It occurs to me that a lot of people are tossing this phrase around without understanding what it means. Like, a LOT of people.
The question they always want to ask is, “What is marriage?” and, frankly, I think these folks are asking the wrong question. There are, I think, three questions:
1. “What is sanctity?”
2. “How do people demonstrate it?”
3. “How does it apply to marriage?”
To really understand the difference (and the difference that it makes), you have to go back to the root of the word.
For “Sanctity”, that root is “sanctitatem” which, in turn, traces back to “sanare” and, between the two, we get words like “sacred” and “holy” but also words like “sane” and “sanitized” (i.e., clean, healthy, natural, whole).
The context of the words is not difficult to understand; it encompasses the concepts of “wholeness” or “unity” (as in “oneness”) with a connotation of “specialness” or “meaningfulness”; the flavor of the meaning are drawn from an emphasis due to relation that is elevated from the usual/normal.
A “special wholeness” or a “meaningful unity”, if you will. As should be obvious here, the specifics of the humans involved in the “special wholeness” or “meaningful unity” as well as the preferred context or interpretation of derivation (of the meaning) are completely irrelevant to the definition.
Point: You find no words that indicate there can or even should be a distinction by which THIS human may be part of a “special wholeness” or THAT person cannot be part of a “meaningful unity”. Nor do you find any examples of etymology that point to the only context being necessarily religious. What one does find is that the context is, quite literally, related to spirituality; specifically, to the nature of humanity itself and that unknown “something” that animates us… whether you call it “mind”, “spirit”, “soul”, or something else entirely.
The definition by nature of its etymology, context, and concepts makes that manner of distinction irrelevant (at best) and specious (at worst).
– A sacred right (i.e., something elevated as special to human being… not “human beings”)
– A sacred duty (i.e., something held as special to human endeavor)
– To feel sanctified (i.e., to feel convinced, driven by conviction)
It is not until one gets to the various systems of belief and thought in the world that one encounters people who have the idea that THIS group has some greater power of adjudication over the meaning of words than THAT group. Or that someone cannot use the word or have it apply to them because they are JUDGED not to be “worthy” of its use.
As always it seems, humans are doomed to forever insist that some power greater than us all has demanded that we heed their preferred interpretation. Even as it is clear and quite obvious that it is interpretation.
Not because they we owe them, but simply because they sincerely think it is ok to force people to live in accord with their beliefs.
Despite the fact that every one of those powers greater than us all have, in each of their books, clearly stated that, of all the things that should be done, trying to force belief on others should NOT be done.
Yet, this is consistently what happens. Why? Well, because humans usually aren’t content to believe what they believe and, for reasons that are as varied as confusing, they wind up thinking they are somehow justified in trying to do just that.
They’re not. And if you do this, you’re not. What you’re doing is an act of dominance and force that completely undercuts and destroys the very thing you claim is most important in this “debate” – the SANCTITY of marriage.
You see, the reason that marriage has sanctity is because it is a demonstration of special wholeness and meaningful unity between two humans.
Period. Full stop.
If you are someone who believes that it is important to mind the rules in your book or someone who believes those rules to be a direct mandate from your god (or both!), then there are a few quotes below that you may wish to pay special attention to:
All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.
No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.
Talmud, Shabbat 3id
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself.
Given that the foundational texts of ALL of the major religions of the world so clearly state this… one may well wonder why we continue to have practitioners of many religions insist upon avoiding, denying, and disobeying the edict.
The act of doing so is to tarnish and taint the very sanctity you proclaim to hold “most high”. The refusal to allot to your neighbor and fellow human the simple right to have their special wholeness and meaningful unity acknowledged just as anyone else is both to belie the claim that it is, in fact, something of sanctity as well as horribly betray one of the fundamental mandates of whatever system you choose to follow.
The only reasons one will continue to avoid and deny this simple reality can be boiled down to three concepts, all of which are rather self-explanatory and evident:
As memory serves, these three are also referenced quite heavily in all the major religious systems of the world, equally eschewed.
Perhaps the biggest problem outside of misunderstanding and misapplying words is not being willing to truly submit oneself to one’s own belief system and simply live in accord with its instructions.
Any two humans who are moved to declare themselves bound in special wholeness or meaningful unity are attempting to engage in an act of sanctity within our world. Every time they do so, they strengthen both the specialness and the meaningfulness… further bolstering the sanctity of the act.
As a human being who finds this spiritual expression beautiful and valuable within our world, I support this act between any two human beings that may wish to so bind themselves to one another. How could I not and still claim to believe in the sanctity of the act at all?