Feasting and Fasting in Marriage
In marriage the fasting and feasting cycle is evident in the use of natural fertility methods which are the methods of family planning approved by the Catholic Church*.
A couple’s marriage is nourished and strengthened when they make love. It is also strengthened by times of abstinence; these times may result from various factors including sickness, work-related separation, lack of privacy and others. Abstinence can also result from the considered and intentional choice of the couple to avoid a pregnancy for a time.
These periods of fasting and feasting in the intimacy of the couple’s marriage help sanctify the couple. Just as we can be drawn into over-eating, with its immediate physical and ethical consequences, it is possible to overindulge our sexual appetite, even in marriage, and to use it to the detriment of our spiritual health. In contrast, short periods of sexual restraint heighten the anticipation and the joy of love-making, and help couples appreciate their lovemaking as a sacramental gesture.
However, periods of sexual restraint should not become periods of total withdrawal from each other.
Couples are called to intimacy and unity every day of their married life. It is especially important during times of restraint for couples to be affectionate and tender with each other and to use these opportunities to develop their emotional and spiritual intimacy.
*Natural fertility methods are also known as Natural Family Planning (NFP). There are a number of different methods in this category, but they all work on the principle of identifying the fertile and infertile phases of the couple’s reproductive cycle, and then timing intercourse according to their pregnancy intentions. Restraining from intercourse during a fertile phase allows couples to delay or avoid a conception. Timing intercourse for the fertile phase maximises the possibility of conception; a great help to couples who have low fertility. Modern Natural Fertility Methods are drug and side-effect free, ethical, and more reliable in avoiding conception than contraceptives such as the pill, condoms or implants. For a full discussion and more information: www.totalgift.org
This article featured in the March 2012 edition of the CathFamily e-Magazine
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