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Uniting a man and woman

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

What is Matrimony?
Marriage is a Sacrament at the Service of Communion, directed toward the salvation of others. It unites a baptized man and woman in a covenantal lifelong bond of faithful love, as a sign of Christ’s love for the Church. In the Sacrament of Marriage, Christ is the source of the love for the married couple.

St. Paul calls married couples to love each other as Christ loved the Church. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:22-33). Jesus laid down His life for His bride, the Church, to present her to our Heavenly Father holy and without sin. Christ’s love for the Church was sacrificial selflessness! Married couples, too, are called to this same sacrificial love!

In the Rite of the Sacrament of Marriage, the couple is asked three questions: Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in Marriage? Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives? Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church? Then, the couple exchanges a valid consent: “I, take you, to be my wife/husband, I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love and honor you, all the days of my life.” After the couple makes their vows to each other, they exchange rings and say “take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We can reason from the questions, vows, and exchange of rings in the Sacrament of Marriage that the Sacrament is free, total, loving, exclusive, permanent, honoring, faithful, indissoluble, and open to having children and raising them in the faith.

The Sacrament of Marriage is indissoluble. The Sacramental Marriage bond is sealed by God and can never be separated by anyone or anything, not even divorce (Mt. 19:4-6).

The Sacrament of Marriage is faithful. The couple vows to love and obey each other faithfully till death. The married couple’s fidelity ought to mirror God’s fidelity to humanity.

The Sacrament of Marriage is fruitful. The married couple promises to the Lord, the Church, and each other to be open to having children and raising them up in the faith. “Each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life” (CCC 2366). Therefore, the use of sterilization and all forms of contraception to prevent life is a grave sin (CCC 2366-2379).

The Sacrament of Marriage is free and total. There cannot be any impediments to marriage. The couple must be free to marry each other to be able to give of themselves to the other totally without condition.

Who can receive Marriage?
Any baptized man and woman intending the Sacramental vows can receive the Sacrament of Marriage. Each person must be free to marry, able and capable of consenting. “Matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which a man and a woman mutually give and accept each other through an irrevocable covenant in order to establish marriage” (Code of Canon Law 1057).

Who is the minister of Marriage?
The ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage are the couple, the baptized man and woman receiving the Sacrament. The deacon, priest, or bishop assists at the celebration of Marriage and acts as a witness and representative of the Church “and gives the blessing of the Church” (CCC 1630).

What is needed for Marriage to be valid?
The essential elements for the Sacrament of Marriage are the proper form, matter, and intentions. The proper form and matter are both the exchange of valid consent. The minister must intend to do what the Church intends for the Sacrament of Marriage.

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