I must confess that I devour books by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He has a style of writing that leaves me feeling as though I have just been on a weekend retreat.
In recent comments to the Roman Rota (The Supreme Court of the Church), the Pope spoke of the role truth plays in relationship to love and the indissolubility of marriage:
“Without truth, charity (love) slides into sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily. This is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth.”
Sex and marriage are not our own inventions, toys, or roles. We don’t each have our own rules that we make up as we go along. The truth of the matter is that God has a wise design for His creation, and yes, there are plenty of rules that are a part of that wise design to protect the holiness of marriage and marital union.
For our own sake, our love is most authentic when it is an expression of God’s eternal truths and not a grotesque sentimentalist shadow.
St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “In the end, three things remain: Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love.”
The authentic Love of which both St. Paul and Pope Benedict speak begins with Faith. Lived faith. Practiced faith.
That faith then fills us with Hope, without which couples have no basis for facing an uncertain future together. And as Paul tells us, our Hope will not leave us disappointed.
That’s because Faith and Hope are the soil in which Love grows and comes to fruition, blessing us with its fruits of fidelity and belonging, of simultaneously defining ourselves by giving and receiving the gift of self. Love enables us to know ourselves and to perfect ourselves through daily acts of faith and hope, which are the driving force behind devotion.
And these acts of devotion, of love, drive out all fear, as St. Paul tells us.
Of course, none of this is possible without the truth of which Pope Benedict speaks. That truth is this:
We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and for a purpose. That purpose is nothing less than eternal life with Him, after learning to love here on our Pilgrimage far from Home. He has given us the tools to learn love, our sex and sexuality being a large part of that.
Recognition of our complementarity in marriage is the key to mutual submission, which is an icon into the radical self-donation between the Father and the Son. In our radical self-donation, we generate and nurture new life, which is the iconic window into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, as the radical reciprocity between Father and Son generates the Holy Spirit.
We come to know ourselves in relation to God by imitating the inner life of God, the life of the Trinity.
That is the great truth and dignity of or love. That is the foundational reality of a culture of life and a civilization of Love. That is what our efforts in the pro-life movement must ultimately have as their goal, nothing less than a civilization of Love.