Sacrament of Marriage

th4UTYQNDVMarriage is the “conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and women accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God himself, which only in this light manifests its true meaning.”[1] Christ Himself raised marriage to a Sacrament at the wedding of Cana.[2] Christ is present at a wedding in a town called Cana. It is here at this feast that he does His first public miracle. “He performed His first miracle during the nuptial celebration at Cana at Galilee, indicting—according to the judgment of many—by that action His unique interest in and blessing upon marriage.”[3] It is Cana that it is often cited that Christ instituted the sacrament of matrimony or at least raised it to a Sacrament. Others disagree. Theologian Francis Fiorenza argues, “One could not simply affirm that Christ instituted the sacrament of marriage, since marriage existed before Christ, indeed was present even in paradise.” Theologians during the medieval age thus argued that Christ had to confirm the sacrament rather than institute it. St. Thomas acknowledges such in the Summa Theologiae when he argues for three stages of the sacrament of matrimony: “the natural orientation before the fall, the healing institution in the Law of Moses after the fall, and finally, the institution of the New Law as a sign of the union between Christ and the Church.”[4] St. Bonaventure argues that the Sacrament of Marriage is a part of the wisdom of nature and is common to both Old and New Testaments. It is merely confirmed by Christ and not instituted per se.

In looking to scripture for the institution of the Sacrament of Matrimony scholars often debate over Ephesians 5: 21-33. Here St. Paul lays out household regulations calling the wife to be subordinate to the husband and for husbands to love their wife as “Christ loved the Church.” Here in Ephesians we see Christ comparing the conjugal love to that between Christ and His Church.  The debate revolves around a translation of Ephesians 5:32[5] when the Greek word mysterion was translated by St. Jerome as sacramentum in the Vulgate. While this has often been sited as a biblical justification for marriage as a Sacrament, Walter Kasper has observed, “Most scholars are agreed now…that the later idea of sacrament should not be presupposed.”[6] This should not be the theological justification alone for marriage. The Council of Trent in defending the sacrament against the objections of reformers states that the Sacrament of Matrimony is in “accordance” with Scripture. Accordance does not mean “identical with”.[7] Apart from the Magisterium of the Church there would be no authoritative, external justification for the Sacrament of Matrimony. It was with the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 that marriage became listed among the seven sacraments.[8] In recent history, the Sacrament of Matrimony has been regarded as a covenant between a man and women not a contract between two consenting parties. Vatican II raised matrimony to an equal vocation with Holy Orders. It reasoned that marriage, too, was an institution directed towards holiness. The man and the women are ordered towards God and each helps the other attain the beatific vision. Self-giving and sacrificial love as modeled by Christ are of importance in the marriage. Recent scholarship discusses this unitive nature of marriage. This unitive purpose was of secondary importance in Church teaching for quite sometime. Procreation was thought to be the primary reason a man and women were to become married.

The Sacrament of Matrimony is unique because unlike the other sacraments it is conferred upon each other. Normally, “the clergy minister the sacrament and do so with words, gestures, and material elements such as water at baptism or the bread and wine for the Eucharist.”[9] In the Sacrament of Matrimony the bride and groom minister the sacrament to themselves with the priest serving as the Church’s witness. The essential element is the matrimonial consent between the bride and the groom. It is this “Yes” that incarnates Christ in the marriage. It is as if corollary the couple becomes a tabernacle. They become the ark that carries the Word of God. Thus, there is a Marian dimension to their marriage. Mary’s “Fiat” brought salvation to the world. She said, “Yes” to life and love.[10] The married couple becomes a rich symbol of Mary’s fiat as they too carry Christ in their love for one another. They are saying “Yes” to a lifetime of life and love between each other. Not only a symbol of Mary, but a sign of the incarnation of Christ becomes present. This is the vocation of marriage—to be Christ to one another and to the offspring to come. As Christ becomes present in the marriage it is as if Mary is given birth to it.

[1] Pope, 10.

[2] See John 2:1-12.

[3] Pg. 18, Faithful to Each Other Forever.

[4] Fiorenza, 321.

[5] “This is a great mystery…”

[6] Fiorenza, 318.

[7] Fiorenza, 322.

[8] Pg. 18, Together Forever.

[9] Pg. 18, Faithful Forever.

[10] John Paul II concluded Familaris Consortio with, “May the Virgin Mary, who is the mother of the church, also be the mother of “the church of the home.” Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a “little church” in which the mystery of the church of Christ is mirror and given new life.

4 thoughts on “Sacrament of Marriage”

  1. Dear Ebeth thanks for sihnarg. Each of the deacons that I was ordained with had children. Every one of those families had issues much as you expressed in your post. One family that has 13 children made certain to involve actually involve their young and teen children in some forms of social work. For example, helping St. Vincent De Paul Society make up food boxes for the poor. Or working at a soup kitchen. You get the idea. Young people may become bored or lack understanding of our faith and beautiful history and liturgies but when they see us actually doing good work in the community, or when they see the face of poverty up close, there’s a good chance that will help them to see the Church in a different light. And you may not have listened to us that long but I am a big supporter of Franciscan University and their summer teen youth conferences held all over the U. S. Please look into them they are awesome. Dee I worked one as volunteers last summer in Denver. 1750 young teens exposed to great faith witness, great music, the sacraments, adoration, etc. Blessings and prayers. Deacon Tom

    1. There must be some mistake. Bl2g&jevich&#8a11;o#8221;or Grabojevich,” as they call him in his home state–is a liberal Democrat who recently pushed a strict new ethics law through the Illinois legislature. Can’t be his fault. Got to be that darn George W. Bush again. Or maybe Sarah Palin made him do it. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Those darn Republicans!

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