A CERTAIN essayist makes this appalling statement: “What a sad age this is in which one makes his First Holy Communion to be through with religion, receives his bachelor’s degree to be through with studying, and marries to be through with love.”
Let us omit the first two statements from this consideration and take up the third.
Is it true that for some, marriage is the end of love? That statement can be taken in different ways.
Some think that before marriage one can play at love. Then when the senses have been dulled, one shall try to find a companion for himself. “Youth must pass,” people say condescendingly on observing the looseness of young men. There are even certain pseudo-moralists who advise young girls not to marry before “deliberately having their fling as well as the boys”–advice which unfortunately some of them do not fail to follow.
This is an odious concept of love and marriage or of preparation for it. I certainly want none of it.
Again there are those who think that love is all well and good before marriage. As for marriage itself, it is first and foremost an investment. The problem is not so much to marry someone for whom one experiences a strong attraction, but rather to realize a good business deal. It is not the person one seeks, but the name, the status, the fortune. There is nothing of love in this. No, indeed, it is all a matter of interest: a concept equally as odious as the first, equally repellent.
What the author of the statement probably meant is that before marriage, the young man and woman are all fire and flame, and perhaps for a short time after marriage.
Soon, or at least comparatively soon after marriage, they no longer speak of love. They have become two under the yoke–two bearing the necessary restraints of their united existences.
Gone is the enchantment of betrothal days or of the early days of married life. There is nothing left but the grayish prose of humdrum existence with an individual of whom one has made a god or a goddess–a person who is after all only a poor creature.
–A man, “a poor man who eats, drinks, wears shirts and drawers, and who loses his buttons,” as someone jokingly described him. “A man who will never be able to find anything in a dresser or clothes closet; who will never appreciate the cooking or the menu; who at night throws his clothes in a heap on a chair and the next morning complains that the creases in his trousers are not pressed in well enough; a man who formerly seemed like a knight, a magician, a prince charming, and whose bold gestures so commanding yet so delicate thrilled the heart and stirred one’s whole being, causing one’s imagination to crown him with the aureola of perfection,” and who now . . .
–A woman, a poor creature indeed, perpetually thirsting for caresses even at the most inappropriate times; a woman who has foolish notions, headaches, fits of humor; who manifests a flare for spending which can never resist the appeal of any show window, particularly if there is an interesting clearance sale on; a woman who wants a wardrobe capable of ruining the most industrious man, the wealthiest husband–a poor sort of woman, indeed!
Is it not because of all these things, at least partially because of them, that Our Lord wanted to make marriage a rite giving divine graces–a sacrament?
Perhaps we have exaggerated the poetry of conjugal life; let us not now exaggerate the prose of life together.
As a preparation for this prose, which is always possible and often very real even in the most successful marriages, I shall aim to sanctify myself in the practice of charity and patience.
ONE ONLY BEING
“LOVE seeks to escape through a single being from the mediocrity of all others.” This is the definition one author gives of love.
It is not a matter of reviewing all human beings with whom one comes into contact as if they were on parade, so that with methodical, rational, and cold discernment one might pick out the chosen man or woman. It is not a selection; the object of one’s desire attracts at once; it is just he or she; all the rest do not exist. As one writer put it, “Love is monotheistic.” There is no need at all of overthrowing idols; one pedestal alone stands, bearing the holy representation that the eyes feast upon and toward which the heart turns with an irresistible
Oh, the incomprehensible power of the heart in love promptly to divinize the poor reality it has chosen! Nothing else exists for it any longer! In the play “Asmodee,” by Mauriac, the heroine Emmanuelle, who had thought of religious life until she met Harry with whom she fell deeply in love at first sight, goes so far as to declare:
“You know when I used to hear a person say of someone, “He is everything for me,” I did not know what that meant. I know now. Our pastor tells me that husbands and wives love each other in God. I can’t understand that. It seems to me that if Harry were some day to be everything for me, then there would no longer be any room in my heart or in my life for anyone, not even for God.”
Aside from this particular example of Emmanuelle, there is some truth in those words; they emphasize a well-known fact.
How many young girls during their engagement period, how many young wives in the months following upon their marriage, neglect the spiritual, overwhelmed as they are with human happiness!
Previous to that time, all their love, all the need they felt for giving themselves was directed to divine realities. Their capacity for tenderness was showered upon Jesus and Mary; it was fed in Holy Communion.
Now another object engages all their concern. They must be vigilant that their piety does not diminish. Their needs have increased; it is not the time to decrease their cultivation of holiness.
Doubtless, and above all in the case of a married woman, some spiritual exercises will not be possible; for example, daily Holy Mass and Holy Communion in certain cases will have to be sacrificed through fidelity to duty in their new state. But piety itself must not diminish as it so often does in a period of human happiness.
It is essential in the midst of marital joys, and above all in the joys preceding marriage or following immediately upon it, to strive to preserve a sense of balance and of true values.
Love of God does not operate exactly as the attraction of creatures. In the one case, it is a question of an invisible reality; in the other, of a sensible reality. This last, even though closer and more accessible, never eclipses the first. Esteem as divine what is divine, and do not knowingly divinize or, more correctly speaking, transfigure to excess a creature, no matter how rich its gifts.
Remain if possible always in truth. Realize that God alone is God, and that every created being has its limitations. Strive to make your limitations and your mediocrity as little felt as possible and generously pardon the limitations and mediocrity of your companion for life.
The earth shall never be anything but the earth; it is untimely to try to make it heaven.