by H.G. Bishop Moussa
In this twelve-part series, His Grace Bishop Moussa explores various topics on marriage and family life, from the pre-engagement period, to holy Mystery of marriage, to the marriage rite, to family life. In this week's segment: Young people often rush into marriage. This is a natural inclination in the beginning of youth and the heat of the call of instinct. But mistakes always result from this hurriedness, for many reasons that will be dealt with in this chapter.
Every young person must be endowed with some important aspects of maturity in order to be in the right position to think and move towards the choice of a life-partner. Here are some of these aspects.
Though young people might not take this point too seriously, yet the guidance of the soul by God's Spirit is paramount. It is a serious matter for many reasons:
a. Marriage is a spiritual fellowship and an integral union in Christ. This necessitates a true Christian life for both partners so that they may (through the Holy Spirit working in the Mystery of matrimony) be brought together in a true and firm union. This union cannot take place without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, for He is the Spirit of unity and He integrates the two spirits in one entity. Through this spiritual union the husband and wife are united in mind and body.
b. Christ is the Lord of the house in which He dwells. Whenever the Lord takes His leading position in the family everything is performed according to His mind, love, and holy guidance. The Lord will be ever present at meals, the silent listener to every conversation, the divine Savior for every soul.
c. In the choice of life-partner the spirit should dominate over both mind and emotion, for the mind has limited vision and power, while the emotions are fickle. The spirit is the divine element in contact with God; capable of finding the way out, and controlling the course of mind and emotion. Therefore, young people have to activate their spiritual life and their fellowship with the Lord, so as not to be easily inclined either to the heat of their passion or to their limited thinking.
d. The blessing of the Lord and His sacred seal for the choice is the only sure guarantee for a happy life under His love. Even if you wear yourself out trying to find out all about your life-partner and trying to check that you made the right choice, you cannot without the intervention of the Holy Spirit succeed in this aim.
e. Marriage requires some significant concessions from both parties in a spirit of self-sacrificial love, not of destructive selfishness. This is quite impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit, the only guarantee for self-denial and the surrender of many habits and patterns of thinking. This will enable the two partners to give before taking - giving with Christian joy, not with the resentment of the oppressed, nor in a quarrelsome and reluctant spirit. Therefore, maturity is essential for both partners for leading a life of fellowship with the Lord and involvement in church life.
Studies show that the young adult, at the beginning of university life, looks forward to choosing a life-partner and finding out about the opposite sex. It is also well known that this is merely a phase of life in youth called "general heterosexuality". In other words, we are looking at the opposite sex in frequent attempts to find out more about them. So we cannot identify the right person for the journey of life at this stage since our characters are still frequently changing. It is a good idea at this stage to mix in a spiritual environment that allows opportunities for general acquaintances without pairing off or getting involved in 'heavy' relationships. Such relationships are more harmful than useful as the two partners are distracted from establishing themselves spiritually and academically.
They may also harm a girl's reputation, since how do we know that this relationship is God's choice? Are we not still at the stage of "general heterosexuality"? When university life draws to its close, even after graduation, a young adult begins to move towards the stage of "specific heterosexuality", i.e. we may, through thought and prayer identify the specific person we feel is the choice of God for our lives. Now we are psychologically mature enough to take this crucial decision, the decision of a lifetime. So we should get to understand these two phases. We should not choose hurriedly or get involved in 'heavy' relationships that finish in desolation and bitterness.
This is significant too. There is a big difference between a young man driven by the heat of passion and another moved by spiritual love. Emotion is often deceitful and changeable. It is a facet of man's psychological make-up. It is merely a repeated attraction towards a particular person accompanied by a feeling of comfort. However, is this human feeling the final arbiter of partner selection? Where is God in this decision? Where is the mind? Where are the two families' views?
Moreover, emotion is usually a physical phenomenon. So it is part of our natural selves. Unless it is raised to the level of spirit, holiness and Christian love, it rapidly drags the couple into heavy, physical involvement. Christian marriage generally begins with a spiritual, sincere, sublime love whereas an emotional one begins with a sensual affection, fading away when difficulties show up the fact that it was not love at all.
Emotion is taking first, then giving. Spiritual love, however, is giving without necessarily receiving in return. So emotional love will vanish at the first ordeal: when a partner misbehaves, wants something without being able to give anything in return - in time of illness or trouble, for instance. On the other hand, spiritual love is giving in essence. Therefore give "to all liberally and without reproach" (James 1:5), as the Lord does, without waiting for something in return.
It is here that emotional maturity is essential, where we enjoy the outpouring of God's sacrificial love into our hearts. Because of this we are capable of generous giving without waiting for compensation. Thus love thrives through marriage, and continues in spite of all life's crises, as a witness to the Lord Who loved us when we were still sinners. Many marriages today are violently shaken by life's blows, because of selfishness and fickle emotions. When the ego dominates, the family is torn apart.
This is the fourth pivotal point. Marriage has definite material prerequisites. Because of old-fashioned traditions that we hope one day will disappear, the two partners are faced with huge material obligations. To mention but a few: marriage rings, gifts, shelter, furniture, and celebrations inside and outside the church.
However young people, in their innocence and momentum, try to escape these traps. They find these traditions rigid like a rock, putting a stumbling-block in their path to marriage. Where love collides with a financial rock, their hearts are filled with bitterness even towards the partner who lets him or her down.
At this point, we need to be realistic. Life is not as smooth as imaginations and daydreams are. It is as tough as reality, its pains and its facts. The two partners have to estimate the costs before embarking on this step. As the girl will suffer more than her partner, she must be more prudent when love and harmony may be dashed on the rock of social and economic circumstances.
It is better to be jerked back into the real world than to fly into reveries with the wings of imagination and be deceived. We must get into the serious business of managing our material needs, before we stumble for lack of readiness.
Building on maturity in the four areas we have thought about, young people will be in a suitable position to choose a partner and look forward to a happy and lasting marriage.
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