I have said before that I think the family is under attack, and that the origins of this attack are demonic. I stand by that, and consider that most of the disintegration of the family, and the Church, are linked to spiritual warfare and the decline of personal devotion and sacramental participation by Catholics. Having said that right up front, you are now free to disregard everything I say from here on out as the ramblings of one of those "crazy Catholics" who believe everything the Church teaches and worries about Hell and Damnation, etc. Feel free to link to this post in order to prove how awful I am, or Catholics are: You have my permission, but you must not cherry pick it, to distort my thought. You also have my permission to ridicule me in the Comm Box or on your own site. I stand by what I am about to say. If on the other hand, you find this helpful in understanding why we say and do some of the things we say and do, I'll be satisfied.
Critics of this position--that the family is under attack--can and do say that it is simply an expression of homophobia, or Euro-Centrism, or intolerance, some even say it's an attempt at control of individual conscience or even the regulation of property. More thoughtful critics will point to the undeniable fact that the concept of family is not uniform across cultures. The will point to polygamous families in other parts of the world, polyandrous families is some areas, the Ainu culture's tradition of the oldest son marrying his mother when his father dies, and persistent attempts at group or plural marriages, and similar arraignments in various tribal societies. From anthropological observation they will extrapolate that the model of family we hold up is simply an expression of ethnocentric thinking that could well be rooted not only in the Judaic and Christian world view, but in cultural and chauvinistic ideas as well.
But to be blunt, these critics miss the point entirely. At the same time, they miss it because we do not elucidate it. The structure of the family in the Judeo-Christian tradition isn't simply an accident of history or culture. It is not only an institution that is in accordance with the will and law of God, it is an essential part of establishing a just society, and the experience of Salvation.
I am one of those stubborn Catholics who believe that Social Justice is rooted not in human concerns, but in the Gospel. And I'm one of those stubborn Catholics who believe that the Gospel is holistic--not limited to the writings of the four Evangelists, but is the whole of the Christian message. The implication of this is clear: we cannot establish a just social order apart from the Law of God, which has been safeguarded by the Holy Spirit, acting through the agency of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. We cannot pick which parts of the the New and Everlasting Covenant--a covenant of blood shed by Jesus Christ, who is God the Son--we will choose to follow. So, in order to have a truly just social order, one of it's foundation stones must be the family, in the form dictated by Christian--specifically Catholic--tradition.
But even this is a mere utilitarian argument, and does not really explain why Satan and his minions would wish to destroy the very concept of the Family. It is clear, that through contraception, abortion, divorce, promiscuity, infidelity and consumerist materialism that the family is hard pressed, but why does the Enemy hate it so? Why have the forces of perdition tried so hard, for so long, to destroy the family as a viable and permanent social unit?
Because family lies at the heart of the Christian mystery.
Now here is where I will confuse some people, and offend others. Christ died so that our sins may be forgiven, but that is not the end point of the Christian mystery, it's the beginning. If you read older religious education textbooks, say from the 50s, you hit a concept of the divine indwelling. That is to say that we have through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the holy Eucharist, The Holy Trinity dwelling within us. And the Christian Mystery starts with the Trinity. We speak about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These are not just handy labels, they are reality. (The idea that they are handy labels that describe God in various modes of action--creation, redemption or sustaining the faithful--is the formal heresy of modalism. That's why baptism in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer is invalid, political correctness not withstanding.) And, one of the most difficult ideas to express is that the Holy Trinity is in itself, a Family. Let me quote Pope John Paul II: "God, in his deepest mystery, is not a solitude, but a Family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of a family, which is love."
The Trinity is the central Mystery of the Christian Faith, the source of all other mysteries. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 234).
There is a word that crops up in the Scripture frequently, especially in the New Testament: "Brother". This word is important, because it is, in the New Testament Greek, adelphos. Adelphos means "from the same womb". This gets to be a very awesome, almost fearful, concept when you link it, as it is naturally linked, to Scripture verses such as Jn 20:17: "...I...go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" . This is a very explicit statement, that is perhaps attenuated in impact by 2000 years of familiarity. God is our Father.
It's important here to not think of this as a simile, or a metaphor, but a fact. Human fatherhood is not a handy analogy for our relationship with God our Father. Rather, human fatherhood is an expression--imperfect at that!--of our relationship with God our Father. We are quite literally made part of God's family by baptism! And this family has it's root in the Holy Trinity. This is referred to in the writings of the Patristic Fathers as divine filiation. In Romans 8:15 it says: For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the spirit of sonship, When we cry Abba! Father!. We have been adopted as brothers of Christ--adelphos, from the same womb. We are siblings to Christ. And being siblings of Christ, we in fact become something more than we were.
In 2 Pt: 1:3,4 it says His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion and partakers of the Divine Nature. Least you think that I'm stretching a point here, I would like to remind you of one of the prayers in the Mass. As the priest adds water to the wine during the preparation, he prays quietly "By the mixture of this water and this wine may we share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity". As so frequently happens, I find that the theology of the East has a word for concepts I barely sense, in this case, Theosis.
This process, or event, is called in Theology Divine Filiation. To quote Scott Hahn, "We are saved not only from sin but for sonship--divine sonship in Christ" (Hail, Holy Queen, Doubleday, New York 2001. Pg. 120)
Once it becomes clear that we are Adopted into the Trinitarian Family, not as some sort of simile or allegory, but as a fact, we see that Family itself becomes important, as a sacred concept and institution. But this isn't just restricted to parenthood, or siblinghood, or childhood, but to marriage as well. Nuptial language permeates the scriptures, both Old Testament and New.
Jesus said, in Matt 19:4-6, He answered, "have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined o his wife, and the two shall become one'? So they are no longer two but one. What therefor God has joined together, let no man put asunder". Some translations render this verse "one flesh". Many will say this passage is a prohibition of divorce, polygamy, polyandry, same sex and plural marriage, and so it is. but it is rather more. The Church is described as the bride of Christ. You can see this in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 62:4-5, You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called my delight is in her and your land married. For as a young man marries a virgin so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. This marriage between God and his Church is very explicit in the New Testament as well. In Revelation 21, we see a vision of breathtaking beauty, a vision of the holy City of Jerusalem, in glory far surpassing anything that human hands could build. and in verse 9 John is told ...Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. Throughout Christian history, the interpretation of this passage has been that the Church itself is the New Jerusalem. (For that matter, Sion is seen as an Old Testament Type of The Church.) It's important now to remember the often used translation of Matt 19:4-6, because the Church is also described as the Body of Christ throughout the new testament, in fact, in researching this, I found so many references to this that decided not use Scripture quotes because there were so many. We call the Church "Holy Mother Church", and strive to be dutiful sons (at least, we're supposed to!). At the same time, we are Brothers of Christ by adoption, and so share in the nuptial mystery of the Church. This is indeed a mystery, rooted int he inner life of the Holy Trinity. But it is not just in this way that we are given a Mother. For Jesus, from the Cross, gave us his own mother, his bodily mother, for our own mother. In John 19:26,27, Jesus looked at his Mother from the Cross and said to her and the Beloved Disciple and told them ...Woman behold your son!...Behold your mother! . Fifteen hundred years of unchallenged exegesis, east and west, said that at this point, we shared, by adoption, Jesus' mother as our mother. And east and west, in the orthodox and Catholic Churches, this remains the truth. Only in protestantism is it contested. At the same time, Mary is identified with the Church. Indeed, Pope Benedict, when he was still a Cardinal, said "Mary is the Church."
So we see then, that to be Christian is to be part of a Family, not in symbolic sense, but in a true sense. With our brothers and sisters in the faith, we share one Mother, for we come "from the same womb". With Christ we have one Father, God the Father in Heaven. And with Christ we are in a real way married to the Church, and in marriage become one flesh--parts of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. To be Christian is to be family, a family that is not symbolic, but real, bound in the waters of baptism as twins are bound in the waters of birth! This is why the Enemy hates the Family, and why he fears it as well. Every attempt to weaken it, or redefine it is an attempt to separate us from part of the Salvific Mystery that is our faith. Every attempt to render it ephemeral or amorphous is an attempt to prevent us from partaking of our share of the Divine Nature that is ours by right of adoption, an adoption made possible by, and sealed with, the Blood of Jesus Christ.
I am honor bound to say that I am greatly in debt to Scott Hahn for clarifying the familial aspect of salvation for me, especially in his book Hail Holy Queen. I am also in debt to His Holiness Benedict XVI for his exposition of the nature of both Mary and the Church in his book Mary: The Church at the Source. Any doctrinal errors are mine. But this is why I think Satan hates the Family, for our salvation is in fact becoming part of, and participating in, the Family of the Trinity.