love (Balthasar, 217)." Husbands are called to completely surrender to their wives and not give in to the temptation of contracepting. "And yet, in the sexual act, the man does give from what is his, and if he is to stand under the norm of Christ, he ought not only give something of what is his, but must rather surrender his very self, just as the eternal Father surrenders his very self and everything that is his in order to beget the Son. If the husband does this, he will come all the closer to Christ, who by his self-surrender fashions his own Mystical Body (Balthasar, 219)." It is easy to see how an evil like contraception rejects this surrender. However, it is this love that all husbands and wives are called to imitate. Wives also are called to sacrifice as the Church does for Christ. This agape love is a mutual love that husband and wife are called to. Scripturally, we can see that husbands and wives are called to a mutual, total, and sacrificial love for one another in the imitation of the Trinity.
In regards to mutual love, Paul VI wrote a masterpiece in writing Humane Vitae. Pope John Paul II on Humanae Vitae said, "The teaching of Humanae Vitae is not, in fact, a doctrine invented by man: it was stamped on the very nature of the human person by God the creators hand and confirmed by Him in Revelation. Calling it into question, therefore, is equivalent to refusing God Himself the obedience of our intelligence (Habiger, 5)." In the beginning of this document, Paul VI speaks of the different aspects of marital love. He speaks of love being total, fully human, faithful, exclusive, and fecund. "...Husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and regenerating of new lives (HV,#8)." The mutual gift of one to the other is exclusive to them alone. A development of the union is spoken of here as well, showing the unitive and procreative aspects. In Gen2:25 a picture of this union and mutual self giving is shown. "And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed." They were not ashamed because they saw one another as a gift to one another from God. They saw the dignity of the human person that God bestowed upon them. "...The giving and the accepting of the gift interpenetrate, so that the giving itself becomes accepting, and the acceptance is transformed into the giving (John Paul II, 131)." There are trial and tribulations within marriages, but the union remains, and that is why the vow states, "until death do us part." Through out life a husband and wife are called to imitate the Trinity in the exchange of agape love. Unlike the Trinity, the marriage is called to develop and grow in the agape love. The Trinity, being divine is already perfect and is agape itself. That is why, a marriage is called to imitate the love of the Trinity. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit give to one another totally and sacrificially, so are all marriages in the image of the Trinity, called to imitate.
Contraception-Rejection of Trinity
We can now see why an evil like contraception goes against this divine plan of God. The Trinity only gives totally and unselfishly. The total self giving expected of married couple is the same gratuitous love that the Trinity has. To be against the conception of life when engaging in the conjugal act is to say "no" to the Trinity. The Trinity brings forth life and always is totally united to one another. A marriage similarly must always be open to bringing forth life in the conjugal act. In fact, St. Augustine on his treatise on Marriage says that there is a dignity that prevails when a husband and wife unite in the marriage act, and think of themselves as mother and Father (FOC, vol. 15, 13). Anything else would be a focus on self and not a total sacrificial love for the other. "They must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of Life (HV,#13)." The Church has consistently aided marriages in showing the evil of contraception. As a result, She has suffered countless attacks. However, the Church can only echo what the Trinity in its Divine plan has already laid out for marriages. In addition, natural law gives adds support to this teaching. The natural end of the conjugal act is always procreative and unitive. Pleasure is a by product of the conjugal act, but not the natural end. Just as when we eat, we eat for preservation of life, pleasure is a by product. When the end is mere pleasure of the sensual appetite, it is not praiseworthy and turned away from the natural end (DeSales,209). Since contraception is against conception, the natural end of unitive and procreation can not be met. The total self giving of one to the other is cut short. Instead we see a selfish act and a denial of the will of the author of Life. The Trinity must always be a part of every conjugal act because it is the Trinity whom the couple imitates in the total self giving of one to the other.
The agape love of the Trinity is the model for all marriages to follow. Eros love is limited and as a result, all marriages must go beyond and let God reach down and pour forth His grace upon the marriage. In this reaching forth of God, the married couple can attain agape love and imitate the love of the Trinity. Agape love is a love that is totally gratuitous and always concentrates on another person. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit gave sacrificially to one another, so all marriages are called to sacrifice at times for the sake of the other. Without the grace of God and the Trinity as a model, marriages will always fall short. All men and women are made in the image of God, and as the two become one in a marital covenant, they become one image of the Trinitarian love. The contraceptive mentality is a complete rejection of the divine plan of the Trinity for marriages. Rather than saying yes to imitating the Trinity and totally giving in a unitive way to one another, the contracepting couple selfishly rejects the love of God and each other. All marriages need not look any further than the mutual love the Father has for His Son, and the mutual love the two have for the Holy Spirit. John 5:3-5 says that "His commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world." In focusing on this agape love within the Trinity, all marriages can imitate and live according to the divine plan God has set forth. Just as the beloved Son was invited to the wedding of Cana, so should he be invited into all marriages (DeSales, 203)." In doing so, a marriage will enjoy happiness, conquer all obstacles and bare much fruit, that the Trinity unselfishly wishes to bless all marital covenants with.
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