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The Two Become One Flesh

"The Marriage at Cana" by artist Gustave DoreWhat, then? Is marriage a theater? No! It is a mystery and a symbol of something mighty. Even if you don't show it honor, then honor what it symbolizes. "This mystery," says St. Paul, "is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church" (Eph 5:32).

It is a symbol of the Church, and of Christ. The two come together, and they make one. When two come together, they do not make a lifeless image, or the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself. Two come to marriage, about to be made one body. See again a mystery of love! If the two do not become one - if they remain two - they do not make many. But when they unite, then they make many.

What do we learn from this? That the power of union is mighty. The wisdom of God, in the beginning, divided the one in two; but He wanted to show that it remained one even after division. So He made it impossible for either alone to be enough for procreation. For neither can be one until united with the other. Each is only half. Each alone can produce no children.

Do you see the mystery of marriage? He made one from one; and after He made these two into one, He made one, so that now, also, children are produced from one. For husband and wife are not two, but one. This may be confirmed from many sources; for instance, from the words "male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27). If he is the head and she the body, how are they two? From the very fashioning of the body, one may see that they are one, for she was made from his side, and they are two halves.

And how do they become one flesh? As if she were pure gold receiving pure gold, so the woman receives the man's seed. She nourishes it and cherishes it and adds her own share, the two fused by pleasure. And so she gives it back as a child!

The child is a sort of bridge, so that the three become one flesh, the child connecting, on either side, each to the other. Two cities, though divided by a river, become one if a bridge connects them. How much more, then, if the very bridge is formed of the substance of each.

Why are you blushing? Leave that to the heretics and pagans, with their impure and immodest customs. For this reason I want marriage to be thoroughly purified, to bring it back again to its proper nobility. You should not be ashamed of these things; if you are ashamed, then you condemn God who made marriage.

So I shall tell you how marriage is a mystery of the Church. The Church was made from Christ's side, and He united with her in a spiritual union. For one man said: "I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband" (2 Cor. 11:2). And he goes on to say that "we are members of His body" (Eph 5:30).

Think about all these things, then, and let's not cast shame upon so great a mystery. Marriage is a symbol of the presence of Christ. Tell me: If you saw an image of the king, would you dishonor it? By no means.

- Taken from St. John Chrysostom

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