The Sacrament of Matrimony is defined as the presence of Christ, as a means of communication of God’s grace and a path for the redemption of the contracting parties. For the Catholic Church, it is the communion of conjugal life and love that is established according to the union of the spouses. Marriage is a wise creation of the Lord to consummate his purpose of love in humanity.
sacrament of marriage
The world of these times is experiencing a painful family crisis, since man has moved away from his spiritual purposes, deviating towards material ones, and even adapting religion according to his interests. So much so that we are witnesses of free unions, the disappearance of virginity and adultery, three precepts that make up a sin according to the Christian faith.
In one way or another, the Lord, from creation, has summoned us to lead an existence in a supernatural order, which transcends our natural traditions, therefore, the spiritual meaning of marriage must be directed towards the happiness of family and children, following the principles of the church.
What is the Sacrament of Marriage?
A conjugal bond originates from God, who in his creation of man made him a person who needs to open up to others, who needs to communicate and who lacks company. “It is not proper for a man to remain alone, he must be given a companion similar to himself.” (Genesis 2, 18). “The Lord created man and woman in the likeness of himself, male and female he created them, and consecrated them, indicating to them: procreate, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1, 27-28).
From the beginning of creation, when God shaped the initial couple, the alliance between the two becomes a natural institution, with a lasting bond and absolute unity (Mt. 19:6). Therefore, it cannot be altered in its purposes and in its characteristics, since by causing it it would go in the opposite direction to the nature of man. Marriage is not, therefore, the result of chance or the result of involuntary natural instincts.
Marriage is a learned creation of the Lord to fulfill his purpose of love in humanity. Through him, the spouses are perfected and develop reciprocally and help God in the generation of new lives.
Marriage for those who have received baptism is a sacrament that is tied to the love of Christ for his Church, what governs it is the archetype of the love that Jesus Christ has for his Church (Cf. Eph. 5, 25-32). There is only a genuine marriage between baptized when contracting the sacrament.
Marriage is defined as the union by which the man and the woman come together freely for the whole of existence in order to help each other reciprocally, engender and educate children. This alliance, based on love, which implies an interior and exterior consent, having been blessed by God to be sacramental, causes the conjugal bond to be for life. There is no one who can break this bond. (Cf. CIC can. 1055).
As far as its essence is concerned, theologians differentiate between being married and being married. Getting married is the marriage agreement and being married is the indivisible marriage bond. Marriage has all the elements of a covenant. The boyfriends who are the man and the woman.
The object that is the mutual delivery of the bodies to experience a married life. The consent that both contracting parties express. Some purposes that are mutual help, the conception and instruction of children.
Sacrament of Marriage: Institution
It has been pointed out that God created marriage from the beginning. Christ exalted to the dignity of a sacrament this natural creation longed for by the Creator. The precise moment in which he takes him to the dignity of the sacrament is unknown, but he alluded to his in his sermon. Jesus Christ outlines to his disciples the divine origin of marriage.
“Have you not read how He who formed man at the beginning made him male and female? And I point out: for this reason he will abandon his father and his mother, and the two will become one flesh”. (Mt. 19, 4-5). Christ at the beginning of his public life performs his initial miracle, at the request of his Mother, at the Wedding at Cana. (Cf. Jn. 2, 1-11).
This appearance of him at a wedding is of great importance for the Church, since it becomes the sign that, from that moment on, the presence of Christ will be decisive in the marriage. In his preaching he showed the original meaning of this institution. “What God has joined together, that man cannot separate.” (Mt. 19, 6).
For a Christian, the alliance between marriage, as a natural creation, and the sacrament is absolute. Therefore, the laws that govern marriage cannot be unjustly altered by men.
Sacrament of Marriage: Ends of Marriage
The purposes of marriage are mutual love and help, the conception of children and their education. (Cf. CIC no. 1055; Familiaris Consortio nos. 18; 28).
The man and the woman are mutually captivated, seeking to complement each other. Each requires the other to reach full development as persons, manifesting and living deeply and completely their need to love, to submit totally. This requirement leads him to unite in marriage, and thus raise a new community of fruitful love, which includes the obligation to help the other in his development and achieve redemption.
This mutual collaboration must be carried out by giving what each one has and giving support to each other. This means that the judgment or way of being will not be imposed on the other, that disputes will not arise for not having the same goals at a given moment.
Each one must admit the other as it is and fulfill the obligations of each one. The love that leads to the marriage of a man and a woman is a manifestation of God’s love and must be fruitful (Cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 50)
When talking about marriage as a natural institution, we realize that the man or the woman are beings with one sex, which includes an attraction to merge body and soul. We call this alliance “conjugal act”. This fact is what makes possible the continuation of the human species. This being so, it can be deduced that men and women are summoned to procreate new human beings, who must evolve within a family that originated in marriage.
This is something that the couple has to accept from the moment they decided to marry. By choosing a job, without being forced to do so, you have the obligation to fulfill it. The same thing happens with marriage, when the couple chooses, autonomously, to get married, they submit to comply with all the obligations that this implies. It is not only fulfilled when procreating children, but they must be instructed responsibly.
Responsible Maternity and Paternity are an Obligation of Marriage
It is the exclusive right of the spouses to decide the number of children they are going to engender. It must not be forgotten that fatherhood and motherhood is a gift from God granted to help him in the creative and saving work. Therefore, before deciding on the number of children to procreate, it is necessary to place oneself in the presence of God, through prayer, with a position of availability and with all sincerity decide how many children to have and how to instruct them.
Conception is a supreme gift of a person’s life, denying it implies denying love, a good. Every child is a blessing, so they must be received with love.
The Sign: Matter and Form
It can be pointed out that marriage is an authentic sacrament since the necessary elements are found in it. In other words, the sensible sign, which in this case is the agreement, the consecrating and sacramental grace, and finally that it was created by Christ.
The Church retains the exclusivity to judge and decide on everything related to marriage. This is because it is precisely a sacrament that we refer to. The civil authority can hardly operate on the simply civil aspects of marriage (Cf. Nos. 1059 and 1672).
The external sign of this sacrament is the marriage agreement, which is both made up of matter and form.
The Distant Matter : they are the same promised ones.
The nearby Matter : it is the mutual gift of the spouses, the whole person is given, his whole being.
The Form : it is the Yes that means the mutual acceptance of this personal and total gift.
The sacrament of marriage creates a bond for life. By granting their consent autonomously, the spouses give themselves and receive each other reciprocally and this is validated by God. (Cf. Mark 10, 9). Therefore, since it is God himself who establishes this link, the officiated and consummated marriage can never be undone. The Church cannot be contrary to divine scholarship. (Cf. Catech. nos. 1114; 1640)
This Sacrament Increases Sanctifying Grace
The proper sacramental grace is obtained that enables the spouses to improve their love and strengthen their inseparable unity. This favor, coming from Christ, helps to experience the purposes of marriage, grants the capacity for a superhuman and fruitful love. After a few years of marriage, life in community may become more difficult, so this grace must be invoked to regain strength and get ahead (Cf. Catech. no. 1641)
The civil marriage is the one that is acquired before the civil authority. This marriage is not valid for Catholics, only sacramental marriage is the only legal one between baptized. Sometimes it is required to contract it, depending on the laws of each country, since it is useful for its legal effects. Catholics married only civilly, must be married by the Church.
The Sacrament of Marriage
«The marriage union, by means of which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership for life, ordained by its very natural character for the good of the couple and the generation and teaching of offspring, was exalted by Christ Our Lord to the condition of sacrament among the baptized” (CIC, can. 1055,1)
Marriage in God’s Plan
Sacred Scripture begins with the narration of the creation of man and woman similar to God (Gn 1,26-27) and ends with the vision of the “wedding of the Lamb” (Ap 19,7.9).
From one end to the other, the Scripture tells about marriage and its “enigma”, its creation and the significance that the Lord gave it, its beginning and its end, its various works throughout the history of redemption, from its setbacks arising from sin and its regeneration “in the Lord” (1 Co 7,39), all of this on the level of the New Covenant of Christ and of the Church (cf Eph 5,31-32).
Marriage in the Order of Creation
«The intimate association of life and love as a couple, instituted by the Creator and which has its own laws, is based on the union of marriage… a sacred bond… not dependent on human judgement. The Lord himself is the creator of marriage» (GS 48,1). The proclivity to marriage is recorded in the very condition of man and woman, according to how they were born from the hand of the Creator.
Marriage is not a fully human creation despite the many mutations it has experienced over the centuries in different cultures, social organizations and spiritual positions. These varieties must not neglect their related and enduring traits.
Although the hierarchy of this institution is not always so evident (cf GS 47,2), there is in all cultures an unquestionable awareness of the magnitude of the marriage union. “The redemption of the person and of human and Christian association is intimately tied to the well-being of the conjugal and family union” (GS 47,1).
God who has conceived man out of love has also summoned him to love, the essential and innate inclination of all human beings. Since man was created similar to God (Gn 1,2), who is Love (cf 1 Jn 4,8.16). Being created by God as man and woman, the reciprocal love between them becomes a reflection of the complete and unwavering love with which God adores man.
This love is kind, very just, in the eyes of the Creator (cf Gn 1,31). And this love that God consecrates is dedicated to being prolific and to be consummated in the common task of caring for creation. “And God consecrated them and told them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it'” (Gen 1:28).
Sacred Scripture points out that man and woman were conceived for each other: “It is not proper for man to be alone.” The woman, “flesh of her flesh”, her similarity, the being most similar to man himself, is granted to her by God as a “help”, thus symbolizing God who is our “help” (cf Ps 121 ,two).
“That is why a man leaves his father and his mother and is joined to his wife, and they become one flesh” (cf. Gn 2:18-25). That this must be an indeclinable union of their two existences, the Lord himself explains by evoking what was “in the beginning”, the Creator’s plan: “So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19,6 ).
Marriage under the Slavery of Sin
Each man, as well as in his environment as in his own heart, suffers the experience of evil. This experience is felt equally in the relationships between men and women. At any time, the alliance of man and woman lives under the threat of disagreement, the spirit of control, disloyalty, jealousy and disputes that can lead to hatred and separation.
This disorder can be evident in a relatively acute way, and can be more or less overcome, according to cultures, time, individuals, but it usually appears as something of a universal nature.
According to faith, this mess that we show with pain, does not originate in the essence of man and woman, nor in the essence of their relationships, but in the lack. The initial lack, separation from God, results first in the breaking of the original communion between man and woman.
Their relationship is upset by mutual insults (cf Gn 3,12); the attraction of one for the other, the creator’s own gift (cf Gn 2,22), is changed to links of domination and impudence (cf Gn 3,16b); the captivating inclination of men and women to be fertile, to reproduce and subjugate the earth (cf Gn 1,28) is subordinated to the pain of childbirth and the efforts to obtain bread (cf Gn 3,16-19).
However, the order of Creation is maintained although severely upset. To heal the offenses of sin, men and women require the help of grace that God, who in his eternal compassion, has never denied them (cf Gn 3:21). Without this help, man and woman cannot consummate the covenant of their lives, for which God created them “in the beginning.”
Marriage under the Pedagogy of the Old Law
In his compassion, God did not forsake penitent man. The pains that result from sin, “the pains of childbirth” (Gn 3,16), to work “until you sweat from your brow” (Gn 3,19), also make up remedies that attenuate the ravages of sin. After the fall, marriage helps to defeat the withdrawal in on oneself, self-centeredness, the search for one’s own pleasure, and by being honest with the other, reciprocal help, self-giving.
The moral reflection concerning the unity and strength of marriage evolved under the pedagogy of the ancient Law, under which the polygamy of patriarchs and sovereigns does not yet appear expressly prohibited.
However, the Law granted by Moses is aimed at protecting women against unjust domination by men, even though she also bears, according to the word of the Lord, the marks of “the hardness of the heart” of every human, reason by which Moses authorized the contempt of women (cf Mt 19,8; Dt 24,1).
By figuring God’s Covenant with Israel as a unique and loyal conjugal love (cf Os 1-3; Is 54.62; Jr 2-3. 31; Ez 16,62; 23), the prophets were conditioning the conscience of the Chosen People to a deeper understanding of how united and indissoluble marriage is (cf. Mal 2:13-17).
The writings of Ruth and Tobias are moving evidence of the deep meaning of marriage, of the loyalty and affection of the spouses. Tradition has had in the Song of Songs a unique manifestation of human love, to the extent that this image of God’s love, love “powerful as death” that “the immense waters cannot flood” (Ct 8,6- 7).
The Marriage in the Lord
The conjugal union between God and his people Israel had established the new and perpetual alliance by means of which the Son of God, incarnating himself and giving his life, was united in a certain way with all humanity redeemed by him (cf. GS 22). , thus gestating «the marriage of the lamb» (Ap 19,7.9).
At the beginning of his public existence, Jesus gives his first sign, at the request of his Mother, at a wedding party (cf. Jn 2:1-11). The Church attaches great importance to the attendance of Jesus at the wedding at Cana, since it observes in it the ratification of the goodness of marriage and the warning that from then on marriage will be a sure sign of the presence of God. Christ.
In his preaching, Jesus clearly indoctrinated the original meaning of the union of man and woman, according to how the Creator wanted it at the beginning: the permission, granted to Moses, to reject his wife was a grace to the hardness of the heart (cf Mt 19,8); the marriage bond of man and woman is inseparable: God himself ordained it: “what God unites, man cannot separate” (Mt 19:6).
This obvious stubbornness in the indissolubility of the marriage bond could cause confusion and show itself as an unrealizable demand (cf Mt 19,10). However, Jesus did not manage to impose on spouses a burden that could not be borne or very heavy (cf. Mt 11:29-30), heavier than the Law of Moses.
Arriving to restore the original order of creation disrupted by sin, it brings the energy and grace to experience marriage in the new perspective of the Kingdom of God. By following Christ, abandoning themselves, carrying his crosses for him (cf. Mt 8:34), the spouses will be able to “understand” (cf. Mt 19:11) the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. .
Such grace of Christian Marriage is the fruit of the Cross of Christ, the root of all Christian existence. This is what the apostle Paul makes clear by pointing out: “Husbands, adore your wives as Christ adored the Church and gave himself up for her to consecrate her” (Eph 5:25-26), and then adding: “For For this a man will abandon his father and his mother and join his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a great enigma, I say it in relation to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:31-32).
All Christian existence is marked by the love of spouses of Christ and of the Church. Already Baptism, by means of which one becomes part of the People of God, is a nuptial enigma. It is, in other words, like the wedding bath (cf. Eph 5:26-27) that precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.
The Christian Marriage becomes on its side an effective sign, a sacrament of the union of Christ and the Church. Since it is a sign and notification of grace, marriage between the baptized is a genuine sacrament of the New Covenant (cf. DS 1800; CIC, can. 1055,2).
Virginity for the Kingdom of God
Christ is the core of all Christian existence. The link with Him is located in the first position among all other links, whether family or social (cf Lk 14,26; Mk 10,28-31).
From the beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have given up the great gift of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes (cf Ap 14,4), to dedicate themselves to the things of the Lord, to try to please him (cf 1 Co 7,32), to go to meet the Bridegroom who is coming (cf Mt 25,6). Christ himself called some to accompany him to this way of life of which he is the archetype.
There are eunuchs who emerged from the womb in this way, and there are eunuchs begotten by men, and there are eunuchs who themselves became such through the Kingdom of Heaven. Who can understand, let him understand (Mt 19,12).
Chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven is an evolution of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the predominance of the bond with Christ, of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign that also recalls that marriage is a reality that expresses the transitory character of this world (cf 1 Cor 7,31; Mk 12,25).
This pair of states, the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God, come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the essential grace to live them according to his will (cf. Mt 19:3-12). The consideration of chastity for the Kingdom (cf. LG 42; PC 12; OT 10) and the Christian meaning of Marriage are indivisible and mutually supportive.
To slander marriage is to lessen at the same time the glory of virginity; to extol it is to extol at the same time the admiration corresponding to virginity… (St. John Chrysostom, virg. 10,1; cf FC, 16).
The Celebration of Marriage
In the Latin ritual, when the marriage between two devout Catholics is celebrated, it usually occurs regularly within the Holy Mass, given the link that all the sacraments have with the Paschal Mystery of Christ (cf SC 61). In the Eucharist, the memorial of the New Covenant takes place, in which Christ was united in perpetuity to the Church, his adored spouse for whom he offered himself (cf. LG 6).
In this way, it is appropriate that the spouses seal their approval to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives, joining the offering of Christ for his Church, made real in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and obtaining the Eucharist, so that, by receiving communion in the same Body and in the same Blood of Christ, they “become one body” in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 10:17).
“Just as it is a sacramental sign of sanctification, the commemoration of marriage…must in itself be lawful, meritorious and fruitful” (FC 67). Therefore, it is convenient that the future spouses prepare for the celebration of their marriage by obtaining the sacrament of penance.
According to the Latin tradition, the spouses, as agents of Christ’s grace, expressing their approval before the Church, grant each other the sacrament of marriage. In the customs of the Eastern Churches, the clerics, Bishops or priests, testify to the mutual approval manifested by the spouses (cf. CCEO, can. 817), but their blessing is also indispensable for the legitimacy of the sacrament (cf. CCEO, can. 828).
The various liturgies are abundant in prayers of blessing and epiclesis imploring God for his grace and blessing for the new couple, particularly for the wife. In the epiclesis of this sacrament the spouses obtain the Holy Spirit as a rite of love of Christ and of the Church (cf. Eph 5,32). The Holy Spirit is the mark of the union of spouses, the ever-giving root of their love, the energy with which their loyalty will be renewed.
Sacrament of Marriage: Marriage Consent
The characters of the marriage union are a baptized man and woman, free to marry and autonomously expressing their approval. “To have freedom” means:
- not be forced by something or someone;
- not be limited by any law of any nature.
The Church considers the mutual exchange of consents between the spouses as the essential element “that gives rise to marriage” (CIC, can. 1057,1). If the approval is missing, there is no marriage. Consent is “a human fact, by which the spouses reciprocally give themselves and receive each other” (GS 48,1; cf CIC, can. 1057,2): “I accept you as a wife” – “I accept you as a husband » (OcM 45).
This approval, which unites the spouses with each other, reaches its apogee in the fact that the two “become one flesh” (cf. Gn 2,24; Mk 10,8; Eph 5,31). Such permission must be an act of consent of each of the couple, absent violence or grave fear from an external source (cf. CIC, can. 1103). There is no human power that can replace this consent (CIC, can. 1057, 1). If this freedom is lacking, the marriage is not valid.
For this reason (or for others that annul or invalidate the marriage; cf. CIC, can. 1095-1107), the Church, after evaluating the situation by the corresponding ecclesiastical court, can consider the marriage “null”, that is, that the marriage did not take place. In this case, the couple is free to marry, although they must formalize the natural commitments arising from a preliminary union (cf CIC, can. 1071).
The cleric (or deacon) who is present at the commemoration of the marriage, collects the consent of the spouses on behalf of the Church and grants the blessing of the latter. The attendance of the minister of the Church (and also of the witnesses) clearly shows that marriage is an ecclesial reality.
For this reason, the Church commonly demands for its devotees the ecclesiastical form of the commemoration of marriage (cf. Cc. of Trent: DS 1813-1816; CIC, can. 1108). There are several reasons that explain such determination:
- Sacramental marriage is a religious ceremonial event, so it is appropriate that it be celebrated within the public liturgy of the Church.
- Marriage takes place within the ecclesial order, it generates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards the children.
- Since marriage is a condition of life in the Church, it is necessary that there be evidence of it (hence the duty to have witnesses).
- The public nature of consent supports the “Yes” once granted and helps to remain loyal to it.
For the consent of the spouses to be a free and responsible fact, and for the marriage union to have solid and stable human and Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of paramount importance:
The example and education given by parents and families are the favored path of this preparation.
The role of pastors and of the Christian community as “the Lord’s family” is essential to transmit the human and Christian principles of marriage and the family (cf. CIC, can. 1063), and this with even more reason in our time. in which many young people have known the experience of broken homes that no longer adequately guarantee this initiation:
Young people must be properly and conveniently educated about the dignity, chores and practice of conjugal love, particularly within the same family, so that, taught in the cultivation of continence, they can pass, at the appropriate age, from an honest courtship experienced to marriage (GS 49,3).
Mixed Marriages and Cult Disparity
In numerous countries, the condition of mixed marriage (between a Catholic and a non-Catholic who has not received baptism) has been presented with great frequency, which requires particular consideration of the spouses and of the pastors. The case of marriages of different cults (between a Catholic and one who has not received baptism) demands even more attention.
The dissimilarity of creed between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable impediment to marriage, when it is possible to place in common what each of them has obtained in their community, and to share with each other the way in which each exercises their loyalty to each other. Christ. Even so, the inconveniences of mixed marriages should not be equally underestimated, and this is because the division between Christians has not yet been overcome.
The spouses run the risk of sharing the drama of the separation of Christians in the home nucleus. Cult dissimilarity can make these drawbacks even worse. Disparity in faith, in the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities can cause tensions in the couple, primarily due to the education of children. All this could then lead to religious indifference.
According to the law prevailing in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage requires, in order to be legitimate, the express consent of the ecclesiastical authority (cf. CIC, can. 1124). If there are religious differences, an express concession of the inconvenience is needed to make the marriage valid (cf. CIC, can. 1086).
This authorization or this dispensation implies that the two parties are aware of and do not exclude the basic purposes and properties of the marriage. Additionally, that the Catholic side corroborate the commitments, also making them known to the non-Catholic side, to preserve their own faith and to guarantee the Baptism and education of their children in the Catholic Church (cf. CIC, can. 1125).
In many regions, thanks to the widespread dialogue, interested Christian communities have been able to carry out a similar pastoral care for mixed weddings. Its purpose is to collaborate with these couples so that they can bring their particular condition to the light of belief. It must also help them overcome the tension between the responsibilities of the spouses, with one another, and with their ecclesial communities.
It must induce the development of what is related to them in faith, and the consideration of what separates them. In unions with a difference of cult, the Catholic husband has a particular task: «Since the non-religious husband is blessed by his wife, and the non-religious wife is blessed by the believing husband» (1 Co 7,14) .
It is an immense pleasure for the Christian spouse and for the Church that this “blessing” leads to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian creed (cf. 1 Cor 7:16). The honest love of a partner, the humble and calm exercise of family virtues, and constant prayer can enlist the non-religious spouse to obtain the grace of conversion.
The Effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony
«From the legitimate marriage arises between the spouses a perpetual bond and unique by its very nature; additionally, in Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and remain blessed by a singular sacrament for the duties and dignity of their condition” (CCC, can. 1134).
The Marriage Bond
The authorization by which the spouses give each other and receive each other is endorsed by God himself (cf. Mk 10,9). From their union “emerges a lasting institution by divine mandate, also before society” (GS 48,1). The union of the spouses is an integral part of God’s covenant with men: “genuine conjugal love is achieved in divine love” (GS 48,2).
Therefore, the marriage bond is established by God himself, so that the marriage officiated and consummated between baptized persons can never be undone. This link that arises from the free human act of the spouses and from the execution of the marriage is an already inexorable reality and originates a union guaranteed by the loyalty of God. The Church is not in a position to speak out against this precept of divine erudition (cf. CIC, can. 1141).
The Grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony
“In their way and form of life, (Christian spouses) have their own charism in the People of God” (LG 11). This mercy proper to the sacrament of marriage is dedicated to making the love of the spouses perfect, to strengthening their enduring unity. Through this grace “they mutually help each other to bless each other with conjugal married life and in the acceptance and education of children” (LG 11; cf LG 41).
Christ is the root of this grace. “Since in the same way that God once went to meet his people through a union of love and fidelity, now the Redeemer of men and Spouse of the Church, through the sacrament of marriage, goes to meet spouses Christians» (GS 48,2).
He stays with them, he gives them the strength to continue raising his cross, to stand up after their falls, to forgive each other, to bear one another’s burdens (cf Ga 6,2), to be “subdued one to another in the fear of Christ» (Eph 5,21) and to adore one another with a superhuman, subtle and fruitful love. In the joy of his love and his family life he grants them, already here, an anticipated taste of the wedding banquet of the Lamb:
How am I going to get the strength to explain in a pleasant way the happiness of the marriage that the Church officiates, that corroborates the offering, that endorses the blessing? The angels proclaim it, the heavenly Father confirms it… What a marriage of two Christians, allied by a single hope, a single desire, a single discipline, the same service!
Both are children of the same Father, servants of the same Lord; nothing separates them, neither in the spirit nor in the flesh; in contrast, they are truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, the spirit is also one (Tertullian, ux. 2,9; cf. FC 13).
The Goods and Requirements of Marital Love
“Marital love entails a universality of which all the elements of the person are a part, demands of the body and instinct, energy of feeling and affection, yearning of the soul and of the will; contemplates a very personal unit that, more than the fusion in a single flesh, leads to having only one heart and one soul. It demands the perenniality and loyalty of absolute reciprocal dedication; opening to fertility.
In short: it is a set of accepted characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance that not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the point of making them an expression of properly Christian principles» (FC 13). Alliance and permanence of marriage
Adoration between spouses demands, by its very nature, the union and indivisibility of the community of persons that comprises the entire life of the spouses: “So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19:6; cf. Gen 2,24). “They are called to constantly grow in their communion through daily loyalty to the marriage commitment of total mutual self-giving” (FC 19).
This human alliance is corroborated, purified and enhanced by communion in Jesus Christ granted through the sacrament of marriage. It is deepened by the life of faith to which they are common and by the Eucharist bestowed in common.
“The unity of marriage is shown to be extensively corroborated by the equal personal dignity that must be recognized for both the woman and the man in reciprocal and complete love” (GS 49,2). Polygamy is opposed to this equal dignity of one and the other and to the love of spouses that is unique and personal.
The Fidelity of Marital Love
The love of spouses demands of them, by their very nature, a sacred loyalty. This is the result of the gift of themselves that the spouses give each other. Genuine love is inclined by itself to be something conclusive, not something transitory. “This intimate alliance, as a mutual gift of two people, as is the gift of children, demands the loyalty of the spouses and urges their indivisible unity” (GS 48,1).
Its most profound reason consists in the loyalty of God to its union, of Christ to his Church. By the communion of marriage the spouses are enabled to symbolize and bear witness to this loyalty. Through the sacrament, the indivisibility of marriage takes on a new and deeper meaning.
It may appear difficult, even impossible, to join a human being for the whole of existence. What makes it important to communicate the good news that the Lord adores us with an absolute and definitive love, that spouses are part of this love, that it comforts and sustains them, and that by their loyalty they become witnesses of loyal love of God.
The spouses who, with the favor of God, give this testimony, often in very difficult situations, are worthy of the gratitude and patronage of the ecclesial community (cf FC 20). There are, however, times when marital coexistence becomes almost impossible for very different reasons. In situations like this, the Church consents to the physical distancing of the spouses and the termination of cohabitation.
Spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God; nor are they free to be part of a new union. In this complex situation, the best remedy would be, if possible, reconciliation. The Christian community is called to help these beings to live their situation in a Christian way in loyalty to the bond of their marriage that remains indissoluble (cf FC; 83; CIC, can. 1151-1155).
Today there are many Catholics in many countries who resort to divorce according to civil law and who also assume a new union in a civil way. The Church sustains, out of loyalty to the word of Jesus Christ (“Whoever rejects his wife and joins another commits adultery against her; and if she rejects her husband and joins another, commits adultery” : Mk 10,11-12), who cannot accept this new marriage as legitimate, if the first marriage was lawful.
If the divorced remarry civilly, they place themselves in a condition that objectively refutes God’s law. Therefore, they do not reach Eucharistic communion as long as this situation is maintained, and for the same reason they cannot perform certain ecclesial obligations.
Reconciliation through the sacrament of repentance can only be granted to those who retract having broken the sign of the Covenant and loyalty to Christ and who make the commitment to live in total abstinence.
In relation to Christians who find themselves in this situation and who frequently maintain the faith and long to instruct their children in a Christian way, the clerics and the entire community must give evidence of an interested request, so that they are not considered as separated from the Church, of whose life they can and must be a part as soon as they are baptized:
They are induced to hear the Word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the mass, to insist on prayer, to increase charitable works and community projects for justice, to instruct their children in the faith Christian, to illustrate the spirit and works of penance to beg in this way, daily, the favor of God (FC 84).
The Opening to Fertility
“By their very nature, the very establishment of marriage and the love of spouses are commanded to the procreation and teaching of offspring and with them they are invested as their consummation” (GS 48,1): Children are the gift of greatest excellence of marriage and contribute much to the well-being of their own parents.
The same Lord who said: “It is not proper for man to remain alone (Gn 2,18), and who created man from the beginning, male and female” (Mt 19,4), wanting to point out to him a certain special participation in his same creative work, consecrated the man and the woman indicating: «Be fruitful and multiply» (Gn 1,28).
Hence, the genuine care of the love of spouses and of the whole way of family life that originates from it, without allowing the other purposes of marriage to be postponed, leads to the spouses disposing themselves with strength of spirit to collaborate with the love of the Creator and Redeemer, who through them increases and enriches his own family every day more (GS 50,1).
The fruitfulness of married love extends to the fruits of moral, spiritual and superhuman existence that parents pass on to their children through education. Parents are the primary and first teachers of their children (cf. GE 3). In this way, the essential work of marriage and the family is to serve life (cf FC 28).
However, spouses who have not been conferred by God to father children can lead a married life full of meaning, humanly and Christianly. Your marriage can spread a fruitfulness of compassion, support and sacrifice.
the domestic church
Christ longed to be born and develop in the bosom of the Holy Family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is the same “family of God”. From the beginning, the center of the Church was usually made up of those who, “with their whole household”, had become devout (cf Acts 18:8). When they were transformed, they also wanted “their whole household” to be saved (cf. Acts 16:31 and 11:14). These transformed families were islands of Christian life in a non-religious world.
At present, in a world that is usually strange and even hostile to faith, religious families have a primordial relevance as they constitute beacons of a living and propagating belief. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council summons the family, with an ancient expression, “Ecclesia domestica” (LG 11; cf. FC 21).
In the nucleus of the family, “parents must be for their children the first communicators of the faith with their words and their example, and they must promote the individual vocation of each one and, with particular attention, the vocation to life consecrated” (LG 11).
This is where the baptismal priesthood of the father of the family, of the mother, of the children, of the entire family group, is practiced in a privileged way, “in the acceptance of the sacraments, in prayer and in thanksgiving, with the testimony of a blessed life, with renunciation and adoration that can be seen in works» (LG 10).
The home is thus the initial school of Christian life and “school of the most valuable humanism” (GS 52,1). Here one is instructed in patience and the pleasure of work, brotherly love, generous forgiveness, even repeated, and particularly divine worship through prayer and the sacrifice of his life.
It is also convenient to remember a large number of people who remain single due to particular conditions in which they must exist, often without having wanted it themselves. These people are especially close to the heart of Jesus; and, for this reason, they are worthy of affection and resolute request of the Church, especially of its pastors.
A large number of them lack a human family, frequently motivated by conditions of poverty. Some live their condition according to the spirit of the beatitudes by serving God and their neighbor in an exemplary way.
To all of them it is required to open the doors of the houses, “house churches” and of the larger family that is the Church. “Let no one feel deprived of a family in this world: the Church is home and family for all, particularly for those who are tired and exhausted (Mt 11,28)” (FC 85).
Sacrament of Matrimony: Summary
Saint Paul points out: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ adored the Church… This is a great enigma, I say it with consideration for Christ and the Church” (Eph 5,25.32).
The marriage union, by which a man and a woman make up an intimate partnership of life and love, was established and provided with its own laws by the Creator. Due to its character, it is mandated for the good of the spouses as well as for the conception and instruction of children. Among those who have received baptism, marriage has been brought by Christ the Lord to be esteemed as a sacrament (cf. GS 48,1; CIC, can. 1055,1).
The sacrament of marriage means the alliance of Christ with the Church. Grant spouses the grace to adore each other with the love with which Christ adored his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus improves the human love of the spouses, ratifies their indivisible unity and blesses them on the path to perpetual life (cf. Cc. de Trento: DS 1799).
Marriage is based on the consent of the contracting parties, in other words, on the will to give themselves mutually and absolutely for the purpose of living a union of loyal and fruitful love. Since marriage places the spouses in a public condition of life in the Church, the office of the same is regularly done publicly, within the framework of a liturgical commemoration, before the cleric (or the competent witness of the Church), the witnesses and the congregation of the faithful.
Both the alliance and the indivisibility and openness to fertility are fundamental to marriage. Polygamy is not compatible with the entity of marriage; divorce separates what God has unified; the repudiation of fertility deprives married life of its “most precious gift”, the child (GS 50,1).
Agreeing to a new marriage on the part of the divorced to the extent that their official spouses live contravenes the plan and the law of God instructed by Christ. Those who are in that state are not separated from the Church but cannot be part of the Eucharistic communion. And yet they can lead their Christian existence particularly by instructing their children in the faith.
The Christian home is the place where children get the initial proclamation of the faith. For this reason, the family home is precisely called the “House Church”, a community of grace and prayer, a school of human morality and Christian compassion.
Marriage as a Sacrament in the History of Catholic Theology
In the Gospel, Jesus Christ speaks emphatically in opposition to the divorce authorized by Jewish law (cf. Mk 10 11-12 and parallel texts).
In the early centuries, Christian writers are confronted with the sexual permissiveness of the Greco-Roman cosmos and the various heretical movements that propose that marriage is something evil, since the matter is evil in itself. The Encratites despised marriage and held that every Christian must remain abstinent.
The Gnostics (to which you must add the Manichaeans and Priscillianists) relying on a dualistic cosmology were of the idea that matter originates from the foundation of evil and therefore had a negative perspective of sexual and matrimonial reality. Montanists and Novatians disdained second marriages. An exaggerated case is the encratist sacrilege of Tatian.
In the original Christian communities a predilection for chastity and celibacy is being shown. It even comes to give a derogatory or contemptuous image of marriage. However, the teaching profession operated as a normalizer. In this way Ignatius of Antioch (Ep. Polyc. 5 2) and Clement of Rome (1 Clem 38 2) point out. Christian writers emphasize the good of conception by acting in defense of marriage.
They argue that it has been created by God and has been consecrated by the appearance of Christ at the wedding in Cana. Even tendencies emerge that suggest that marriage is above virginity (according to writers such as Helvidio, Bonoso, Joviniano and Vigilancio). Saint Augustine (354-430) clearly maintains that marriage is a virtuous thing and that it has been established by God from “the beginning”.
Original sin has not been able to destroy this original benevolence, despite the fact that it has originated “lust”, which affects the practice of sexuality in such a way that it becomes extremely difficult to subordinate that activity to just reason. This is achieved when one lives in the setting of the very goods of marriage: conception (proles), loyalty (fides), and the sacrament (sacramentum).
According to Saint Augustine, there is no doubt that the search for procreation does not imply that the marriage alliance carries with it any fault or stain. But the same does not happen if the union were intended to please lust, since then a venial sin would be committed. The writers disagree on the interpretation to be given to these assertions.
Despite the Christian perspective of marriage in the early days was positive, fair and less idealizing than that of the environment, it is equally true that marriage, or one of its purposes, was estimated based on the results of original sin as a “remedy”. to lust” according to the expression of Augustine.
In such a way that Christian belief valued marriage in relation to the procreative purpose and as a conduit to counteract the chaos due to sexual weakness that men drag after original sin.
The persistent attacks of certain Gnostic sects against this sacrament forced the Church to protect it and surround it with a certain majesty, which added to its reputation and sanctification. Specifically, the following provisions or practices can be cited:
- The marriage should always be officiated with the consent of the bishop.
- It would have to happen in the church or place of worship, through the Eucharistic services. This tradition is one of the oldest.
- In general, hidden marriages were not allowed; but, on the other hand, Pope Calixto accepted as lawful marriages between free and slaves.
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