Tag Archives: Sacrament of marriage

The Sacrament of Marriage

October 5, 2018

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Marriage

A Sacrament. Marriage or matrimony is one of the seven sacraments. It belongs to a special group or classification of sacraments known as the Sacraments of Commitment, the two major ways for adults to live out their baptismal faith commitment: marriage and Holy Orders.

Famous Marriages of the Bible. Marriage is a sacred institution established by God, something clearly evident from the very beginning of creation and its natural order (Gen 1:26-27) with the first marriage, Adam and Eve. Genesis continues with three other famous married couples, the patriarchs and their wives: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel. Other prominent marriages of the Old Testament include Moses and Zipporah; Elkanah and Hannah, the parents of Samuel; David and Bathsheba; and Tobiah and Sarah. In the New Testament, the first married couple is Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older couple that set the stage for the greatest married couple of all: Mary and Joseph.

Biblical Basis for the Sacrament. Jesus endorsed marriage at the beginning of his ministry when he attended the Cana wedding feast and performed his first miracle there (Jn 2:1-11). Jesus also taught, “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:6-9).

Christian Symbols of Marriage. The wedding ring is the foremost symbol of marriage. Other symbols include two interlocking rings; a marriage cross, a Latin Cross with two interlocking rings attached at the center; two clasped hands; two joined hands covered with a priest’s stole; a heart, the symbol of the love shared between a husband and wife; two doves, a symbol of the joy of marriage; two ropes tied in a knot; and three flowers, one taller in the middle, which represents God, the center of every marriage, and two shorter flowers of the same height on either side, one each for the husband and wife, bound by God as equal partners.

A Touching Image. One of the most beautiful metaphors for marriage is found in the Book of Ecclesiastes, part of the Wisdom Literature. The author writes, “Two are better than one. If one falls, the other will lift up his companion. Woe to the solitary man! A three-ply cord is not easily broken” (Eccl 4:9,11,12). There are three partners to every marriage, two that are apparent and visible, the husband and wife, and a third partner, invisible, but the most important, God. Instead of “tying the knot,” a common mundane way to describe a marriage, every couple is asked to weave a three-ply rope with God in the middle. The more tightly a husband and wife are bound to God, the more tightly they are bound to each other; and the more tightly they are bound to each other, the more tightly they are bound to God.

The Centrality of Love. Love is the bond shared by a husband and wife. God is love (1 Jn 4:8,16). Therefore the bond that a couple shares, the bond that unites them, is God. John asks, “How can a person love God, who is unseen, if a person does not love their neighbor who is seen?” (paraphrase, 1 Jn 4:20). As Christians we believe that one of the main pathways to God is through our neighbor, and that when we love our neighbor, we love God. Jesus is insistent about love of neighbor (see Mt 22:39; Lk 10:29-37; and Jn 13:34-35). For a married couple, the neighbor that stands above every other neighbor is one’s spouse, and the primary pathway to God for someone who is married is through one’s spouse. The more a person loves their spouse, the more the person loves God, and an important word of caution, the less a person loves their spouse, the less the person loves God.

Instruction on Love. St. Paul offers excellent teaching on how to practice the virtue of love in his famous Ode to Love, 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind,” one of the most popular scripture texts for weddings. He provides additional advice in Col 3:12-17.

A Solemn Covenant. A Christian marriage is covenant patterned on the covenant between God and humanity and the union between Christ and the Church. God’s covenant is unbreakable, indissoluble, and enduring. Despite human failings, God offers forgiveness, renews the covenant, and is ever-faithful. Christian couples are asked to be shining examples of God’s covenantal love through the permanence, sincerity, and depth of their love.

A Spiritual Bond. A sacramental marriage is a covenant, not a contract. A contract is written on paper, a covenant is written on one’s heart; a contract has fine print with many stipulations and conditions, a covenant is unconditional; a contract is closed with a signature, a covenant is sealed with one’s spoken word; a contract is for a specific amount of time, a covenant is everlasting; a contract may have penalties if specific terms are not met, a covenant has forgiveness; a contract may have an escape clause, a covenant is binding forever; a contract is designed to protect my rights, a covenant seeks what is best for the other person; and a contract is a civil or legal document, a covenant is based upon faith and sealed by God.

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The sacrament of marriage: A solemn covenant

August 10, 2018

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sacrament of marriage

The sacrament of marriage is a covenant between a husband and wife patterned on the covenant between God and the human race. God entered a pact with every living being through Noah after the flood (see Gn 9:8-17). God promised to be faithful to the people of the earth, to love them and provide for them, and that it would be an “everlasting covenant” (Gn 9:16), perpetual, permanent, and binding forever.

God is reliable and true, and always upholds his side of the agreement, while the people, on the other hand, through their stubbornness, sins and failings, broke the covenant over and over again. God is offended and disappointed, but instead of annulling the covenant, extends mercy and forgiveness out of his deep compassion, provides a new beginning, and reestablishes the covenant. God cannot go against his divine nature. God is love and is ever faithful.

The Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures provide a list of covenant renewals that confirm God’s faithfulness. The people would sin and break the covenant, and God would try again. After the people built the Tower of Babel (Gn 11), God renewed the covenant through Abram (Gn 15:17-19 and 17). Subsequently God renewed the covenant with Moses at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:3-8), and after the people worshipped the golden calf, again with the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law (Ex 34:10-26); with Joshua (Jos 24:16-28); David (2 Sm 7:8-17; 23:5); Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34), and Ezekiel (Ez 36:24-28; 37:26). God’s constant and unshakeable promise is this: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ez 36:28b; see also Jer 7:23; 31:33; Ez 37:27). Throughout history God demonstrates continuous, never-ending, enduring love.

Jesus is the final reestablishment of the covenant broken by previous generations. When he offered a cup of wine at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:20), and it was sealed with the blood that he shed on the Cross. Jesus is the embodiment of the covenant, and he is constantly faithful to his bride, the Body of Christ, the Church (see Eph 5:25b-27,32; Rv 19:7; 21:9). He is the definitive expression of God’s everlasting bond of love with every person.

When a man and woman enter into the Sacrament of Marriage, they establish of covenant of love that is sealed by God (Mk 10:9), and they pledge to be faithful to each other in the same way that God is always faithful. If one should ever violate the vows of marriage and sin, the other promises to show the mercy and compassion of God, extend forgiveness, and renew the covenant. It is God’s desire that the covenant of marriage be indissoluble.

The Sacrament of Marriage is a spiritual bond, a covenant, not a contract. A contract is written on paper, a covenant is written on the heart; a contract has fine print with terms and conditions, a covenant is unconditional; a contract is closed with signatures, a covenant is sealed with the spoken word; a contract is for a specific amount of time, a covenant is everlasting; a contract may have penalties if specific terms are not met, a covenant when violated extends forgiveness; a contract may have an escape clause, a covenant is binding forever; a contract is designed to protect one’s own rights, a covenant seeks what is best for the other person; a contract makes no mention of God, a covenant is based on faith in God; a contract relies on human energy, a covenant relies on grace; and a contract is executed before a civil official, a covenant is established before a minister who represents God.

Sometimes people wonder whether God is faithful because God is unseen. A married couple that remains true to their wedding promises is a living witness of covenantal love. A wedding anniversary is an excellent time for the Church to reflect upon their fidelity, to celebrate the high ideals of marriage, and to declare, “This couple is proof and a beautiful example of the eternal love of the God of the covenant.”

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