Series on the Sacraments: Marriage
Okay readers it’s time to have THE TALK. That’s right, the Marriage Talk. Now you might be thinking…
Well my response is…
Okay, so I may not know lots about marriage, but I will share with you some of what I do know and of course (and most importantly), what the Catholic Church teaches on marriage. Firstly, I wish to say I feel very inadequate to speak on this subject, namely because I have not even been married a year, and if you’ve read about my conversion, you know that I did not grow up in the typical Catholic home. Frankly, marriage scared the crap out of me, and I think looking in retrospect, perhaps it was a small underlying factor of what made me feel I might be called to the priesthood. But, leave it to Jesus to ensure that I “get out of the boat“, and embrace the life to which He called me.
Okay, let’s just make a quick review of what Sacraments are. According to the Baltimore Catechism, a sacrament is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” Keep this in mind as we begin to speak on the Sacrament of Matrimony. Also remember in this blog, the Sacrament of Matrimony is different from a civil marriage ceremony. We are speaking in regards to two baptized people, one man and one woman, binding themselves to one another in a valid, Sacramental way, in the Catholic Church and in a monogamous manner.
Marriage is of paramount importance to God. We see this revealed in Sacred Scripture. From the very beginning of Genesis with Adam and Eve, whom God gives to one another, where Blessed John Paul II tells us that God “withdraws as it were into himself, in order to seek the pattern and inspiration in the mystery of his Being, which is already here disclosed as the divine ‘We'” (John Paul II’s Letter to Families), and then fast forward to the final chapters of the book of Revelation, where we see a picture of the wedding-feast of the Lamb, we see that God Himself has created us for communion; communion with one another, but most importantly, for communion with Himself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), says that “God who created man out of love, also called him to love—the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” (CCC 1604).
However, we know the story, and sin entered the world through disobedience. It was then, before Christ had fulfilled the law, bringing about the New and Everlasting Covenant, that the concessions were made for divorce due in large part to the “hardness of heart” of Israel. Though, it was still not God’s original intention for people to divorce.
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus in His very Person restored the Kingdom under His Reign, and sets the record straight.
Jesus in His incarnation, and through the Paschal Mysteries, restored our relationship with God which was broken through sin, and poured out grace upon the world, most importantly through the Sacraments of His Church. He wished for us to enter fully into this incredible mystery of His love in a real and concrete way. One of the many things He did through His Incarnation and Paschal Mystery was to set straight what had happened to marriage through the Fall of Adam and Eve, and restored marriage to its original state which is indissoluble outside of death (1 Cor 7:39), saying “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder”( Matt 19:6).
But where does Jesus show His support of marriage? I’ll tell you!
On the threshold of his public life Jesus performs his first sign – at his mother’s request – during a wedding feast. The Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence (CCC 1613).
But again, leave it to the Church to always be able to cut to the chase, again, in what I think is currently the coolest thing I’ve read about marriage in a long time:
This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life. (CCC 1615)
But why is the Catholic Church so focused on marriage and stuff? Pope Paul VI in his prolific encyclical, Humanae Vitae, tells us precisely why:
Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.
The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church. (Humanae Vitae 9)
Bl. John Paul II reminds families that “The communion between God and His people finds 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” (Familiaris Consortio 13).
So, marriage is no small thing. Not only was it the first Sacrament instituted by God Himself, it is also the definitive symbol of the marriage between Christ and the Church, and mirrors the relationship between the Three Persons of the Trinity. Therefore, we can see why the Sacrament of Marriage is so strongly attacked in our culture.
The call of faithful men and women to join in the Sacrament of Matrimony is a call to battle. Again, Bl. John Paul II tells us in his Theology of the Body that when spouses “unite as husband and wife, they must find themselves in the situation in which the powers of good and evil fight against each other” (TOB 115:2). Good Catholic families have a battle in front of them, so let us pray for young couples and families, that God would give them the strength to fight this battle in the vale of tears until God reveals to the world the archetype that marriage is based upon–Himself in His Trinity of Persons.