"Marriage must represent for man the highest achievement of his purpose." from The Book of Marriage, by Count Hermann Keyserling
Marriage is much more than the result of falling into romance and seeing where it takes you. Marriage is a profound union of purpose that is often ignored in the aftermath of passion.Falling in Love
I fell in love with my wife when we were sixteen years old. Falling in love is hard to explain. But there are photos of us during those high school days. In one photo, someone caught a shot of my face looking into her eyes. In the photo, you can only see my wife from the back. But my face appears full on. The look in my eyes is amazing. My eyes are sparkling. I am completely mesmerized. I have a look of pure enchantment. I was enchanted.
That summer my wife's family left the United States and moved to Israel. Our young love was devastated. We did not know if they were coming back. This was the summer before our senior year.
I was miserable. I ached for her. I literally had a constant pain in my chest, all that summer that would not go away. My heartache would not go away.
We married in April less than two weeks after our twentieth birthdays. This year will be our 40th wedding anniversary. But don't misunderstand me. Our married life has not been easy. We have separated a few times. Yet, each time the ache returned. My heartache would return.
The Sacrament of Marriage
Especially these days, marriage has come to mean the union of two physical bodies. We celebrate the first kiss, the sweeping off the feet and the marriage bed. In our current day and age we often depict it graphically in film. But is the absence of these things, is the absence of passion fulfilled what "heartache" truly means?
I came to ask this question because my experience of heartache came in the absence of passion. For as young teens, my future wife and I remained "innocent" for another two years after first falling in love. So then to what did the heartache refer?
I believe it referred to another deeper union. In human life marriage has always been seen as special. In the west it has been seen as a "sacrament." The root of the word "sacrament" means to consecrate -- to make sacred, to bless, to "dedicate to a sacred purpose."
About this last point on purpose, the philosopher Count Hermann Keyserling says:
From this it is evident in what sense... marriage must represent for man the highest achievement of his purpose... In marriage, from the very outset each individual finds his correct adjustment to the cosmic purpose. And henceforth the problems of life... are set in accordance with their universal and ultimate significance. Thus suffering can mean happiness just as much as satisfaction can; and the most poignant pain can be joyously accepted if it is recognized as the fulfillment of man's destiny... All marriages which have served humanity as symbols or models were examples of austere destiny joyously met.
Further he says:
Let us keep in mind that the marriage relation is essentially independent, self-founded. The communion it inspires is neither identical with sexual nor with social association. The only other generic term which corresponds with its nature is unity of destiny.
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