Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Traditional Marriage Is an Icon of Humanity (Part 1)

In honor of National Marriage Week (Feb. 7 - Feb. 14, 2014), here's a fabulous defense of traditional marriage from fellow blogger and lawyer Carlos X.  Part 1 explores the common mythological roots of the male-female union as expression of the divine in Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. Part 2 details the scientific acceptance of male-female union as the essential archetype of humanity. Please welcome Carlos, who will celebrate fifteen years of marriage this year. He's the author of the Super Martyrio blog, which tracks the canonization cause of the Servant of God ├ôscar A. Romero, whom Carlos met when he was growing up in El Salvador.  Carlos also serves on the Board of Directors of the St. Thomas More Society of Orange County, California, a Catholic lawyers’ guild. Read on to enjoy Carlos' post, and for more National Marriage Week resources, be sure to check out Catholic Match Institute!


Traditional marriage is unlike any other union because it is an “icon” of being human.  Two universal emblems of mankind—in the Book of Genesis and on a plaque sent aboard the Pioneer spacecraft—depict one man and one woman representing all humanity.  The two images help illustrate how traditional marriage is not just an arrangement between two individuals, but an emblem of all humanity, reflecting the biological diversity, and even social structure that has characterized our race.


This post extols the exceptional nature of traditional marriage between a man and woman, drawing on two particular images of heterosexual pairing and the meaning they convey.  But the fact that this is a love letter to the bond of woman and man does not make it a piece of hate mail to other unions.  It has become fashionable for perceived slights to be characterized as hate (or “H8”), but these characterizations, too, can show intolerance to sincere efforts to describe the nature of human bonds. By the same token, those of us who approach this issue, particularly in light of Christian love, must take care to proceed with “the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive” (Justice Benjamin Cardozo) to make sure our judgments are sparing, considerate, and clear that we never condone discrimination or marginalization; that we seek everyone’s integration into society; and always act with full respect for others and for their dignity as children of God.

Only then can we speak of Love, and say that, “the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing is come, and the cooing of doves is heard throughout our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)


“The human creature is a wonder, placed at the apogee of creation in the story of Genesis.” -Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, L’incontro.

The beginning of the Book of Genesis is not a historical account, but rather a  myth, as Pope John Paul II noted in the the Theology of the Body (General Audience of Nov. 7, 1979).  Eden itself, the mythologist Joseph Campbell tells us, is a “mythological dreamtime zone.” It is “the Garden of Timeless Unity” where “there is no time, and where men and women don’t even know that they are different from each other.” According to Campbell, Adam and Eve represent a differentiation amid this “Timeless Unity” (what John Paul calls “Original Unity”), a separation from singularity into a world of opposites: “Adam and Eve have thrown themselves out of the Garden of Timeless Unity, you might say, just by that act of recognizing duality. To move out into the world, you have to act in terms of pairs of opposites.” A similar motif appears in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, where the Primal Being is a nameless, formless power who splits in two, a male and a female primal couple out of which all the creatures of the earth come into being.

The concept comes into sharp focus when we turn it on its head: How to describe a reversion from the world of opposites to the primal, transcendent reality?  In words that are strikingly relevant to our discussion, Campbell expounds that “marriage is a reconstruction of the Androgyne.”  In rabbinic literature, the Androgyne describes the transcendent state of consciousness before the division into male and female.  And according to Campbell, marriage is a way to aspire to the transcendent ground of being from which we emanate.  Thus, “If you marry only for the love affair, that will not last,” Campbell explains.  “You must also marry on another level … to make the whole perfect, male and female.”

The Bible goes further, saying that Adam and Eve were made in the image of God—they both were, together: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). This adds another layer of significance to Campbell’s hypothesis that marriage restores Godly qualities.  Man and woman most resemble God—together—in their biological ability to procreate.  As Cardinal Ravasi stated, “The love of man and woman, capable of generating life, is a sign that refers to God; in the sexually bipolar human creature, we see a real living monument to the Creator.”

A man-woman pair resembles God because they can create life. In Campbell's words, “through our own experiences of the union of love we participate in the creative action of that ground of all being.”

Check back later this week for Part 2 on the depiction of humanity sent aboard the Pioneer spacecraft!

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