Matrimony

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1601-66:

  • God is the author of marriage; by inscribing the complementarity of male and female into our very human nature, He created man and woman for each other, so that the two would become one flesh, in a lifetime partnership of mutual self-giving, for the procreation of children.
  • Faithful love between husband and wife mirrors the abiding love of God for His people; first developed by the Old Testament prophets, this imagery reached its fulfillment in Christ, Who weds Himself to the human race by becoming man, and invites us all to His eternal wedding feast in heaven.
  • It is deeply significant that Jesus’ first public miracle takes place at the wedding at Cana, symbolizing His active presence in the marriage of the faithful; thus the natural institution of marriage, known and celebrated by cultures from time immemorial, is elevated into a sacrament of Christian life.
  • The name matrimony derives from the Latin terms for the “state or condition of motherhood” — revealing that this sacrament is designed for the welcoming of new life, that the spouses may cooperate with God through openness to fertility, raising children in the faith, and forming a family that is a “domestic church.”
  • Christian marriage involves the total self-gift of each spouse to the other, in a covenant ratified by God; as a result, the marital bond, once freely entered into and consummated by baptized persons, cannot be dissolved; this is no man-made rule, for Christ Himself taught that marriage was to be a lifelong union of fidelity.
  • Because husband and wife are offering themselves to each other, the marriage celebration appropriately occurs during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when Christ gives Himself to us in the Eucharist.
  • This liturgical context illustrates that marriage is not strictly private, but rather a state of life – an order – in the Church; spouses correspondingly have duties and responsibilities to each other and to their children.
  • Mutual consent is absolutely necessary for the validity of marriage; if full consent is lacking on either part at the exchange of vows, they are not actually making a covenant, and there is no sacramental marriage between them; marriages can be annulled on this basis – not “divorce,” but finding that the marriage never existed.
  • As a sacrament, matrimony confers special grace upon the spouses; although they will experience the difficulties and trials of any relationship between flawed human beings, Christ imparts His grace to help them through the rough times, sustain their marital bond, and support their family life.
  • By striving to live out their marriage vows, spouses fulfill their vocation to follow Christ, accepting the crosses that come their way, for their mutual sanctification; husband and wife thereby become beacons of the covenant between Christ and His Church.

Live Your Faith

Marriage is not an arrangement of convenience for our own gratification, nor can it be arbitrarily redefined by legislative or judicial fiat.

The truth about marriage is much more challenging to us, but also a far nobler vision of what God wants for us.

He calls husband and wife to an exalted vocation, and equips them to fulfill it, if they would be open to His grace. While many will fall short of this ideal at one time or another, let us never forget that God is a party to our marriage.

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