Post-Marriage Formation based on Amoris Laetitia and Byzantine Spirituality

The theological understanding of marriage in the Catholic Tradition is based upon the Scriptures and the Church’s understanding of the revelation that comes to us through the same Scriptures. From the outset, the first references to the union of Adam and Eve speak clearly to the unitive nature of marriage, whereby a man and a woman form a new entity through the union that is ultimately found in marriage. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” Beyond producing a helper to fill shortcomings, verse 24 speaks of this union by stating, “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” One can read of this unity or oneness of body from a purely physical or sexual sense, but many have taken these words to mean an even deeper union between the two as one flesh. Nevertheless, the unitive is ordinarily linked to the procreative aspects of marriage, which resonates with the words of Genesis 1:27-28a. There we read: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” While this text shows that being human links us to the image of God and that mankind incorporates maleness and femaleness, our identity as men and women united in marriage usually brings about fruitfulness that is seen in the procreative aspect of marriage. Even when this is not the case, there is a fruitfulness that transcends the two.

As the Scriptures were written throughout the centuries, we come to the last book of the New Testament which paints a deeper picture than what can be seen in the first chapters of Genesis. In the Revelation or Apocalypse of St. John the Theologian, our understanding is expanded even further than the unitive and procreative dimensions of marriage. Chapter 19 of Revelation makes it clear that there is also a marriage between the Lamb of God and His bride, which speaks of the mystical union of God with His holy Church. This apocalyptic vision is complemented by the basic teachings of St. Paul the Apostle in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. There we see mystically that Christ is akin to the husband, laying his life down for his bride. Conversely, the Church is seen to mirror the wife, who loves and follows the lead of her husband as He dies for her and nurtures her. In short, there is a unitive, procreative, and mystical meaning of marriage that can be seen in the Scriptures.

After the Scriptures were written, collected and canonized, the Catholic Church has affirmed all three of these images that come to us in the Scriptural portrayal of marriage to varying degrees. If we turn to the most recent authoritative document on marriage, Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love) written by the current Holy Father Francis, Pope of Rome, we will find an even deeper profession of what marriage is, and to what it speaks. In the introductory section, paragraph 11 states the following:

“The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon – not an idol like those of stone or gold prohibited by the Decalogue – capable of revealing God the Creator and Saviour. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life (cf. Gen 1:28; 9:7; 17:2-5, 16; 28:3;

35:11; 48:3-4). This is why the Genesis account, following the “priestly tradition”, is interwoven with various genealogical accounts (cf. 4:17-22; 25-26; 5; 10; 11:10-32; 25:1-4, 12-17, 19-26; 36). The ability of human couples to beget life is the path along which the history of salvation progresses. Seen this way, the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection. Saint John Paul II shed light on this when he said, “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit”. The family is thus not unrelated to God’s very being. This Trinitarian dimension finds expression in the theology of Saint Paul, who relates the couple to the “mystery” of the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:21-33).” Amoris Laetitia, 11

Here our understanding of marriage is going further than the words of Scriptures. While it takes an eye of faith to perceive the union of Christ with the Church in marriage, it can be argued that it takes an even deeper level of understanding to see that marriage is a reflection of the Holy Trinity, of God Himself. And yet, that is the clear profession of Amoris Laetitia above! As Byzantine Christians in particular the word icon is evocative. We see icons in our Churches and may ask whether we as husbands and wives are the best icons of the Trinity in our marriages. This raises many questions about where we stand as 21st century Christians. Do we see our marriage as intrinsically fruitful? Is the love of each Person of the Holy Trinity for one another something that is hard to see in marriage and family life, due to the high rates of discord, divorce, discontent and more? If so, there may be something lacking in our living out the holy mystery of marriage. But there may be a way to grow in grace and love for each other and for God Himself.

As Byzantine Christians, we can also ask whether there might be something that we can see and learn from the Church so that we can journey to accept this high calling to see marriage as mirroring God Himself. By reflecting on Amoris Laetitia and Byzantine spirituality as seen in the liturgical celebration of marriage, we can come closer to seeing what we are called to in marriage. In doing so, I would argue that paragraph 11 of Amoris Laetitia is not a “pie in the sky” dream, but as we meditate more upon what we pray and do in the liturgy, our self-perception will grow more and more. The Church is well-served to reflect and produce a formation which extends beyond the beautiful wedding day to the rest of our lives. Examining the liturgy we can have an eternal perspective which was there all along at our wedding day, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Amoris Laetitia is a complex weaving of reflections, exegesis, hearkening to past exhortations and tradition in a very conversational approach, all of which can be beneficial for understanding love more deeply. For the purpose of this essay, we will focus upon just one section of chapter six, which is entitled “Some Pastoral Perspectives”. Paragraph 213 states the following:

213. In their preparation for marriage, the couple should be encouraged to make the liturgical celebration a profound personal experience and to appreciate the meaning of each of its signs. In the case of two baptized persons, the commitment expressed by the words of consent and the bodily union that consummates the marriage can only be seen as signs of the covenantal love and union between the incarnate Son of God and his Church. In the baptized, words and signs become an eloquent language of faith. The body, created with a God-given meaning, “becomes the language of the ministers of the sacrament, aware that in the conjugal pact there is expressed and realized the mystery that has its origin in God himself ”.

These words and the immediate context drive home the importance of hearing what is prayed and performed through the acts of the liturgy surrounding the holy mystery of marriage (or crowning), because so often marriage is carried out in a harried manner that keeps us from appreciating what is said and done on that special day. Here we are called to make the liturgical celebration a profound personal experience and to appreciate the meaning behind it. The Latin phrase ‘lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi’ can be translated “the law of praying is the law of believing and the law of living”. If this maxim is true about our general view of prayer, it must also certainly apply specifically to the prayers and liturgical acts of the mystery of crowning, making them so important for us to meditate upon. The text and order of the liturgy quoted below is taken from the Crowning in Marriage pamphlet from Byzantine Seminary Press, the first edition being from 1971. When there are key distinctions from the words or structure of Orthodox marriage services, those will be noted. By studying the Byzantine rubrics for the mystery of crowning, what laws of prayer, belief and living will come to us?

Unlike the Western approach to celebrating a wedding, the Byzantine order of the mystery of crowning does not begin with the bride walking to meet her future husband in front of the altar. Architecturally, the Byzantine parish in the Ruthenian tradition has a tetrapod at the front of the nave, before the elevated Ambon which leads to the iconostasis. There we normally observe the icon for the feast or perhaps the baptismal font, if there is to be a celebration of the holy mysteries of initiation. On the day of the celebration of the mystery of crowning, the couple that is to be joined in marriage are in the narthex of the church, and there they are met by the priest (or bishop) who is to celebrate the liturgy. Man and wife walk side by side to the tetrapod from the narthex while Psalm 127 is sung as equals who are willingly beginning a journey together. The Psalm is brief but powerful, stating:

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. You shall eat of your hand’s labor: blessed are you, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your house. Your sons, like olive shoots around your table. Behold, in this way shall be blessed the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you out of Sion; and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you see your children’s children. Peace upon Israel.

As Amoris Laetitia notes in paragraph 8, this Psalm (listed as 128 due to the difference in numbering between Greek and Hebrew translations of the Old Testament) is used in both Jewish and Christian wedding liturgies. While it may not be used in every Roman Catholic wedding today, it is a sine qua non for a Byzantine wedding. Furthermore, in paragraphs 14-30 of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis provides many reflections on what this Psalm teaches us about marriage, the family, and life itself. For the purpose of this essay, let us note that this Psalm notes the blessings to those who follow the Lord. Fruitfulness is seen in the labor of a husband’s hands, the wife being like a fruitful vine, sons who are like olive shoots, and ultimately hope is expressed that those joined today may one day see their children’s children. This exemplifies that while two people are the focus of a wedding in one sense, in another sense their blessing is anything but individualistic. The blessings that come are borne out of having children who we hope may one day have children themselves. Further, far from focusing on what is a relatively youthful day for the new couple, that the two joined today are blessed with the prospect of one day seeing their children’s children transports us as those who pray to a day when they are quite a bit older. The last phrase of Psalm 127 speaks of peace for all of Israel, showing that the blessing of the whole people of God extends through the union that comes to us today. Individualism melts away in a context that extends to the whole world. Marriage is not focused on the peaks of the wedding day, but instead this psalm takes us to an older age where our own commitments are repeated in a generation yet to come, who themselves have children. So often our vision is clouded by this, with many in this generation hoping that they never have children. Or there are others whose dedication is not ever linked to lasting beyond a few years. The vision of the procession to the tetrapod is far beyond the day of the wedding, and seeks to see unity and fruitfulness that lasts so much longer than what we typically see in our day and age. As we look to this Psalm and read it in its entirety, do we see more clearly how the divine life is mirrored by marriage? The mystery of the Trinity speaks to a selflessness and giving that is ultimately life giving. In viewing the ideal of what marriage is through praying Psalm 127, we see the strong parallels between the Trinity as life-giving, and the procession of the couple from the narthex to the nave as pointing us to that same life-giving blessing. Thus, the words of Amoris Laetitia in paragraph 11 become less daunting and more beautiful as we meditate upon the liturgy of the Church.

Once the couple have arrived at the tetrapod, the priest then inquires of each to confirm that they have come freely and without reservation to take the other as husband and wife, according to the mind of the Church. After each in their turn respond by saying, “I have”, the celebrant responds with the blessing that begins each Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Tradition: “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.” Two important lessons emerge from this dialogue between celebrant and those to be wed. First, we see that marriage is a journey that is begun in a way where our intentions are scrutinized. We may come to marriage in a manner that is not fully free, or perhaps some have come to marriage with reservations, or perhaps they have come in with a perspective that is not according to the mind of the Church. By saying, “I have”, we are testifying to what is most needed for a blessed marriage. If we are not free or if we have reservations in making this commitment, our hearts will not be completely dedicated to the journey that begins. On the other hand, we may be completely devoted to the idea of marriage that we have in our minds, but if that idea in our mind is not according to the mind of the Church, we will not know how to follow the journey in the direction that the Church has laid out for us. If we look back to our own wedding day and see that we may have said “I have” in a manner that did not profoundly understand this, perhaps it may explain why we are struggling to see marriage as something that we have embraced freely, without reservations, and according to the mind of the Church. There are many ways that this could be the case. If we look to the Psalm just before, marriage is a lifelong commitment with openness to children that drives us. If we are not blessed with children, do we see the opportunities for adoption or spiritual parenting? Do we spend the time to help each other as married couples? Is walking in all of the ways of the Lord what we are seeking after? If not, we have made a testimony that is not ours, when we say the simple words “I have”. If we acknowledge this vision of how one should come to this holy mystery and see our shortcomings, we should not despair but seek to orient our hearts and minds more in accord with the testimony that we give when say those two simple words.

After the blessing that begins the Divine Liturgy, the standard litany of peace that is in the liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil is prayed. What is important to note is that there are six petitions that are added in the context of a celebration of holy crowning. They ask for mercy on behalf of the people who are joined in the common life of marriage, that their marriage be as blessed as the marriage in Cana, that they may live a chaste life and be given devoted children, that they may rejoice in their children, being rewarded with a life above reproach, and that their and our petitions may be granted. Just reflecting upon the six litanies above could provide deep reflecting for post-marriage formation, allowing us to see the family as an icon of the Trinity. We see again as in Psalm 127 that blessing comes to us when we live according to the love of God, living a fruitful life that is blessed with children who follow in our footsteps. How do we respond to this when we may see a lack of holiness in our own lives or in the lives of our children? When children are not the cause of our joy because of their wandering from us and from the Church, do we give up praying? When we are frustrated by our children through no fault of their own but due to our own weaknesses, what can we do but ask for more mercy? Or in the case of those struggling with fertility issues, do we still see God’s blessings in our lives? As said about the high call of saying that we have entered into marriage freely, without reservations, and according to the mind of the Church, when we hear these litanies we see what our ideal is and we journey towards it. We do not despair, nor do we become complacent. Instead, we are pointed to the icon and ideal of who God is, and what families can be.

After the litany of peace, the celebrant offers a lengthy prayer that is rich in theology and an image of what marriage is. In praying to God, we are taken through all of salvation history, from God as creator to Adam and Eve, to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and Asenath, and to the end of the Old Testament era with Zachary and Elizabeth. From there we are transported to the New Testament with a reflection on the ever-virgin Mary and the conception of Christ in her womb. These words echo with the feeling that we are participating in something that is so much greater than ourselves, as we see ourselves united in the common life that is seen throughout the Scriptures. From there the prayer shifts focus to consider how Christ Himself blessed weddings while on earth, in taking part in blessing the marriage at Cana with both wine and His presence. All of these blessings and examples point us to the fact that God desires lawful marriage and that the procreation of children stems from it. Prayers for blessings which again point to a holy life, the blessing of children, a blessed life with all temporal blessings, and salvation itself make it clear that we come to God asking for His blessings in every dimension of the life that is beginning in this crowning liturgy. This lengthy prayer is followed with one smaller prayer that recounts God creating Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from the rib of Adam, and entreats the Lord to also join these two together. It reminds us that we may not have been formed in such an extraordinary manner as what is described in Genesis. Nevertheless, the presence of the Holy Trinity is critical for our own union, fruitfulness and faithfulness.

With both of these prayers, we can see that our wedding day integrates us into a deeper reality of union with God and all of those before us who have begun this journey. We are going towards our heavenly destiny by living a special vocation on earth that so many others have taken. Do the names of the Old Testament saints fly by our ears as those who are simply saints? Or do we instead have the Scriptures so deeply close to our hearts that we realize that the life that we are called to is not only a high calling, but it is one that others have failed to live out perfectly? Byzantine spirituality is deep in its call for us to realize that we have fallen short, not in a way to make us feel guilt but to spur us on to endlessly grow in the good, as St. Gregory of Nyssa describes perfection. With that in mind, do we realize that Abraham and Sarah both agreed for him to have a concubine when they were named Abram and Sarai, because they were doubting whether they could have biological children of their own? Do we also realize that Isaac acted deceitfully towards his brother Esau, or that Jacob and his father-in-law Laban had serious conflicts? If we knew the Scriptures that underlie these prayers a bit better, they can speak to us where we are as those who are still growing in the good. Do we worry that we are not “good enough” to live the blessed life? If so, perhaps we need a bit more knowledge of how the saints of old were people who were open to God and His ways, and yet they fell short. Their hearts sought God, albeit imperfectly. If we approach our life as married people with the same self-awareness, we can avoid despair and apathy while endlessly growing in the good.

The next sections of the mystery of crowning service booklet are possibly the most unique to the Byzantine Catholic expression of this holy mystery. First, the bestowal of rings is added in brackets. This is done so because properly speaking rings would be bestowed in a separate service, and this is how some rubrics guide the faithful. The next section is an exchange of marriage vows. While these are not formally part of the Byzantine tradition, they are still implied through the profession mentioned above, where the mind of the Church would include a devotion until death, faithfulness, and a life of love and respect. Thus, if they are said there is no dilution of Byzantine Spirituality, but it could be argued that they could be passed over to be even more faithful to our Orthodox tradition. With regard to the bestowal of rings, one key element to consider is the wording of the priest who is the one who places the rings on the bride’s and groom’s fingers. He prays, “The servant of God, (name), is espoused to the servant of God, (name), in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” As in the mysteries of initiation, we do not hear “I baptize” but “the servant of God is baptized”, we hear in this exchange that servants of God are espoused to one another. This passivity takes our eyes off of the celebrant and reminds us that the true giver of the life creating mysteries of the Church is God Himself. Again, our hearts turn to God to see Him in our lives so that we can journey with Him behind us, not our own strivings or the strivings of our pastor.

From these prayers we come to the crowning, where the priest blesses them with the words of Scripture, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” This putting asunder includes those from without the union and those in the union; if only we could live this out in the midst of rampant separation, divorce and discord. To think of the union that is brought through Christ, the most particularly Byzantine section of the crowning liturgy is where its name derives. The husband and bride are crowned with the words, “The servant of God, (name), is crowned in marriage for the servant of God, (name), in name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Again, the sacramental mysteries come to us with passive language to point us that God is crowning them. They are crowned for one another, meaning their kingship and queenship is something that brings authority, dignity and dominion. But this authority, dignity and dominion is not some titular designation. Instead, husband and wife are King and Queen of their household, which is the domestic Church. We can return to Amoris Laetitia and think that a husband and wife fall so short of the Holy Trinity, and in a sense this is right. But in another sense, our law of praying is an exaltation of these two individuals to show that they are in one sense not subservient to some system, to each other, or anyone else. There is a real sense in which the authority that they receive is given for each other and for the goodness of their domain. The home is a sanctuary that they must watch over in love and holiness, and yet this care taking is not stewardship. They are truly royalty who are united to each other to love and care for their family. Like God Himself, though, this royalty is divine and based on love and self-sacrifice. So in that sense there is a call to give one’s life as King or Queen. When we see our husband or wife as someone assuming the crown or not worthy of it, that assumption may be true with regard to their shortcomings. But from a deeply mystical perspective, husband and wife are king and queen who are given to a family that is being formed through the union wrought about in this holy mystery, and the worthiness is through the grace and love of God who crowns them.

Given their royal dignity, the readings follow with the Prokeimenon which focuses on the crowns and honor they have received. Unlike the Latin Rite today, there is only one Epistle and Gospel reading for the wedding liturgy. The epistle is Ephesians 5:20-33, which includes the mystical perspective that we see a deep mystery in marriage, as it points us to what Christ has done for the Church. In the Gospel (John 2:1-11), the earlier prayers about Cana are repeated in that we hear what Christ and His mother did by blessing them with their presence at this holy event. We are reminded that even though we do not physically see Christ and His mother at our weddings as they did at Cana, we welcome them in a very real way both with mystical eyes, and with sacramental eyes that call upon Christ to come to the couple and to the world.

The litany of fervent supplication follows with a special prayer that again points us to Cana and asks for a ripe old age of those joined in marriage today, beseeching God to grant them to follow Christ. Just after this comes the Our Father and then comes a ceremony which is omitted in the booklet but is true to our Byzantine tradition, the common cup. Hearkening to the Jewish roots of Christianity, the newly united King and Queen share wine which is not Eucharistic but is blessed in nature. They receive a cup of blessed wine to signify their union, which is even deeper than the unity candles and the like of our day and age. Because of the importance of receiving Holy Communion, the Catholic tradition often replaces the common cup with a Eucharistic service that could be given to just the couple or to the congregation. There are multiple permutations but ultimately this shows that unity is given by the Church to the couple who live in the life of the holy undivided Trinity. Again, when we see that the high calling to be an icon of the Holy Trinity is provided by the Church and by God Himself who unites men and women in marriage.

Perhaps the highest point of the Byzantine liturgical experience is the procession around the tetrapod and then through the nave of the Church. The husband and wife are still crowned, at this point the epitrachelion (stole) of the priest is wrapped around both of their hands, and the priest leads the couple united in marriage in procession around the tetrapod three times. At this time, two troparia and an irmos are sung. There we sing:

“O Lord, O Lord, look down from heaven and see, and visit this vineyard, and perfect this vine which your right hand had planted. O holy martyrs, you have suffered courageously, and received your reward; pray to the Lord our God, to have mercy on our souls. Glory be to You, O Christ our God; glory to the Apostles; joy to the Martyrs who proclaimed the consubstantial Trinity.

Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin was with Child and bore a Son, Emmanuel. He is God and Man. Orient is his name. By extolling Him we also praise the Virgin.”

As Husband and Wife process through the Church, the words of the troparia and irmos speak to our hearts. We magnify God for blessing His vineyard with a new vine planted by His right hand. We see that husband and wife are crowned royalty and yet martyrs and apostles who bear witness, sending the message to the world that is their dominion, beseeching God that their new domestic Church which will usually grow through the ordinary course of biology and openness to life. Of course, even with couples unable to bear physical offspring, their dignity remains and their fatherhood and motherhood can be seen, just as it is with the religious who have taken vows of celibacy. We praise Isaiah for prophesying the life that comes to the world through the Virgin who bears her son Emmanuel. All of these reflections point us to the magnitude of the event of marriage, but if we have been to other services as Byzantine Christians our hearts will open even further. These troparia and this irmos come to us outside of the wedding service and are sung at every ordination to major holy orders. We see that husband and wife are like priests for their new domestic Church because they will serve and sacrifice to make their family a beautiful place of blessing and life. As we dwell upon these words, do we even hesitate to impart upon them the title of “icon of the Trinity”? Or did the words there brought to us by Amoris Laetitia sparkle with three-dimensional beauty and clarity? Arguably, the significance of the event is so deep that we wonder who is worthy of these words prayed over our heads. We should answer in return by saying that no one is worthy and yet all are worthy, through the grace and love of the Holy Trinity who we image through the liturgy.

As the apex of the mystery of Crowning is reached, the crowns are removed and the priest prays for their individual exaltations that mirror Abraham and Rebekah, again showing that what is brought about through this wedding is so much deeper than the union of two people. The perennial truth of man and woman brought together to bring a new domestic church into existence is mirrored by the deep reality born on this day. In the rubrics of our Mystery of Crowning booklet, the next part of the liturgy is holy communion. Again, this is sometimes replaced by the common cup, but ultimately we see the two united in a broader reality which is the life of the Holy Trinity, of whom they become a living icon. The more this is impressed upon our hearts the easier it is to embrace the words of Amoris Laetitia paragraph 11. After communion there are blessings from the priest who again points us back to the wedding at Cana where Christ showed his love for this mystery of the Church, and lastly there is a dismissal. All of these prayers bring us to not fear the deep call from God to a union that reflects the beauty of the Holy Trinity. Instead, we embrace our calling and join our hearts to try to more and more reflect the goodness of God.

Overall, these meditations on the wedding liturgy bring so us much to consider from a conceptual standpoint, but we could read more deeply into chapter 6 of Amoris Laetitia to learn about what the Church can provide for post-marriage formation. If we read paragraphs 214-222, we could learn how to grow to have older couples mentoring younger couples. If we read paragraphs 223-230, we could learn more about what God do from a day to day perspective and on special occasions such as anniversaries and other less frequent events like baptisms and other weddings which serve as opportunities to renew one’s own commitment to journey through the life of the Church. All of these post-marriage formational opportunities are so critical to help families move forward in the grace and life of Christ, but for the purpose of brevity it is hoped that these meditations upon the Byzantine liturgical service of the Mystery of Crowning will call many to realize the beauty to which we are called, so that we can ascend to the beauty to which we are ultimately destined. Glory to Jesus Christ!

“The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon – not an idol like those of stone or gold prohibited by the Decalogue – capable of revealing God the Creator and Saviour. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life (cf. Gen 1:28; 9:7; 17:2-5, 16; 28:3;35:11; 48:3-4). This is why the Genesis account, following the “priestly tradition”, is interwoven with various genealogical accounts (cf. 4:17-22; 25-26; 5; 10; 11:10-32; 25:1-4, 12-17, 19-26; 36). The ability of human couples to beget life is the path along which the history of salvation progresses. Seen this way, the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection. Saint John Paul II shed light on this when he said, “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit”. The family is thus not unrelated to God’s very being. This Trinitarian dimension finds expression in the theology of Saint Paul, who relates the couple to the “mystery” of the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:21-33).” Amoris Laetitia, 11

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