Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn Connect on YouTube

What Does Christian Marriage Guarantee?

March 31, AD 2014 46 Comments

Wedding cake

A friend of mine recently asked: “What graces are promised in sacramental marriage? Is the guarantee and promise something that we give or something we expect to get?”

The answer is: The grace to do the work of marriage is promised to a baptized man and woman who unite in matrimony. What they do with that grace is another story, a wily story that goes by the name of free will. Christian marriage does not guarantee a diamond-gleaming fairy tale. It guarantees that God is faithful to set the glass of living water on your counter, as much as you will ever need. But for that water to permeate your entire being, you have to drink it.

On good days, you may toast your glorious union, rich in love and happiness—and you may have many good days. On other days, demons may tempt and insecurity and resentment may fester, and one day the wife may decide not to swallow the water, but instead to raise her hand high, toss her hair back, and show off her tall glass of goodness. Some days demons may oppress and anger and jealousy may slither in through the cracks and the husband may smash his glass against the wall because he’s had enough. Despair may blow in and even though God in his infinite mercy keeps setting more full glasses on the counter, for years they may go undrunk.

Alone and broken, the wife may one day reach again for her glass. She may only cling to it, unable to bring it to her grieving lips. She may take her husband’s glass to him, and she may stand there the rest of her life, one arm outstretched offering water to his back and the other hand pouring water into her soul as she gulps to sustain herself. One day the husband may turn around and see her, or one day she may give up. One day they may drink together anew, and having returned day after day to drink what they need, in abject humility before God, on their final day the husband may caress her head as she receives her last sip.

Is it possible for a wife to come know her husband so well that she trusts him to drink? I think so, but that trust can only be known within the consecrated union. I even think it’s possible for one to love the other so much that he or she suffers for the beloved and never gives up hope because God is faithful. Therein lies a transcendence beyond days and glasses on counters. Therein lies a crystal peace beyond fairy tales. Therein lies the mystery of authentic fidelity.

Follow up essay, “What’s the Glass of Water and How Do I Drink It?

Hello, and thank you for reading. I am a wife, mother of seven, and joyful convert to Catholicism. I write from my office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge. Read more about me here, with pictures. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. "Like" my Facebook page Science Was Born of Christianity to follow updates about my book. God bless you!

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive all my essays by email.

Thank you for supporting me!

  • Catholic Grammie

    Oh Stacy, this brings tears to my eyes. I’m trying so hard to mend and move on and yet I know that if he would only return and ask forgiveness, then I would take him back because I truly believe in the sacrament of marriage.

    • bill b

      Intercession is my main thing…about an hour a day and to atypical saints. I’ll pray. If your name is Jane, ask all the Jane’s who are in Heaven to pray for him. If his name is Fred, ask all the Fred’s who are heaven to pray for him. Millions of Heaven dwellers are unpetitioned because Mary is getting about one billion prayers a day because we are in a non creative rut for centuries. Can Mary process one billion prayers a day? I don’t know but I know millions of Heaven dwellers are unpetitioned and they are all saints by their very prescence in Heaven.
      Often I pray to “all maids and butlers and farmhands throughout history who are in Heaven”.

      • Bill S

        Isn’t that kind of childish? Don’t we want to know what life is really all about and how things in this world really work. In most cases, it all comes down to money.

        • bill b

          Bill S,
          Have a nice day…love the first name.

      • Catholic Grammie

        Thank you Bill B. My faith journey has definitely become stronger – I have to agree with Stacy’s post – and, as my brother said: Satan lives at the end of the internet. My husband, or legally ex-, has succumbed to the temptations of women in foreign lands after 32 years – and that’s where free will comes in – telling me that he is too smart to be duped by someone wanting a green card – even though they are the same ages as our daughters….I have been talking a lot with St. Helena lately.

        • bill b

          That temptation is about fear of death more than about the women involved. The combination of foreign and young is deluding him into thinking that he is getting life No. 2….totally different than life number one. David may well have fallen into the same delusion in I Kings 1:1-4…

          ” King David was now old, advanced in years; and though they covered him with bedclothes, he never felt warm. His courtiers said to him, “Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, to wait upon Your Majesty and be his attendant; and let her lie in your bosom, and my lord the king will be warm.” So they looked for a beautiful girl throughout the territory of Israel. They found Abishag the Shunammite and brought her to the king. The girl was exceedingly beautiful. She became the king’s attendant and waited upon him; but the king was not intimate with her.”

          This delusion makes the man think he is really 25 years old again and makes him feel far from death. It has only the slightest to do with the girls. It’s about death and getting a second earthly life. You’ll notice the alleged reason in David’s case is body warmth but then why didn’t they get her a heavy girl instead of searching for this one that was exceeding beautiful. She was the new life in her beauty…the delusion of the second life and notice in the story, he does not have sex…because it’s not about sex but about age delusion.

        • VelikaBuna

          Every time I read about marriage disaster, cheating and such topic on the internet and blogs. It is always men who cheat….but the question is who are they cheating with if not women? Which leads me to a conclusion that women are as guilty yet men seem to get all the flack in these type of forums. I guess men just don’t go around blogs talking about their ex-s. I find this quite a curious thing.

  • Bill S

    “Some days demons may oppress and anger and jealousy may slither in through the cracks…”

    I’m assuming that this metaphorical and that you are not suggesting the real existence of malevolent spiritual beings causing discontent in a married couple. It certainly can seem that way at times.

    • Shannon Marie Federoff

      Yes. real malevolent spirits. Prowling like lions, waiting to catch husbands and wives in snares of pride, greed, lust… yes. Satan is thrilled to destroy a marriage; its the closest thing he can do to attacking the Blessed Trinity. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, and I’ve talked to my married women friends who have been in that pit, too.

      • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

        Yes!

      • Bill S

        These are all psychological issues, not spiritual. They may seem other worldly but they are well within the capabilities of our human brains, which are very complex. To attribute these troubles to demons is just being superstitious. Counseling and drug therapy can help. If religion helps, it is because believing brings comfort psychologically.

        • HenryBowers

          Or your rejecting spirituality brings you comfort psychologically, Bill. So much comfort that you have to push the genetic fallacy on random strangers?

          • Bill S

            I don’t understand what you mean by “genetic fallacy”.

          • HenryBowers

            Just because a belief is obtained for a poor reason (i.e. fear), doesn’t mean that belief is false.

          • Bill S

            How would my not believing in Christianity because I see that people fear death and that Christianity promises eternal life and I see that as the real reason why there are so many Christians be a genetic fallacy? It might be another kind of fallacy, but why genetic?

          • HenryBowers

            I think it’s called genetic because it refers to the genus, being, origin, or source of a belief. I don’t knock your theory of ‘why there are so many Christians,’ but even if everyone living today believed Christianity out of fear, that wouldn’t nullify the things Christ claimed about himself.

          • Bill S

            This is true. But knowing that Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe and that is why so many people choose to believe makes me wonder if there are so many Christians because it is true or because they bought the promise. I suppose it could be both as well.

      • http://shyanguya.wordpress.com/ @FMShyanguya

        cf. Ep 4:26-27

  • jenny

    …so true.

  • JQ Tomanek

    I think the metaphor is that the demons slither. That there are demons and that they wreak havoc on marriage is more real than the reflection when I look into a mirror because demons are supernatural. Marriage is attacked so harshly because marriage is a sacrament and means of sanctification for man and woman.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Yes sir! Demons are real and they will try to hurt your marriage. Not maybe–they WILL.

  • bill b

    Stacy,
    Heaven itself was weary of saccharine web Matrimony descriptions on the Catholic circuit. Thanks for the deep end of the pool. The simplistic Catholicism of the happy face school rarely notices, except in Aquinas’ brief case, that mutual sanctification is of the essence of matrimony…ie it cannot be removed unless by death and even then, if a good person dies first, that person will surely continue to pray for the survivor. And it is high and the “devil sees every high thing” says Job. Childbearing can be removed from Matrimony through infertility and so is not of the essence of Matrimony but is a majority purpose but not of the essence…e.g. Joseph and Mary who had a real marriage but no procreation. Aquinas’ point was that if it can be removed, it is not of the essence….and Mary had a real marriage. But..did Joseph and Mary have mutual sanctification if Mary was perfect? Could Mary choose sin freely but never did partly because of Joseph’s love and prayers? I think yes because Providence forsaw Joseph as instrumental for a time period.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

    YES! So beautifully expressed. Thank you!

  • Charles C

    I have been married to the same woman for 47 years. We have no children. When we married, years ago, we had given significant thought that we were marrying for life as we accepted that there is no divorce. Commitment and loyalty has gotten us through this far. We worked through the difficult times and at this point in our life together, including months of separation with a Navy career, we understand each other well enough that we do not argue. We know each other well and we don’t see any purpose as we know are points of disagreement. I am quite sure the sacramental grace has helped but a total commitment helps and provides the strength and resolve when things get tough.

  • Pingback: Pontifical Laetare Sun. in Rome w/Bp. Matteo Zuppi - BigPulpit.com

  • Pingback: What graces does God promise to give us in sacramental marriage? - Christian Forums

  • David Peters

    Stacy thanks for this very sensitive, and insightful look into marriage. Marriage is work, but it is all worth it and then some. If the husband and wife are both loving God I have found that their love can be sweeter and the rewards richer — but it is always work. God’s unconditional love is key.

    • HenryBowers

      David, why, in your opinion don’t people say this about anything else in life? Job, hobbies, vocation — “it is always work.” Why the admonition especially for marriage?

      • David Peters

        Saying that marriage is work does not always mean suffering. Work can be good, even very good, in that a goal or reward can be acheived. For example if I work very hard at selling cars, I can sell cars, maybe more cars than someone else, and I am rewarded economically. In relationships if you don’t invest time and effort there is not much of a reward in some cases. So in this sense you get out of it what you put into it.
        However, the way I understand it, Christian love is not just a matter of getting something. The work part is denying myself, and the giving of myself to another. For example, if I want to go to the movies, and my wife wants to go to the park, we will work it out but I want to bless her. So we will proabably go to the park this time and maybe the movies another time. If we always do what I want to do, and not what she wants to do, than I am being selfish, and that affects our relationship in a negative way. So investing time and giving of myself is work but it is filled with joy.
        By the way I do know of alot of people that say their job is work, meaning it is difficult. Many people are in jobs not because they like the work, but they do what they do to survive economically.

  • HenryBowers

    Are there any other singles (never marrieds) reading this who find it all a bit discouraging? I mean, isn’t it a truism that we’re all going to suffer enormously anyway? So why the wink-wink between marrieds who have apparently been to the gulags of suffering? Other support groups commisserate, but they don’t go on blogs and make vague hints about the horrors they never expected. What gives? I guess my supplementary question is: do you even think marriage is something to be encouraged, the way we encourage baptism, etc? Or should we just let the blissfully delusioned enjoy their bliss, and then direct them to your whispering cult in 2 months?

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      Therein lies a crystal peace beyond fairy tales…

      • HenryBowers

        Wut?

    • http://shyanguya.wordpress.com/ @FMShyanguya

      Single for the sake of the Kingdom, how their calling mirrors the LORD’s.

      • HenryBowers

        Subject:Predicate. Is there a gas leak in here? Nobody has offered a coherent response to my post.

    • td10

      Hi Henry,
      I think this type of camaraderie is common in many areas. I remember when my kids were little and I worried about everything, I’d always hear,” Wait till they’re teenagers!” My husband in medicine used to be regaled with forebodings of the terrors of residency. I would venture to guess that every life course has its rites of passage and there is some celebratory admission in having survived them. I felt drawn to my husband in an inexplicable way- from the moment I met him I knew my life would change. And I don’t mean a moony, saccharine glandular response, but something very weighty- divine inspiration?-a sense of real significance that I could never explain.
      I don’t think it’s about” what makes me happy,” but rather,” What does God want.” 25 years and 11 kids later, I’ll say, ignorance was bliss, and if I’d known the challenges I’d be facing I might have run from my vocation. But there is tremendous peace in the conviction that the path I is said yes to was the one chosen for me by God. I truly believe the sacrificial love of marriage is my particular stepping stone to sanctity and that it’s different for everyone. Should we discourage people from marrying? Not if marriage is where your prayerful discernment is leading you. When I pray with my kids at night, I always say(and mean),”Let my children use their gifts to do God’s work.” Where will your gifts best serve God’s collective plan for everyone’s redemption?
      I don’t know if this helps or if I even misunderstood your question, but I thought I’d give it a shot!

      • HenryBowers

        Your answer is very helpful, thank you. I have only felt that way at philosophy conferences, when someone starts speaking and I am transported. I have never felt that way about a woman, though I have dated a lot, and for long stretches, and I’m not gay, and I’ll be 35 this year. I used to feel flummoxed about it, angry that I was so ready to follow the rules and be a model young Catholic who didn’t contracept, but I guess that was my pride (for where was the girl in this glorification of myself?), and looking back at the facts, I probably would have fallen disastrously, or she would have realized that I wasn’t ready. So if that’s the analogy — the inside suffering of a joyful and obviously-ordained path — I think I can respect it better, because you’re not all bragging like wrong-headed alcoholics, who never felt peace about drinking in the first place. You must be a good mom, td10, taking the time to decipher another’s complaint in detail. Maybe someday I’ll be transported by a woman for her character, and I’ll hope that I remember what I learned on S, T, and Mountain Life.

        • td10

          Thanks for your response- I try to be a good mother but feel that often the kids are turning out ok despite my blundering. I have had many 1am free-associations over tea with angst filled, struggling adolescents- these have given me some practice in questions like yours.
          I wanted to direct you to a website, “Building a Kingdom of Love.” It’s with Fr John Esseff, who used to be a spiritual advisor to Mother Therese. Part of his mission is to help others to discern a religious vocation, but his message is for everyone and I find his talks to be incredibly clarifying. I’ve never heard the voice of Christ so profoundly in a person before .
          God bless you on your journey. I don’t believe that anyone asking so earnestly for direction can ever be dismissed by Jesus. You’ll find your way just by your persistence and sincerity.

  • http://shyanguya.wordpress.com/ @FMShyanguya

    Grace for the husband to love as God/Christ (the Lover) and for the wife to be faithful as Christ/Church (the Beloved). A sign to the world of G_d’s love for his people and Christ for his Church, his Mystical Body, the new and definitive Israel, faithful to its Lord & G_d, the Bride, the new Jerusalem where G_d dwells.
    Each being faithful no matter what (G-d does not go off to create a better spouse in our place and Christ is faithful, loves and sacrifices himself for his Bride, the Church).

  • TeaPot562

    My wife & I started seeing each other in the Spring of our High School Junior year.
    As I often could not borrow my Dad’s car, we caught buses to & from ballgames and dances. To pass the time while waiting for a bus, we started praying Rosaries together.
    By the date we married, we had hundreds of Rosaries in our history.
    I don’t know that the exact prayer form matters much, but it is very helpful to marry someone who shares your ideals, including your Faith and prayer forms. We do think that the Mother of Jesus has blessed our union.
    We are nearing 59 years since our wedding, with five children (four living), twelve grand-kids and four great-grands. We have faced crises several times, but asked God for the grace to meet them together.
    I was fairly selfish when we married – I earned the money, she was supposed to take care of the home and the kids. Near our 20th anniversary we made a Marriage Encounter. The experience was great, and led to changes in my approach. I listen to her better now.
    Prayer together matters. Your willingness (and your prospective partner’s willingness) to make a permanent commitment is overwhelmingly needed. Neither of us thought that we could divorce & remarry. We reached an understanding about 7 years (and three children!) into our marriage that if one of use “walked out”, whoever left would have to “take the kids”. It was a jest, but neither of us wanted to face the kids alone.
    TeaPot562

    • Bill S

      Wow. That sounds like a great marriage. I still pray with my wife even though I have become an atheist. She knows and still wants me to pray and go to mass with her. It’s the least I can do.

      • VelikaBuna

        Why would you be dishonest? You don’t need to pray if you don’t believe, and if you go to mass, do you take communion and do you go to confession?

        • Bill S

          My wife believes that my prayers are heard. That is good enough for me. I receive communion. I don’t go to confession.

  • Pingback: What's the Glass of Water and How Do I Drink It? : Stacy Trasancos

  • Jennifer Hartline

    Amen. Very beautifully stated. The glass of living water, full of grace, sits there on our counter every day. Thank God.

  • RachanaC

    Thank you, Stacy. For this. The last paragraph was particularly poignant. One day, God willing, I hope to be in a marriage like that. God change my heart and grant me the grace to drink that Living Water and share life in such a way with my beloved!

  • Pingback: Pastoral Sharings: " Fifth Sunday of Lent" | St. John