The spotlight this past week has been on marriage and on the sorry state of some Kenyan marriages. One cannot attend a wedding ceremony without witnessing the joy and promise of the marrying couple. It is always a pity if that solemn exchange of vows is broken for avoidable reasons, as sometimes happens.
Call me a romantic, and maybe I am, although of the hardboiled pragmatic variety. So I enjoy wedding ceremonies, and love witnessing the exchange of vows. But I also appreciate the insightful marriage sermons that accompany the occasion. Of all the marriage sermons I’ve listened to, the best was one I heard a few years ago in an Anglican Church somewhere in Nairobi.
The pastor diligently explained the five C’s of marriage, namely Covenant, Consent, Character, Communication and Commitment. Covenant is the essence of marriage, and defines the marriage bond and marital relationship. It means that marriage is more than just a contract, but a solemn agreement that both binds the person, and involves a reciprocal self-gift inspired by a mutual exchange of love and kinship.
Consent really is not a separate value of marriage, but is part and parcel of Covenant. It goes together with Capacity and Choice. It means that society trusts that man and woman really can, by an act of the will, make an irrevocable and continuing decision to mutually give and accept each other in marriage.
After Covenant, the other three primary values describe the inputs of marriage. The inputs are what the partners bring into marriage: developed human qualities to be sustained and enhanced within marriage. Character talks to the stable personality traits of the spouses, Communication to the verbal and non-verbal means to share their character, and Commitment to the nature of their engagement to each other.
Two subsequent values of marriage, the outputs or goods of marriage, are Companionship and Children. Companionship includes the shared conjugal life of the couple. It gradually leads to the human perfection of the spouses. Children, including biological, adopted and even spiritual children in the case of naturally-childless couples, are the fruit of marital love.
Scott Hahn explains in his book Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace “The sexual expression of married love sets human beings apart from animals. Truly human sex seals, renews and strengthens the bond of unity between a man and a woman. The two become one, and that unity is so real that, in nine months, they might have to give it a name. Human beings do not merely ‘mate’; they make love, and their love makes more human beings.”
So there are six basic C’s of marriage, one describing the bond, three the inputs and two the outputs. These six values of marriage aspire for perfection. ‘Seven’ symbolised perfection in Hebrew culture and religion, because of the seven days of Creation. In marriage too there is a seventh value that crowns marriage with perfection.
That seventh C is Charity. Charity is the queen of all virtues, the perfection of human community and the excellence of the human soul. It means more than just human love. It is a cheerful, compassionate and sacrificial love, enriched and elevated even to a divine plane. The great paean of praise to Charity is found in the biblical epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13). So we have seven great C-words of marriage.
Casual use of contraception erodes each of these seven values of marriage. Principally it attacks Commitment, because the contraceptive mentality holds one back, refusing to give oneself fully to the other. It turns human fertility from a blessing into a threat, or even a curse. In addition, most contraceptive devices have costly side-effects: physical, hormonal, psychological, spiritual and social.
The English language has given us many great C-words, of which ‘Charity’, ‘Church’ and ‘Christ’ express the plenitude of perfection. If ‘Christ’ be the ultimate C-word, then ‘contraception’ is the anti-C-word, the anti-Christ.
By Charles Kanjama.
(The author is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya)
Adopted from www.lifematters.co.ke with the kind permission of the author