Written by: Evan Cowie, UF Student
Who are we, really – what exactly are we as humans? Are we simply another animal, or some senseless pile of amino acids that just so happen to move? Are we a byproduct of an unknowing chance?
In a word, no. In the Beginning, God created Adam in His image and likeness, and we are all likewise created with this Imago Dei. To have something in our nature which is a reflection of the Divine – this is our greatest dignity, and our greatest responsibility. We see that Adam is placed as ruler over all the Earth – all the creatures are brought before him, and he names them, and so naming them claims dominion over them as owner and steward.
Yet, in all of this creation, there is nothing fit to be a partner of Adam. No dog, or cat, nor horse, nor any other animal can live up to the dignity of Adam as Image of God. And so because “it is not good for man to be alone,” God fashions a suitable partner from Adam’s very flesh, and she too is made in the Imago Dei. She has that same inherent dignity, and Adam is to love her for this: to provide for her from Creation, and also to protect her from it. They are truly husband and wife, truly one flesh.
This is the first sacrament – marriage, so very fundamental to our nature as humans. From it, we learn the innate complementarity of men and women, how we are made for each other and how each provides for the other what they cannot provide for themselves. From this sacrament, we also learn that man does not live just for himself, but always in service to one another, wife and neighbor alike. For though God is our ultimate fulfillment, they too are His children bearing His image. Service to the child will always bring us closer to the One who is the Father of us all.
Though created perfect, this relationship becomes corrupted through the fall of Original Sin. It is for this reason that we see Christ come as the New Adam in today’s Second Reading, who becomes “for a little while … lower than the angels” by taking on the form of man, such that He might put all things under His feet, restoring the proper dominion and ordering of Creation as it was under Adam. What was lost and corrupted under Adam is renewed by Christ, the self-same Word who wrought it in the Beginning, alleluia!
And so Jesus reminds us of the preeminent dignity of the husband and wife, of the bond of marriage as being instituted by God. “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” He reminds us of this deep unity between us, that we are not made for ourselves, but for others.
He continues to teach this lesson by the Passion, freely giving Himself for His Church. In love for the Church, He pours Himself out for her, and in gratitude she returns to Him what He has given. So must a husband love his wife, and a wife love her husband.
For this is the greatest truth of marriage – that we are called to love one another in self-giving love. Even those not called to marriage’s particular vocation are still called to live out its virtues. Priests embody Christ, wed to the Church and dedicated to protecting and nurturing it. Religious sisters embody the Church, wed to Christ and returning to Him the fullness of His love. So then, let us all live sacramentally, with deep, abiding, and self-sacrificing love for one another, just as Christ has for us.