March 4, 2010

Marriage and Celibacy as Icons



Iconography, pictures of Divine Persons and saints, are signs, images, or likenesses that embody and make present what they portray. God, the author of creation, uses physical realities to make present spiritual realities beyond us. Sex is sacred because, as a life-giving exchange of persons, it images the exchange of persons in the Trinity. Husband and wife participate in the Divine Life of God by being a family. Human families are icons of the Divine Family.

Like marriage, celibacy is a total gift of self that points to a spiritual reality. Jesus’ answer: "At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage… " (Matthew 22:30, also Mark 12:25, and Luke 20:35), in response to the Sadducees’ question about the seven times widowed woman, reveals our life in Heaven.

Sex and matrimony are icons of Divine Love. In Heaven we will see God face to face. This intimate (re)union will be an unrivaled joy, surpassing even the ecstasy of sexual fulfillment. There will be no need for such signs, images, or likenesses in the life of the world to come. God will walk in our midst and be present to us. We will receive Him fully in glory without sin or selfishness.

The celibate is a witness to the happiness we will experience in Heaven. Those who are chaste for the Kingdom can still practice life-giving love in emulation of Christ. Whatever our vocation or circumstance, we are all called to be "midwifes to souls."

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