Marriage is that sacrament by which a baptised man and woman are bound together by vows to an exclusive lifelong commitment to one another and to accepting and raising children. In this sacrament God gives grace for the fulfilment of these duties.
What are the roots of Marriage?
God created human beings as male and female. This complementarity is the natural basis of Marriage, which throughout history has provided a stable, loving environment for the procreation and raising of children. Marriage is naturally monogamous and indissoluble but, due to the Fall, polygamy and divorce have often been tolerated. Jesus says this was not God’s intention in creation:
“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. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Mark 10:2-9
Christ and the sacrament of Marriage
The Catechism affirms that Marriage was “raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament” (ccc. 1601).
The nuptial relationship of Christ with his Church is made present in sacramental Marriage, marking it with a specifically Christian character. St Paul confirms this by referring to Marriage as a mystērion, which can be translated as ‘sacrament’.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery (mystērion) is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ep 5:31-32
This link with Christ and the Church implies: joy in loving union and a foretaste of the ‘Wedding Feast of the Lamb’ (Rv 19:7); sacrifice, in that the spouses follow Christ in giving their lives for each other unto death; fruitfulness, in both the growth in holiness of the spouses and acceptance of children.
What is necessary for the sacrament?
The spouses confer the sacrament on one another. They must vow freely, have no impediments (such as previous valid Marriages), be committed to one another for life and be open to children from God. Following the established rite, each must say, “I take you…” in the presence of a minister and witnesses.
As Marriage is indissoluble until death, divorce is impossible. An annulment is the recognition by the Church that there was never a valid Marriage.
This article is originally from ‘CREDO: The Catholic Faith explained’ by CTS.