Defining

March 14 was a great day to be a sixth grade math teacher! My students and I celebrated Pi Day by exploring the characteristics of circles. I began class by standing at the board with a marker in my hand, asking, "What is a circle?"

"A shape with no edges!" responded one student.

I drew a squiggly blob on the board that had fingers sticking out of it; an absurd-looking shape that had no edges, but was as far from a circle as I could make it.

"No," they protested, "it has to be round!"

I drew a rounded figure that resembled a crescent.

An outpour of demands broke out. "Make it without vertices," "It has to be 2-dimensional," "It's not concave," "You know what a circle looks like, Miss Ulmer!" 

Yet still, they could not define a circle. Finally, one student got a clue and looked it up in the back of the textbook: "The set of all points equidistant from a fixed center." Finally, I could use a compass to construct a true circle. 


In all the posts, tweets, statuses, and discussions about "gay marriage" lately, I have noticed many people continuously throw out characteristics of marriage, yet never give a definition.

"Marriage is about love!"

That's true. It's also true that a circle has no edges. But "love" does not define marriage, just like "no edges" does not define a circle. Ellipses, cylinders, and spheres also have no edges. Other kinds of relationships are also about love.

"Marriage is when two people love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives with each other!"

That's true. So is a set of twin sisters who love each other and want to always live together married? A group of close friends who run a business together?  A father and his disabled son? 

"Just last week a debate opponent defined marriage as 'a legal institution with legal rights and legal responsibilities.' Well now, we know that cannot be. After all, a police department, an incorporated business, and even Congress fit that definition. Can any of these reasonably be called 'marriage?'" - Leila Miller, Catholic Exchange

Well, I know of at least one institution that is not afraid to define marriage clearly:


"...husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives." - Pope Paul VI,  Humanae Vitae

State-recognized marriage would not exist if it weren't for the complementary nature of the union between man and woman, the procreative power that results from it, and the environment it provides for the rearing of new life. If we throw away the things that define marriage for sentiment and all-inclusiveness, we will be going down a path that is senseless. 

A circle is important enough that I won't let my sixth-graders senselessly define it. The definition of marriage holds infinitely more weight, and I won't sit quietly while it is senselessly defined. 

Symbol People

Symbols, foreshadowing, allusions, analogies - these things delight a literature person like me. But those who don't consider themselves "literature people" love these things as well. Oh, they may not enjoy the process of actually reading, of searching through pages to find significant passages, of long hours of paper-writing only to have the final product handed back with red slashes and a grade at the bottom. But every one of us loves stories. Whether we can write expository essays on them or not, we know that the best stories have these things. I think this is because we are story people. We all live in one of our own with real-life characters, plots, and conflicts.

We're also surrounded by and use symbols every day. This very blog post uses squiggly lines and shapes of the alphabet to represent my thoughts. You, the reader, are looking at the letters and comprehending the deeper meaning attached to them. This is a symbol: a material object used to represent something else (often immaterial).

Humans are material, the stuff of symbols. But what is the invisible reality that our flesh and blood represent? With the marvelously complex, ordered, and intricate design that our bodies have, it must be something very great. 

          Then God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'- Genesis 1:26

What is God "like" then? 

          God is love. - I John 4:8

We understand that love requires a giver and a receiver. Therein we discover that there is more than one person in God. Indeed, the Son is "eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father." And just as the Son is from the Father, woman is from the side of man.

          The man said: 'This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall
          be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken.' -
Genesis 2:23

And just as the Father and the Son are both "True God," so man and woman are both fully human, equal in dignity and value. 

The order of our bodies is seen perfectly in the complementary nature of masculinity and femininity. And the symbol of physical union between man and woman represents the perfect union of God. But God is not two persons only. The Trinity is composed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son" and "with the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified." This shows that the very nature of love is procreative, and it helps us understand the first blessing to Adam and Eve:
God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply... - Genesis 1:27-28
God did not command this just so that He could have more subjects over which to rule. If God wanted subjects, He could have created a world of slavish creatures to worship Him. Instead, in His grace, He made us in the divine image - giving us free will so that we could make gifts of ourselves in love to each other, and so participate in procreation of new life.

Our very bodies cry out the truth of the Trinity! We are symbol people! In the institution of the family, we can find what love truly is. My heart is so heavy as I see the culture embrace a perversion of the family - contraception - which makes the total gift of self impossible and bars procreation. The contraceptive mindset has fostered infidelity and abuse, so twisting our idea of love that now the culture embraces and even champions homosexual unions. We have given in to lies about love, marring the beautiful symbols of our bodies.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home