Before one considers the point of Marriage, one must remember the point of life, which is to discover God and to serve Him. While Americans can take justifiable pride in their Declaration of Independence, which prioritizes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Catholics know that God is the Source of all three. Furthermore, He is the One Who, through grace, makes each of them possible in the fullest way. Here we will consider one aspect of life as it relates to Marriage.
We are all subject to the effects of original sin, which not only severed our intimacy with God, but served to darken our intellect, weaken our will, and disorder our passions. Additionally, that primal sin had a particular consequence each for men and women that compromised their relationship with one another, so that the intimacy which should be such a delight is also a source of pain. Men would find work a burden, women would suffer in bringing new life into the world, and their rapport would be poisoned by grasping and intimidation (cf. Gn 3:16-19). All mankind would be living in perpetual darkness and sorrow without the redemptive sacrifice offered by Christ.
Thus, while sin compromises Marriage at its heart, the very means through which we can reunite with God also provides the remedy for the residual difficulties between men and women. Sacramental Marriage provides the graces to heal and elevate the partners whose complementary relationship would be otherwise grievously difficult.
While one of the ends of Marriage is children, before considering that dimension we must look at the life of the spouses, who seek happiness with each other. If they are not fully alive, there is already a problem in the home. And in what does the fullness of life consist? Jesus, of course, “in Whom we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:29). St. Irenaeus explains it this way: “When Christ became Incarnate and was made Man, He recapitulated in Himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a ‘short cut’ to Salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.”
So being united to Christ is foundational to the life of husband and wife, who can be healed and continually restored, even as sin consistently creeps in. Each man — charged with the care of the spouse entrusted to him — can thereby find the strength to work for her good, to provide what is necessary despite the great human cost, and to find joy in tasks that would be burdensome without an understanding of the Incarnation that elevates all things. He should kneel at the foot of the cross of Christ and offer his own burden to the Father, and while there he can also look sideways to see the faithful disciple, John, who never wavered in his fidelity to the mission of the Bridegroom.
Likewise, each woman — charged with fostering new life in myriad ways — can lay her anxieties and frustrations at the foot of the cross, wherein Christ conquered fear and death once and for all. As she is doing this, she too can look sideways to see Mary, the perfect bride, who stands firmly rooted, ready to mother all — even those who have yet to know her warm embrace.
The cross is at the heart of all Marriages — Sacramental or otherwise. One cannot escape it. The difference is that God makes available the graces needed to transform the suffering into joy, for only in Christ is true union possible — with one another and with the Father, the source of all life; and in this way, Marriage offers a blessed path to serving God and saving one another.