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Bride Groom at Consecration_crop

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist – His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Marshall Fightlin, seminary professor and licensed marriage and family psychologist, compares the conjugal intimacy of Christ in the Eucharist to the conjugal intimacy of the spouses in marriage.

The Eucharist expresses the conjugal intimacy between Christ and his Church. In the Eucharist Christ shows his sacrificial love and he enters into a communion  ‘two in one flesh’ with his Church. We become one body with his Body, given for us. In this way, marital imagery sheds light on the mystery of Christ and his Church. This is the vision that the Church presents to us of conjugal intimacy. It is a natural sacrament of marital commitment. It is a reflection of the love that God has for us. It is a reflection and a participation in the love that Christ showed for his Church when he gave himself on the cross. It is worthy to be compared to Holy Communion. Just as Christ enters into conjugal intimacy with his Church through Holy Communion –  the body union of a Christian and Christ – so the couple celebrate a little communion in their conjugal intimacy.[1]

Christopher West, in his book Heaven’s Song: Sexual Love as it was Meant to Be, says that in the Eucharist, Christ and His bride, the Church, enter sacramentally into a spousal union that is consummated at the Cross. West quotes Bishop Fulton Sheen who brilliantly illuminates the spousal nature of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross:

Now we’ve always thought, and rightly so, of Christ the Son on the Cross and the mother beneath him. But that’s not the complete picture. That’s not the deep understanding. Who is our Lord on the Cross? He’s the new Adam. Where’s the new Eve? At the foot of the Cross…How did the old humanity begin? With the nuptials. How will the new humanity begin? With the nuptials. If Eve became the mother of the living in the natural order, is not this woman at the foot of the Cross to become another mother? And so the bridegroom looks down at the bride. He looks at his beloved. Christ looks at his Church. There is here the birth of the Church. As St. Augustine puts it, and here I am quoting him verbatim, ‘The heavenly bridegroom left the heavenly chambers, with the presage of the nuptials before him. He came to the marriage bed of the Cross, a bed not of pleasure, but of pain, united himself with the woman, and consummated the union forever. As it were, the blood and water that came from the side of Christ was the spiritual seminal fluid.’ And so from these nuptials ‘Woman, there’s your son’ this is the beginning of the Church.[2] [3]

As Christ makes a total self-giving of Himself to us in the Eucharist, spouses are to make a total gift of self to each other, including their fertility in each and every act of physical union. There are two ways for couples to relate to one another: in love or by use. By contracepting, couples are not acting in love but using one another. St. Pope John Paul II said that spouses who practice contraception…

Act as “arbiters” of the divine plan and they “manipulate” and degrade human sexuality – and with it themselves and their married partner – by alternating its value of “total” self-giving. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraconception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other.[4]

In other words, couples who practice contraception are lying to each other. Their sexual union is no longer a language of love because it does not represent the total gift of self that Christ makes to us in the Eucharist. St. John Paul II says the act of contraception is comparable to an act of desecration to the Blessed Sacrament in the Eucharist:

[T]he Christian family united in Christ is a reflection of the trinitarian communion of Persons, the conjugal union is a sign or sacrament of the love of the Trinity. It is therefore a holy and blessed act similar to the priest’s consecration of the Eucharist at Mass. When a couple engages in this holy act while, at the same time, not giving themselves in love, the conjugal embrace is no longer a reflection of the love of the Trinity. A holy, sacred sign is desecrated. Such desecration, if knowingly and willingly done, is a sacrilege. It is comparable to a priest’s desecration of the holy Eucharist. Thus, contracepting couples act contrary to the familial communion of persons and in so doing they give grave offense to God and to each other.[5]

God is to be honored in the martial relationship as its creator and provider of grace that equips husbands and wives with the means necessary to live out their vows. God’s laws concerning sexuality and marriage are to be obeyed not out of fear of retribution but out of a deep love for the Father and each other. True love will always act for the good of the other; false love only seeks to satisfy oneself and leads to destruction.

Finally, let the spouses themselves, made to the image of the living God and enjoying the authentic dignity of persons, be joined to one another in equal affection, harmony of mind and the work of mutual sanctification. Thus, following Christ who is the principle of life, by the sacrifices and joys of their vocation and through their faithful love, married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by His dying and His rising up to life again.[6]

In the words of the consecration, “This is my body,” Christ holds nothing back. In the unspoken words of the marital embrace, husband and wife say to each other, “This is my body.” Marriage and the Eucharist image each other in self-sacrificial gift.

“Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” Revelation 19:9

[1] Catholic Education Resource Center, Marshall Fightlin, Conjugal Intimacy, originally published in the New Oxford Review (January-February, 1984): 8-14, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/marriage-and-family/sexuality/conjugal-intimacy.html (accessed June 20, 2019).

[2] Henry Dieterich, Through the Years with Bishop Fulton Sheen (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), 60.

[3] Christopher West, Christopher West, Heaven’s Song: Sexual Love as it was Meant to Be (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2008), 172.

[4] Richard Hogan and John LeVoir, Covenant of Love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage, and Family in the Modern World (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2nd. Edition 1992) 255-256.

[5] Ibid., 256.

[6] Paul VI, Vatican II Council Gaudium et Spes, §52, December 7, 1965; http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html (accessed June 20, 2019).