Tag Archives: Sacrament of Marriage

Marriage as Sign & Symbol

th9PMJKT09In the book of Hosea, the prophet Hosea describes an off and on relationship between God and Israel. Israel is compared to an unfaithful harlot and God the faithful spouse who does not give up on the marital covenant, but rather chooses to “allure” his bride, Israel back. Hosea uses the marriage motif to describe God and his people.[1] The love between a husband and wife is a reflection of God’s love for his people as John Paul II emphasizes, “Their bond of love becomes the image and the symbol of the covenant which unites God and his people.”[2]

Jeremiah uses the same motif in chapter three of the book of the same name calling Israel “a harlot with many lovers”.   He compares the unfaithfulness of Israel to the unfaithfulness of a wife to her husband, “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.”[3] The love of God for his people finds its fulfillment in Christ. God ultimately courts his spouse back through offering himself in total, life-giving love. John Paul II says that, “The communion between God and His people find its definitive fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the bridegroom who loves and gives himself as the savior of humanity, uniting it to himself as His body.”[4]

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.