"The man said: 'This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken.' That is why man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body." (Genesis 2:23-24)
I heard a preacher on the radio the other day speaking of how husband and wife should treat each other. He reminded me that in my relationship with my husband I must always remember that we, united in God, are one body. As surely as I would never do anything to harm my own body, I should never do anything to harm my husband. Even if my body were doing something to hurt me, I would not harm it. If my hand were aching, I would not cut it off but try to heal it. If my stomach was growling, I would feed it. If my body was gaining weight I would do my best to help it get back into shape. I would nurture the life of my body. In fact, I am so united with my body that I consider my body as me. I, as a person, and my body are one. Of course, there is more to me than just my body in the physical sense, but my body represents me as a whole person, and I cannot be separated from it.
So, when man and woman are married, they become one body. Not just two bodies who happen to live together, but utterly united. I must treat this new body, united with my husband, as my own (because it is!), and as one that represents us in our new life together in the same way that my physical body represents my whole person. This body, united in marriage through God's grace is not merely a physical body, but is much more than that--we become one in heart and mind.
Really? Of one heart and mind? This may seem shocking to our society today. Society screams: I am an individual with my own more important personal needs!
Let me explain what I mean by this:
We, of course, understand becoming one body in the conjugal sense. Man and woman become one in the marital act and the unity between them is so great that it gives life in the form of a child. Marriage, by nature, is a life-giving relationship. In fact, it can be compared to the relationship of the Holy Trinity, perpetually giving life. According to Catholic.org, the Trinity is the perfect family: "The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son. We might say that the life of the Triune God is the highest and supreme principle of familial relationship." (http://www.catholic.org/hf/love/story.php?id=37200) So, in marriage and family, we are imitating the perfect love and life-giving relationship of the Trinity. Of course, the Trinity, specifically the Holy Spirit, is the life giving force of all of Creation. We, as married couples are life-giving not only in the literal sense of bearing children, but in the sense of giving life and love to our spouse and those around us.
The persons of the Trinity, because of their perfect love and perfect unity, are "inseparable in what they are" and "inseparable in what they do." (Catechism 267) They are so utterly united that they cannot be separated in will. Likewise, we, as a married couple, in striving for that perfect unity and love must become of one heart and mind, through God's grace. "Conjugal 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." (Catechism 1643) So, in our new life together, as one body, we must strive to become of one heart and mind working towards the ultimate goal that is eternal life with God the Father, in Heaven.
Society today, however, instead of being life-giving is what I would call "life-retaining." We have this individualistic mentality that declares, "This is my life. I can do what I want with it and no else matters. If I don't look out for myself no one else will." In marriage, this mentality often turns to, "If I'm not happy, then I must get out!" So we retain life for ourselves and are reluctant to give to others. We are afraid that we will lose our individual life. We don't realize that in giving of our lives, we are able to live more fully.
If we look at our marriage through the example of the Trinity and understand that we are truly one body, then we will know that giving life and love to our spouse is giving life and love to ourselves. In caring for and wanting what is best for our spouse, we are nurturing the body that belongs to both of us. In commonly striving for the greatest good--life in Christ--we are nurturing the new life, the new body, that fills us with greater love and joy than we could ever have before.
So, nurture your marriage body! Take care of it, let it grow, and strive toward oneness in God!