Part of the Church’s theology of the Sacrament of marriage is that marriage provides for the couple a remedium concupiscentiae, a “remedy for concupiscence.” Concupiscence refers to the general tendency of sinful humanity toward that which is self-destructive and sinful. One of the core gifts of grace Jesus gives us through the Sacraments is a healing remedy that, through our free cooperation, strengthens our weakened wills and repairs our broken minds so we can live in the freedom of God’s children. This grace wells up within the marital Sacrament to help each of the spouses to overcome concupiscence by means of marriage’s challenge to mutual self-giving and mutual service. In particular, the gift of motherhood and fatherhood, which crowns and overflows the marital union, unleashes a whole fresh set of graced remedies for overcoming concupiscence and making married saints out of individual sinners.
One especially gorgeous effect of this “remedy” that I have witnessed many times in my life — and received — is the way marital love can bring healing to a spouse who has suffered psychological or spiritual damage early in life — especially from parents. The remedium concupiscentiae that flows from a faithfully lived marriage can free a spouse, over time, to regain trust, a sense of self-worth and dignity that, through the Sacrament, is re-grounded in Christ’s faithful love and mercy. This remedial effect brings about what is called, in a lovely phrase of canon law, a sanatio in radice, a “healing in the root.” This healing passes by way of years of faithful striving together to be faithful to the nuptial promises walking hand-in-hand along the way of the cross. This, I believe, is really what Ephesians 5:20-33 is all about.
A very-pregnant Kelly Clarkson recently sang a song she wrote about her own experience of this “remedy” that has come to her through her husband’s love for her and for her children. It has shone grace into the wreckage left by her own father’s unfaithful and mercenary love.
It’s really stunning to watch and hear. Listen here: