Sacred Sex

Family Matters
Curtis and Michaelann Martin

From the Jun 2000 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Does the Bible really say that sex isn’t good? Yes. Christianity has clearly taught for 2,000 years that sex isn’t good. It’s much more than good- it’s sacred. It’s ridiculous to think that God is opposed to sex; He created it. God could have made us like amoebas, so that we’d simply go along, and when we were ready we’d simply split into two. Or He could have made us like most fish, where the female deposits her eggs and the male comes by later and fertilizes them. This was not God’s design, and if we want to live our marriage with an abundance of life, then we’ll need to see that in marital love, love-giving and life-giving are intimately united.

The Church is not against sex; she is against the misuse of sex. Why? Because as the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church possesses a deep insight into how important intimacy truly is. If we abuse intimacy, we not only make a mockery of our love for the other, but we sin against ourselves and turn our backs on our loving Father (cf. 1 Cor. 6:18-20). How could something that feels so good and so right do so much damage? That’s precisely the point. Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is a counterfeit. The devil highlights the God-designed pleasure and togetherness and tricks us into choosing the side effects without fully choosing the goodness.


One of the responsibilities of FBI agents is to detect and confiscate counterfeit money. Agents undergo the best possible training, so that no matter what type of counterfeit they encounter, they will always be able to detect it. Providing such training could seem almost overwhelming. There are countless forms of counterfeiting and counterfeiters are always coming up with new tricks. Yet, during their training, the FBI agents do not even look at a single counterfeit. They simply focus all of their efforts on studying the real thing, so that when a counterfeit presents itself, they will immediately know it is a fake (cf. Phil. 4:8).

When it comes to marital intimacy, what is the real thing? Marital love is designed to be a celebration of the love between the spouses. Within sacramental marriage there is a lifelong, exclusive relationship which allows the lovers to give of themselves freely and without reserve. God has so designed marital love that these times of intimacy flow from the couple’s mutual love and increases their love as they share themselves with each other. This love is so real and so powerful that it is the very life-source of the family, a life-source that is so tangible that it may take the form of a new human life. The
foundation of this love is the lifelong bond of fidelity and trust between the wife and husband. Pope John Paul II expresses this truth very beautifully
when he writes:

Every man and every woman fully realizes himself or herself through the sincere gift of self. For spouses, the moment of conjugal union constitutes a
very particular expression of this. It is then that a man and a woman, in the “truth” of their masculinity and femininity, become a mutual gift to each
other. All married life is a gift; but this becomes most evident when the spouses, in giving themselves to each other in love, bring about that
encounter which makes them “one flesh” (Letter to Families, no. 12).

God’s plan is designed with our true happiness in mind. We have found that intimacy plays a great role in maintaining our unity, emotional stability, and peace in marriage, and in keeping us sensitive to and enamoured with each other, in good times and in rough times. Marital union is an earthly icon of the intimacy God desires to have with us. We are made to give and to receive love, because we have been created in His image:

God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image . . . , God inscribed in the
humanity of man and woman the vocation and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion” (Catechism, no. 2331,
original emphasis).

Giving It All Away

What does it mean to be made in God’s image? Let’s take a few moments to better understand this image. God is a communion of persons: Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit. The Father’s love is infinite; from all of eternity He gives of Himself perfectly and completely, He never ceases to give all that He is. This gift is so real that it is the Son, who is literally God from God, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father. The Son is the perfect reflection of the Father, and so He also gives all that He has, and this infinite, mutual self-gift of the Father and the Son is so real that it is
the Holy Spirit, the living bond of love between the Father and the Son.

Each Person loves perfectly and is loved completely. The image of our God is all about loving and self-giving. We were made in this “image,” and only
in living in imitation of God’s self-giving love will we find our greatest joy and happiness. The Catechism summarizes this so well: Each of the two
sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God, with equal dignity though in a different way. The union of man and woman in marriage is
a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity and fecundity: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and
they become one flesh.” All human generations proceed from this union (no. 2335, original emphasis).

Our self-donation takes its form as an offering of our body as a gift to our spouse. We discussed in previous columns about serving each other in our positions within the family. Marital intimacy is a beautifully profound, God-given way to give ourselves totally to our spouse. Our good friend Christopher West, the director of family ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, offers some great insight into our Holy Father’s teachings on marriage and family. He explains that the Sacrament of Marriage consists in the “manifesting” of the eternal mystery of God in a sign that serves not only to proclaim that
mystery, but also to accomplish it in us. The sign is marital intercourse. He further explains that sexual intercourse is where the words of the wedding vows become flesh. Through the marital embrace, the bodies of husband and wife speak the language of God’s total, faithful, fruitful love.

Through conjugal union, man and woman are called to express the mysterious language of their bodies in all their truth. Through gestures and reactions,
through the whole dynamism of tension and enjoyment, through all this, man and woman speak. And precisely on the level of this “language of the body”
man and woman mutually express themselves to one another in the fullest and most profound way possible for them (Pope John Paul II, General Audience,
August 22, 1984).

The challenge that we are given in marriage is “living the gift” of sacramental sex. The challenge in marriage is for husband and wife to love one another with the love of Christ. That means that in sexual union we are called to be an efficacious sign of God’s love and we must guard ourselves against thoughts and behaviors that are opposed to God’s love. Anything that contradicts the free, total, faithful, and potentially fruitful self-giving of the spouses is a violation of the very meaning of sexual intercourse.

Talk Tips

  • Read together Song of Solomon 2:8-17 and 5:1-12, 16. Doesn’t reading these passages instill a greater desire for a more complete intimacy with your
  • Might it be the time to rekindle the love of your youth?
  • Talk to your spouse about how you can express your appreciation for each other more effectively. Plan an evening alone.

Additional Reading

Song of Solomon

Two Sides of Love by Gary Smalley and John Trent

Action Points

If you want a renewed romance with your spouse, tell him/her. Brainstorm ideas to get away on a date or even a weekend getaway.

Take some time to talk about how you might be able to rekindle the love of your youth that is within your budget and means.

Personal Application

We know that we are made in the image of God and that we are made to give ourselves to others. Our sexuality is holy. What does Genesis 2:21-25 tell us
about Adam and Eve before the Fall? What is God’s first command to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28?

We are also made to be attractive to one another. Read Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 7:6-13 for a beautiful image of love and desire. Now let’s look to the Scriptures that support our total, faithful, and potentially fruitful gift of love. There are instructions both for men and women. Let’s take a few moments first to see what advice men are given in the Bible. In Proverbs 5:15-23, we are given an image that is analogous to men in marriage.

(a) What does this passage describe?

(b) What does it mean?

What analogy is provided in Song of Solomon 4:4-16?

Who or what is the man’s garden and fountain?

What are husbands instructed to do in Ecclesiastes 9:9

What do the above passages seem to be telling us about the total, faithful gift given to our wives in marriage?

Read Hebrews 13:4. Notice the language concerning the marriage bed. What can we do to ensure that marriage is held in honor?

There are other challenges that are addressed specifically to women. We are called to offer our bodies sacrificially in bearing children, and also to train our daughters, granddaughters, and young women to live their femininity to the fullest. What counsel is provided in Titus 2:4 and Song of Solomon 2:7?

As we remember that our desires for each other are holy and good we might want to take some time and read together the beautiful love poetry in Song of Solomon 2:8-17. (a) What is our love and desire like?

(b) Does it instill a desire to be a better gift of love to your spouse?

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