Vows and Virginity: Part Two

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

So what if it wasn’t just a big party? What would that mean?

What if the wedding was a death.

At first glance, that seems a horrifying concept. We don’t want it to be a death. We don’t want to lose all the things we know marriage is inclined to take from us, so in turn we lessen its seriousness. We sign pre-nuptial agreements. We try out sex before the wedding night to make sure it won’t be awkward. We get married in the courthouse to avoid all the expectations and religious connotations of a big church. If marriage involves any sort of death, well, we’d rather have the big party without the consequences.

The problem is—it’s these big parties without true substance that leave us unfulfilled. Weddings are meant to be deaths. Because it is only through completely and happily submitting to that death that we can find the true and complete beautiful new life of marriage.

How is this possible? With the wedding vow, you ensure to another human being that you will always give to them—in all circumstances—through all sufferings. You are theirs, and they are yours. And whatever love you have within you belongs to them. You share everything, your body, your heart, your mind, your thoughts, your bed, your bank account. Everything. This vow is a crazy concept. And it is so very risky. Something within you really must die—that part of you that holds back, that part of you that keeps your love safe, that part of you that makes decisions only for yourself—it must die. And how in the world can it be worth it when you don’t know for sure that the other person will keep his vow?

I would reply that you do it because it is what you were made to do. Human beings are made to love. They are made to be able to fully and completely give themselves to another. And marriage is one of the most perfect opportunities for this. I know, not because I have been married, but because I have loved. I know that when I receive love, it is perhaps the most wonderful thing in the world. But I know that if I do not give love, I am an incomplete and miserable human being. Giving love frees us from loneliness even if we do not receive it back. Because in the end, our giving attaches us to Love Himself—and He will never, ever forsake us. It is through His ever constant Gift and our own ability to imitate that that we find utter and complete salvation from our human sadness and woe. The marital vow lets us promise to daily kill our own selfishness. And that selfishness is what makes us unhappy. The marital vow, in tying us down, frees us.

And so virginity.

It is understood by many cultures that the marital vow is two-part—spiritual and physical. We are spiritual and physical beings, so we need to vow with our souls and our bodies—especially when we are going to be promising to share both. It used to be that many cultures checked to ensure that the second, bodily vow had been made. If it had not, the couple was not officially married. In our odd culture of the dichotomy of sex being dirty and sex being everywhere, we have pretended that this understanding doesn’t exist. But we know it exists. It is why we create all these subjective boundaries about sex and the right time for it. We know that sex promises something. Sex is a vow. It says, my body is yours, and yours is mine. And that vow is a part of another one. And they all come together in the concept of I give you myself. And there are few more beautiful words that a human being can ever say—and few more fulfilling.

I don’t know why human beings are so paradoxical. We want our freedom, but we can’t find that freedom until we give it up. It is hard to understand, but it is the way we are. We are meant to love. And to love fully. Our vows save us and our vows are better when they are complete. When they can be assuredly given along with the rest of us, as a holistic entity. I could go on about statistics regarding premarital sex and couples who abstain and couples who practice NFP and how divorce rates decrease with such activity. But I find that the most convincing argument for it all is that of love. And that love begs to be given freely and completely. And this is much more easily done in the context of virginity, be it saved always or saved as a renewed commitment to abstinence, and it is done most easily in the context of a vow. This vow, this free gift of love– this crazy, daring, romantic adventure– it helps us find the path to the joys of new life. And happily, gloriously, we get to walk that path together, as one, and free.

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