Submitted by Deacon Jim Krupka
Scripture writers did not hesitate to talk about passionate love. As inspired texts describe God’s love for humanity, words of love and passion show what love, divine and human, is. In the words of Song of Songs, a groom says, “O most beautiful among women…” (Sg 1:8), and the bride’s words echo back to him: “I am dark—but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem” (Sg 1:5). The words of the spellbound man repeat continually. They return in all five stanzas of the poem, and they are echoed in similar expressions by the bride. Using passionate human love, we get a picture of God’s love for humanity.
Theologian Cormac Burke refers to St. Augustine as “the first theologian of marriage.” As Augustine presents the “goodness of marriage,” he cites three “goods.” These are its exclusiveness or chaste fidelity, procreativity, and unbreakable nature. St. Thomas Aquinas reflected on passion and conjugal love as a good in marriage that fuels the Augustine “goods.” He describes how the God-given gift of our human sexual attraction feeds the unity of marriage and chaste fidelity. The Second Vatican Council echoed this, saying that “conjugal love embraces the good of the whole person.” Pope Francis describes “the passions” as holding an important place in married life. The Pope tells how these passions are particularly special when two become fully present and part of each other’s life. The place where this is possible is in marriage.
Passions and emotions are part of our created human existence. The Gospels recorded many instances when Jesus, filled with emotion, felt sorrow and joy. Pope Francis teaches that the stirring of desire is neither sinful nor blameworthy. What is good or evil depends on what we do with those desires. Even in marriage, any passion for dominating or using another is selfish and wrong. But if passion accompanies free giving to another, it is very good. Aquinas described passions as good as cementing the unity of couples living the vocation of marriage. Pope Francis goes on to point out how marital love ensures that “one’s entire emotional life benefits the family.” Married love is a gift that enriches and perfects the whole family’s emotional life. The best gift a couple can give to their family is a good marriage. Passionate, marital love has a place in helping two human beings accomplish that.