“The marriage bed is an altar.” (Jason Evert)
The patterned comforter, comfy throw pillows, and springy mattress may not look like much, but neither does a large stone table. These ordinary places are transformed through the extraordinary mysteries that take place on them.
Sitting in a pew, looking up at the altar, I began to realize the depth of this statement. If the bed is an altar, then the act that takes place on it is a direct parallel to the act of Christ giving His body and blood to His bride, the Church, at the altar.
“Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend ” (John 15:13)
I watched as the priest handled the Body and Blood, lovingly and reverently. The God of all things, vulnerably placing Himself in the priest’s hands. I began to think of how often we receive this gift of Christ without realizing the immense greatness of it. Maybe we are distracted, or maybe we take it for granted since we can receive Him daily if we choose, but either way we do not always receive Him with our eyes fully open.
And how often does this same thing happen in marriage? Each spouse completely surrenders themselves into the hands of the other, becoming one with the other. To be completely vulnerable with another person, to offer your heart and your body entirely, is terrifying! When you offer all that you are, you long to be appreciated; to be received with complete love and respect; and to be seen for who you truly are within. Yet because of the Fall we often fear that being vulnerable may lead to being turned away, taken for granted, used, judged, or misunderstood—All of which are done to Christ constantly.
These fears and failures to recognize the greatness of the immense gift within marriage can stem from many things: lust blinds the gift, lack of appreciation dulls the gift, and lack of true understanding of the gift cheapens it. In other words…
- Being able to only see what is in front of your eyes (the body of your spouse, or the simple appearance of the host) blinds you from the immensity and beauty of the gift you are receiving.
- Not realizing what an incredible honor it is to be trusted with the heart and soul of another (or to receive the God of all things into your own body) takes away the appreciation of the gift.
- And not recognizing the mystery of all that stems forth from the gift and the purpose of that gift cheapens it and makes it shallow.
So whether you are married, discerning marriage with someone, or feel called to marriage as your future vocation, I propose that the way to best prepare to receive the gift of your spouse is to first learn how to receive the gift of Christ. And the best way to prepare to fully give yourself to your spouse, modeling Christ’s gift of self, is to learn first how to completely give yourself back to Christ in return.
In learning to receive, we must pray that our eyes may be opened to the invisible mystery embodied in a physical state. We must become fully present, and fully aware. We also must seek the heart of the giver, that we may better understand the greatness and pureness of His gift on a personal level. Then we will be prepared to seek these same things in marriage.
In learning to give, we must recognize that Christ held nothing back from us out of His love for us, and His covenant with us. He showed that the call to give is completely independent of the reception of that gift. By committing your life to Christ, to serving and loving Him, even when you don’t “feel like it,” you learn what it means to commit to love, and to the vows of the sacrament.
The simple statement, “the marriage bed is an altar,” reveals the secret of what it means to give and to receive love. In recognizing this divine parallel, we can greater understand the mystery and splendor of the gift of Christ, and in doing so prepare for the gift of self and reception of another in Holy Matrimony.
Kaylin Koslosky is finishing up her final year at Colorado State University, where she is pursuing her love for science and secondary education. She is a member of Chi Omega, a FOCUS student missionary, and a Biblestudy and retreat leader for RamCatholic. She loves hiking and being outdoors, and is passionate about sharing the beauty of Christ and this world with others. She is currently working to publish her first book with her best friend Megan Finegan as a way of spreading a much-needed message of love to her female peers.