God at the Center
Even today, when marriages are joined and come apart to a degree that seems extraordinary, marriage is still meant to be a sacrament between two persons who love each other. The eternal quality of consecration to God pervades a truly sacred marriage, eternally contradicting the popular currents of culture that make divorce an easy, though not painless outcome in many instances.
When marriage vows become secularized as they have in many cases, when God is not included in the marriage covenant and in its purpose, then marriage is no longer sacred. It becomes a vehicle with which to measure personal happiness, and if and when this happiness disappears in the face of difficulty, it is not surprising that many marriages end.
What is consecrated is of Divine origin and Divine intent. This is what is meant by the word 'sacred'. What is consecrated or 'holy' cannot be changed by cultural trends, time, or by individual beliefs. A sacrament partakes of the Eternal - of the order of Life. It cannot be altered by law or edict, even though its sacred nature may be forgotten or abused. Marriage, as sacrament, reflects God's intention to share the gifts of love and the joy of love with two, who, through their love, will bring the fruits of their joining to the world for the benefit of the world as well as for themselves. These fruits include but go far beyond the bearing of children. They are the fruits of the soul, the expressions of the soul, bringing what is Divine in each partner into greater manifestation, making each one a truer reflection of their inner being.
The sacramental nature of marriage makes it more than a physical bond, more than an emotional bond. It is, in its deepest meaning, a spiritual bond, built out of the depth of love between two souls. To consecrate a marriage is to bring it into concordance not with two wills but with three - that of the two souls involved and that of God. A sacred marriage is a covenant between two who love each other in God and with God, whose joining becomes an expression of the desire of each to love and serve God together.
There is an aspect of service that is more familiar to us that grows organically out of love. This involves the desire to bring children into the world - an action which is truly of benefit to the world and to Life and one which many people recognize as such. There is another aspect of service which is less apparent, one which requires more consciousness and deliberate intention to fulfill. In this kind of service there needs to be a willingness on the part of each partner to express the Divine within and to live each day from that holy place. Such service is manifested in the feeling of devotion to the partner-soul, accompanied by a desire to assist that soul in its expression. It is also manifested in the larger arena of life-choices, through values and activities that the soul chooses in concert with Divine intention and Divine will.
In a sacred marriage of souls, the goal of serving the soul of one's partner and the goal of fulfilling one's own Divine purpose are held in the deepest place in the heart and exist in harmony. In cases where these two seem to be in conflict, it is sometimes because in one case or the other it is not the soul that is having its say as to what action to take or what value to hold, but the voice of the outer self or personality that is having its say. Deep reflection is often needed to distinguish between the two. Within couples and also within individuals, this involves a process of learning over time through prayer and meditation. The distinction between 'soul' and 'personality' can become clear to us, though it may be hard to conceive at first, since we are not accustomed to thinking in such terms. Yet, there is a difference. To live as God would have us live is to live the life of the soul. It is this that we are moving toward as we evolve, this that we must reach for that represents the ideal.
Embedded as we presently are in our identification with the personality or outer self rather than the soul, and in our identification with the nuclear family rather than with the planetary family, we may not understand that only what serves the greater good, what serves God and Life itself can give love its fullest expression. A joining that serves only the good of two, though still a tribute to the beauty and wonder of love, cannot reveal the full measure of what a sacred relationship is meant to be. This understanding of the revelation of our soul-nature and of the soul-natures of others is yet to come.
Let us go back to the beginning, the time when souls meet each other and fall in love. There is a reason that souls come together in love. Their attraction to each other and their love for one another allows them to experience one of the great mysteries of life and one of its greatest joys. The love and joy of two lovers who meet are, in the beginning, part of a movement of awareness, of inner sight and of recognition of the Beloved within the other person. The joy with which love discovers the soul of the Beloved is a pivotal experience in life. It reveals to us not only our true selves, but also our purpose for being in the world. It is being deeply loving that creates this sense of purpose. It tells us through our feelings that we are most fully alive when we love intensely and with our whole heart. We are less alive when we do not.
Love that forms the foundation of a sacred
marriage is deep like this. It seeks to give of itself beyond the boundaries
of limitation. It seeks to extend itself in all directions, furthering
the expression of the Divine, enhancing the Divine qualities of each
partner so that they become more complete in their expression
in the world. Through such a relationship, two individuals become something
for each other and for the world that neither one could have become
as fully on their own.
This, then, is the nature of a spiritual partnership: to enhance the
Divine within each partner; to assist in the revelation of each soul
to itself and to the world; to bring into the world, whether
through action or more quietly through a way of being, sacred values, values that extend outward and reflect the goodness of God and of
There are many couples whose emotional difficulties with each other make the spiritual partnership of a sacred marriage difficult to attain or maintain. This doesn't mean that they are not participating in a sacred marriage. Sometimes, such a relationship can be present some of the time and submerged beneath karmic difficulties the rest of the time. Nevertheless, in order for a sacred marriage to remain sacred, both individuals must be able, as a foundation, to rise to the level of the soul. They must strive to do this even when situations arise that make life difficult. It is only in this way that the truly sanctified purpose of marriage can manifest.
If one person in a couple is able to do this and the other is not, there can be great disappointment and pain between the two partners since what one values most, the other may not. Such a difference may not have been apparent at the time of courtship or of meeting, for it is often the case when falling in love that one sees the soul of the other clearly, and because of this feels that all limitations can be altered by love. That this revelation does not continue in the same way through the years is a function of the underlying need for personal healing. It is a reflection of the presence of subtle currents of personality that are not in harmony with the rest, that must be attended to. These personality currents are, for the most part, in the background when two lovers meet. They come into the foreground and play themselves out as life progresses so that they may be healed.
The process of healing that two partners undertake together is also a sacred process, but in a different way than what is being called a 'sacramental' marriage. Since every individual is a soul, and every soul takes embodiment in order to grow and learn, the mutual healing of one another undertaken by souls as part of their love is, indeed, a soul relationship, generally agreed upon prior to coming into embodiment. However, a primarily 'karmic' marriage, because of the emotional entanglements it tends to lend itself to, is different than the living expression of a sacrament. In a karmic marriage, it is often negative emotions that are played out between the two partners. These can generate ongoing friction and discord with little of the soul of either participant being in view. In a sacramental marriage, it is primarily the positive qualities of the soul, the inner qualities of being, that seek and find expression in and through the relationship.
Most of the time today, marriage is a combination of the two. It is in this way that we manifest our need for healing and grow as souls. In optimal circumstances, when two souls consciously go through a process of purification individually and together, the unhealed currents of personality play themselves out in a way that can be observed, contained, and worked with rather than acted out. Purification, with its emphasis on prayer and consciousness, requires a great deal of emotional and spiritual maturity as well as a sense of responsibility in order for it to be real. This is especially needed when personality currents arise that take couples away from soul expression. Prayer and reflection are needed at these times. Discussion is needed. Communication is needed. The mutual goal of raising the marriage to the highest level must be held by both partners, with work toward that end part of the everyday maintenance of the relationship. It is often in the details of life and in the quality of attention with which they are comprehended, that the greatest learning can take place.
Sometimes, it is difficult to be attentive. It is difficult to be conscious. One is tired, out-of-sorts, or feeling badly about something, and uses these as reasons to not be conscious. Then it is more likely that unhealed portions of the psyche will not be observed, noted, or contained - that they will get acted out over and over again at great cost to the relationship. Such patterns are, indeed, costly. They involve precious time and effort getting spent, repeatedly, trying to re-stabilize a relationship following each discordant event that disrupts harmony and flow.
The process of purification can be of great help to couples if they share in it together. Then, they can both be conscious of the unhealed patterns which they carry and can help each other find alternative ways of dealing with these patterns, other than acting them out. Prayer and devotion to God are essential parts of purification, and so it is not a matter of just thinking of psychological alternatives as the primary means to healing, but of calling upon the higher Self to assist with the lower, and God to assist with all. Devotion to God and a desire to raise one's personality toward the higher Self is necessary in both partners in a sacred marriage. This intention is ultimately the key that will liberate both from embeddedness in the karmic issues of the past.
Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that one partner in a marriage is less conscious than the other and seems to want to remain less conscious. They may have a fear of becoming more 'awake', of taking more responsibility for the self, or of facing their shortcomings and personal inadequacies. When this is the case, an imbalance can result, with one partner becoming more responsible for consciousness and self-awareness, and the other remaining more passive. This imbalance can be workable, and, in fact, can promote learning in the less conscious partner, if it is mild and there is gratitude for the learning offered. But if it is a severe imbalance, and most of the responsibility for consciousness is undertaken by one person instead of by both partners, then discord and friction will be the result, with disappointment felt by the one who is more responsible, and feelings of being blamed, criticized, or diminished felt by the one who is less conscious.
The importance of choosing a partner in the fullness of understanding who the other is in both their beauty and their lack of wholeness becomes apparent as time goes by and difficulties arise - difficulties that were not seen or were underestimated at the beginning of the relationship. Then, the commitment of two souls to the truth of who they are to each other can be sorely tested.
If partners in a marriage are not functioning on a soul level or are not interested in raising their relationship to that level, the difficulties which occur that are based on unhealed portions of one or the other's personality will loom large, causing doubt and turmoil in the relationship in an ongoing way. If partners could sit with each other and with God and could sanctify their union by really knowing that they were making the deepest possible commitment to another - if they were able to take this commitment seriously to remain together in a life with God - then great learning and great joy could take place.
Such a marriage would form the arena in
which both souls would learn more about themselves and about their relationship
with God than they could have done separately. They would learn this
together, since they would foster this learning in each other.
This is not the common lot today, however. Most couples who join do
not know each other in their Divine being and do not make the commitment
of service to God as part of their joining. They are also unable to
take seriously or sacramentally the profound nature of such a commitment.
These unions, which are more secular than sacred, are based on our present
lack of awareness regarding our own identity. This contributes
to the making of the decision to marry from a more superficial part
of the self, rather than from a deeper part. Then, because this is so,
there often is not the firm foundation of truth upon which to stand
when difficulties in life arise and need to be dealt with along the
As long as people are unconscious about their higher nature, as long as they do not act from their soul-essence, they will not be able to recognize this soul-essence in others and will not be able to gauge who it is they are actually joining with. They will take the person they love to be the outer self, and if and when that outer self changes or doesn't meet the expectations that the original promise of love brought, they will be disappointed.
The high rate of divorce in society today reflects our level of consciousness about what relationships involve and who we perceive ourselves to be. It reflects our tendency to choose separation when our disappointed expectations become too strong. It also reflects the historic trend toward the secular and away from the sacred, and its consequent alteration in the perception of what marriage means.
The stability and longevity of marriages can only increase when decisions about marrying are based on a truer understanding of the sacramental nature of such a union, and also on a truer understanding of who it is that one is marrying. Until then, and until God's purpose becomes the purpose of each union in love, the confusion, pain, and difficulty that many couples find themselves in is likely to continue, with divorce remaining the solution to the problem of pain.
However, this situation is changing today. Hearts are opening, and with that a deeper valuing of love and truth is taking place. A deeper awakening to spiritual principles is dawning. When it happens that two persons in love are aware enough to know that they are choosing to join in order to love each other in the deepest possible way, and through their love to bring something precious into the world for the benefit of Life, then there is cause for celebration in heaven and the angels rejoice at the triumph of love in all its purity. Then, there is a victory for God and a blessing given to the hearts of all who will be touched in unique ways by the love between the two who are joining.
A sacred marriage of this kind extends love far beyond the bounds that one can imagine. It creates an envelope or atmosphere that is infused by love, an atmosphere into which others can be invited. It is this envelope that is a gift to others who will be enhanced by it as their lives intersect with the purity of love, and their hearts open to witness a sacred union, now becoming possible within themselves as well.
Article Section - Sacred Relationships
Artwork by Daniel B. Holeman