120. Our reflection on Saint Paul’s hymn to love has prepared us to discuss conjugal love. This is the love between husband and wife,* a love sanctified, enriched and illuminated by the grace of the sacrament of marriage.
This is the Holy Father’s footnote: Thomas Aquinas calls love a vis unitiva (Summa Theologiae I, q. 20, art. 1, ad 3), echoing a phrase of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (De Divinis Nominibus, IV, 12: PG 3, 709).
It is an “affective union”,(Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 27, art. 2. 91) spiritual and sacrificial, which combines the warmth of friendship and erotic passion, and endures long after emotions and passion subside. Pope Pius XI taught that this love permeates the duties of married life and enjoys pride of place.(Casti Connubii 22) Infused by the Holy Spirit, this powerful love is a reflection of the unbroken covenant between Christ and humanity that culminated in his self-sacrifice on the cross. “The Spirit which the Lord pours forth gives a new heart and renders man and woman capable of loving one another as Christ loved us. Conjugal love reaches that fullness to which it is interiorly ordained: conjugal charity.”(Familiaris Consortio 13)
The endurance of marital love “after emotions and passions subside” recalls Ignatius of Loyola’s experience in his recuperation of contrasting his daydreams of Christ and his desire for women. The warmth he felt was the same for each variety of fantasy. But what he felt and experienced dreaming of saintly service in an army of Christ remained with him, unlike his daydreams about romance.
Is there something practical in this? I think so. I also think it is more than just the cooling of the sex drive or the mere toleration of the more routine and mundane aspects of a love relationship. I suspect it is something that couples still in the courting stage or in the early sheen of marriage can discern in their lives. Do we have a sense of that new heart in us, or with us? Do we have great dreams of serving, helping, and sacrificing it all for a beloved? If so, we have touched on this reflection of the Paschal Mystery, and a relationship has entered into the realm of sacrament.
Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.