Sanctity of Marriage

From our forum

Marital customs in Christian lands typically involve magical or symbolic rites which emphasise the sanctity and exclusiveness of marriage. In the martial tradition, for example, the bride and groom pass beneath the royal arch, a canopy of drawn swords, representing the fiery sword of the cherubim which guards the tree of life in Eden. The message thus conveyed is clear: this union is protected; the sword is unsheathed against anyone or anything that would compromise its integrity.

Speaking of the sanctity of marriage, we invoke the concept of the sanctuary or sanctum, the most sacred, most holy part of the temple, reserved for the anointed, barred to the profane. In the case of marriage the anointed party comprises just two souls - the husband and wife. None other have a right to this exclusive and intimate circle, which is a natural type of the spiritual union of Christ and his Bride.

If thus it is God's design to protect the union of husband and wife, to keep their commitment inviolate, it is surely the devil's work to breach this sacred circle. From Genesis we understand that this is how the original sanctum of Eden was breached and the primordial union compromised, namely by intrusion of a third party in the form of a talking serpent. With smooth persuasive tongue this serpent preached to Eve a different gospel from that received of yahweh elohim. Eve was thus 'beguiled' as the King James Bible has it, and we note that it is her nature and function to conceive seed: spiritually and morally as well as physically. But the seed thus conceived was a seed of discrepancy, whence the idyllic union of Eden was shattered.

If thus the woman fell by conceiving seed, her redemption is likewise occasioned by a conception of seed, in this case the predestined righteous seed of God. As it is written, I will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel. We understand that this prophecy was fulfilled - the coming of the righteous seed - when a Nazarene virgin answered the angel of God, be it unto me according to thy word. Her redemption, in other words, requires her coming under the headship of Christ, to be impregnated by the spiritual seed of his Word. We understand it is this Word, without adulteration or admixture, which brings salvation and deliverance to the soul. The woman, in this grand design of God, is thus the bearer of the seed. She is the womb of life, spiritually and physically, and it is this which explains the emphasis on female purity. For Satan could not directly attack the seed. So instead he targets the woman. That through her he might also get hold of Adam.

This is implicitly understood among all cultures. Because the woman is thus vulnerable, because she is the womb of life, special emphasis is traditionally placed upon female virtue and purity. But what does this mean in the biblical context - female virtue and purity? It is here that a grand subversion has taken place. (See also my new post under Why Are Sexual Sins So Glorified?) For it does not mean sexual renunciation after the Roman cult of the celestial Virgin. It does not mean a life of abstinence. These are extra-biblical conceptions, deriving from pagan ideals - with due respect to our Catholic friends.

Rather, a woman's virtue is her fidelity, the substance of her marriage vows, her devotion to her husband. A woman who is faithful in this sense is a virgin unto God. She is a chaste and virtuous woman. In like manner also is the church deemed a virtuous women, namely as long as she abides in the unadulterated Word of God. She is ready to receive her spiritual husband, available and responsive to him, because she is not taken with other men - other spirits and their doctrines. So likewise the wife after the fleshly union is subject to the exclusive headship of her husband. She receives him only, speaking sexually of course, but also in the broader moral and spiritual sense. It is her husband's word that is her rule of life, it is his correction she accepts, and upon his law her soul is established.

(As to male virtue, while the subject is nigh, the concept is analogous. For we note that the original meaning of virtue is strength - strength in the specific sense of virility. A man of virtue, in other words, is one who is not promiscuous with his seed because he is wedded to the woman of his heart - or his dreams.)

In our modern confusion, however, we realise that this does not always obtain. Many husbands, it seems to me, are quite content to have their wives at their side physically and emotionally, while her soul is wondering God knows where. I understand it is a cultural issue, part of the egalitarian spirit of modernity - oh, just let her do her thing. In her inward loneliness, however, she is profoundly vulnerable to seduction by deceptive spirits. For that is the nature of woman. So before you know it, she has gotten some bee in her bonnet, as we say. Or a whole nest of them. And while temporary relief may be gained by drawing her attention to her other end, the source of the problem remains to be addressed. This is a spiritual matter, requiring spiritual headship, of the husband over his wife, according to biblical precedent.

It is the husband, according to biblical precedent, who is the spiritual head of his house. So taught St. Paul and the ante-Nicene Fathers, as did the reformers and their heirs. So when we hear of husbands experiencing relational problems with their wives, I would suspect a vacuum of spiritual leadership at the heart of the marital union. The headstone hasn't yet come into place, to use a biblical metaphor, and no amount of practical application would avail. Only a spiritual anointing enables a man to take spiritual possession of his wife, to consummate marriage on the spiritual planes of experience, and thereby render their union complete.

- Monkman