“You are created in the image and likeness of God.” Has anyone ever told you this? Have you ever really thought about what it means? Do you believe it?
While this is an amazing thing to think about from an individual point of view, it’s even more amazing when you learn that “God who created man out of love also calls him to love—the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man.”
And how does God love us? We can look to Christ for our answer. He loves us freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. We are likewise called to love one another in this way, and in fact, on your wedding day, both of you will be asked to consent to the following:
- “Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? (Freely and Totally)
- Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives? (Faithfully)
- Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church? (Fruitfully)
As you can see, the wedding vows reflect how Christ loves us. Let’s look more closely.
When you love freely, no person or desire is controlling you. Ask yourself, am I getting married – making a lifetime covenant of love with this person – because everyone else thinks (s)he is perfect for me? Is my love based primarily on sexual attraction or activity? Am I addicted to alcohol, pornography, gambling, or something else that impedes my ability to love freely?
When you love totally, you hold nothing back. Even if you overcome desires that may be controlling you, thereby allowing you to love freely, you must choose to give all of yourself to your future spouse, to put his or her needs above your own. Are you holding onto past relationships? Are you keeping something from your future spouse that (s)he should know?
When you love faithfully, you are committed to your spouse for the rest of your life – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Do you think if it doesn’t work out you can just get a divorce? Do you flirt with others at work or through social networking? Do you desire to be with someone else, or engage in an activity, more than spending time with your future spouse? Being faithful involves much more than not having an extramarital affair.
When you love fruitfully, your love is life-giving, open to the possibility of new life through the conception of a child, and it is invigorating emotionally and spiritually as well. Do you have no intention of deepening your faith together? Do you plan to use contraception in your marriage? (You may be surprised to learn that contraception is a violation of this vow. Please see “God’s Green Plan for Your Family – Natural Family Planning”)
Pope Saint John Paul II describes these elements of love so eloquently: “[C]onjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter – appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.”
As you continue in your marriage preparation, you will hopefully explore more deeply the elements of spousal love, what Pope Saint John Paul II calls “betrothed love”. If you haven’t already, you will likely realize the unique ways in which men and women express love. While often seen as opposed to one another, in fact, the ways men and women love are complimentary, and part of our very nature. Remember, together, as male and female, we image God’s love.