Today we begin a new series on the spirituality of marriage, which we call Covenant Spirituality. Let's begin with defining what we mean by spirituality.
What do we mean by Covenant Spirituality? Let’s first define what we mean by spirituality. It begins with the spiritual life, which is the entirety of the way we live our lives, ordered to growing in perfection of our love for God and for others. Of course, while this growth in love should include deepening feelings which are the fruit of love, the depth is not first evaluated by our feelings but by the character of our choices and their resulting actions. We also use the term “spiritual life” to refer to those specific practices whose end and fruit are closer communion with God through a life of holiness.
Beginning with this definition of the spiritual life, a “spirituality” is then a specific approach to living the spiritual life. Most often we hear of the spirituality of the many religious orders. There is Benedictine spirituality, Dominican spirituality, Franciscan spirituality, Carmelite spirituality, Jesuit (or Ignatian) spirituality, etc. The spiritualities of these communities are usually incorporated into their rule of life which detail how they live as a community. The rule of life includes not simply daily schedules of work, prayer, study, etc., it also includes specific approaches to prayer, how the members interact with one another, methods for examining their lives, and how they are to serve God in their vocations. Sources that add to an order’s spirituality can include the writings of members who became spiritual masters. For example, Carmelite spirituality is centered on direct, contemplative union with God. However, it has a number of masters whose specific insights into the spiritual life are now considered integral to Carmelite spirituality (e.g. St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux). Many of these orders, have third orders which are for laypeople who wish to incorporate the order’s spiritual life to their daily lives. These third orders usually have a rule of life which is adapted to the needs of living in the world. However, they are not focused on living the married life as a specific order and vocation in the Church.
The marital covenant, inasmuch as spouses are an order in the Church, ought to have its own spirituality. An adequate understanding of marriage makes it clear that it is a vocation which is a profoundly beautiful, solemn, joyful, but difficult undertaking. A couple should be able to incorporate a way of living the Christian life, in a way that supports their mutual vocation and is likewise adapted to the specifics of married life in the contemporary world. What we will present here is a theology of married spirituality along with some specific suggestions for applying this spirituality to daily married life.
This covenant spirituality is not intended to be an explicit rule of life or an exhaustive treatment of covenant spirituality so other, well-developed spiritualities can easily be incorporated into it. This permits it to be accommodated to the unique requirements of each unique, marriage and family. Covenant spirituality is an outline for living out the specific vocation of marriage as viewed from its end, the mutual sanctification of spouses and forming the family in the way of Christ.