"Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh." Matthew 19:4-6
I recently attended the absolutely awesome wedding of a good friend and fellow Platonite. While there, I had a brief discussion with another friend on the concept of "Unity Sand" as a symbol of marriage. The Unity Sand begins in two separate vials, representing the two separate people getting married. During the ceremony, the two vials are poured together and mixed, symbolizing the biblical "one flesh."
I'm not so sure that's right.
Because the miracle of marriage, the source of its wonderment, is that while the two do indeed become one flesh, they do so without any sense of homogenization or blending (much like the orthodox understanding of the dual divine and human natures of Christ, in fact). He who created us from the beginning made us male and female, and we remain male and female even in becoming one flesh in marriage.
The two do not mix together. They do not form a new and different substance, as Nesquick and milk combine every morning in my apartment to become chocolate milk. The two do not become some sort of dual-sexual or dual-gendered being, two human forms melded together, possessing all the physical characteristics of both male and female in one body. Neither do they become a single asexual being, wherein the two genders cancel each other out.
Even as one flesh, they remain distinctly themselves. They remain distinctly "they": And what's more, they remain distinctly distinct.
In marriage, the man does not become more womanly, nor does the woman become more manly. In the case of my own marriage, I am not in the process of daily becoming more like Anna, nor (thank God, in his infinite wisdom and grace) is Anna becoming more like me! The masculinity of the one and the femininity of the other do not creep together, but remain distinctly themselves.*
This is the miracle of marriage. The "oneness" is indeed only possible because the members of the marriage remain themselves. The "one flesh" consists of two unlike people becoming one--but not becoming like.
In this way, then, marriage is much like the Church--at least, the Church as Chesterton envisioned it. As he says in Orthodoxy:
"[The Church keeps opposing passions] side by side like two strong colours, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink. It hates that combination of two colours which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers. ... All that I am urging here can be expressed by saying that Christianity sought in most of these cases to keep two colours coexistent but pure. It is not a mixture like russet or purple; it is rather like a shot silk."
Marriage, like the Church, does not involve a compromise of persons and temperaments and ideals. It admits no mixture: No, it will not blend. Marriage is not the point at which a man and a women cease to be a man and a woman and become something other. Marriage is not the point where male and female, masculinity and femininity, are extinguished.
Rather, marriage is the meeting of the fully masculine and fully feminine, and the two are not lessened but increased in the meeting. And even so, "the man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." Pretty profound stuff.
...But anyway, in the end Josh and I agreed that Unity Sand was, on the whole, better than the alternatives that we could think of, since the individual grains of sand, at least, retain their individuality. Have a happy marriage, Kyle and Karyn Keene!
*I do not here propose to define masculinity or femininity. If "male and female" means something and not nothing, and something and not anything (and the Bible seems clear that it does), that is sufficient.