It begins with God’s decision to create man and woman in the divine image (Gen 1:27). It continues with God’s decision to join man and woman in a union of love so intimate that they “become one” (Gen 2: 24). It ends with God saying to them, “Have many children”(Gen 1:18).
This means that God “ ‘is the author of marriage.’ The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator” (CCC, 1603).
The Sacramentality of Marriage
God joined man and woman into a union of love so intimate that it mirrors God’s own love for the human race. God’s love has two distinguishing characteristics. It is creative and redemptive –
+ creative in the sense that it is “life-giving.” It gives birth to the human race.
+ redemptive in the sense that it is “forgiving.” When the human race sins, God, in the person of Jesus, forgives and redeems it (CCC 1602-1611).
In a similar way, married love is creative (life-giving) and redemptive (forgiving). It gives birth to life; and when a partner sins, it gives birth to forgiveness. St. Paul carried the image of marriage a step further. He saw it as also mirroring Christ’s love for the Church:
Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave his life for it. (Ephesians 5:25)
And so the spouses’ love for each other mirrors not only God’s love for the human race but also Christ’s love for the Church. All three loves are creative (life- giving) and redemptive (forgiving).
Is marriage a Contract or a Covenant?
Traditionally people have thought of marriage as a legal contract. On one level, it is that, but there are some essential differences. Unlike other legal contracts, the marriage contract is based on love. Marriage differs from a legal contract in that it is an open-ended contract, “for better, for worse.”
A legal contract attempts to spell out all possible conditions which might arise in a given situation. In Christian marriage you make an unconditional promise, not knowing where the promise will lead, what the promise will entail. The unconditional promise is the essence of Christian marriage. Who can make such a promise?
Only those people who were are willing to make another unconditional promise – to commit themselves to Jesus Christ in faith, not knowing what faith will demand or where faith will lead.
We often refer to Christian marriage as a Covenant. The word covenant in the Bible refers to God’s covenant with the people of Israel – ‘I will be your God, you will be my people.’
In the New Testament, at the Last Supper, Jesus spoke ‘of the new and everlasting covenant.’
In his covenant God “Wedded” himself to us for eternity, and he will not turn back. Jesus’ humanity is the pledge of that. Our God will always be faithful. Married couples enter into God’s eternal faithfulness for there is no other way for their love to be divine and complete.
Sacrament of marriage is not a one-time shot to see couples through life. Rather it is a life-long blessing available to those couples who pledge themselves to fidelity, growth and service. As they continually reaffirm their “yes” to each other, they acknowledge, draw upon and witness to the power and presence of Christ in their lives.
The permanent, open-ended unconditional pledge is frequently misunderstood. Isn’t the Church old fashioned? Why insist on permanence? The promise “for better, for worse” is not made by the Church. The promise is made by the bride and groom, who believe in Christ’s Word and in the kind of love he reveals. The Church witnesses and affirms their promise, and takes it literally – assuming people mean what they say. What is Christian marriage, then? The Church’s understanding of marriage can be summed up in this way:
Marriage, as a Christian sacrament, is a life long and faithful union of a man and a woman mutually committed to sharing their life and love together. Modelled after and strengthened by God’s own love for His people, it is an intimate partnership in which each person gives the other freedom to grow and which is directed toward bearing fruit.
The ideal of marriage is not always realized. From earliest times, the Church has taught that the marriage bond cannot be broken or dissolved. It basis it’s teaching on Jesus’ words: “What God has joined, no one can separate” (Mark 10:9).
In other words, by divine law, the marriage bond “is perpetual and exclusive” (CCC 1638).
Against this background, the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this compassionate observation: There are some situations by which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. (CCC 1649)
In other words, the Church recognizes that living out the lofty vocation of marriage involves “good times and bad.” And sometimes the “bad times” overpower the “good times.” Marriage partners begin to admit things they denied before being married. And problems that they hoped marriage would solve grow even worse (CCC, 1606-1608).
Prayer and Counselling can help.
The Church recognizes the reality of failed marriages. And so, for very serious reasons, it tolerates separation or civil divorce. Remarriage, however, is possible only when one spouse dies or a “declaration of nullity” is granted. A declaration of nullity is a judgement by the Church that what seemed to be a marriage was not. In other words, the absence of some essential (such as lacking the maturity to marry) invalidated the attempted union from the start.
An annulment, therefore, is not a divorce, since no marriage existed to begin with.
Catholics who find themselves remarrying when they are not free to do so should continue to worship with the Catholic community and seek its support, even though they may not receive communion (CCC 1648- 1651).
+ Ruth 1: v1– 4:v22 Love story
+ 1 John 4:7-12 Perfect love
+ CCC, 1659-1666 Marriage in brief.
Want to get married at St. Alfred's?
Contact Parish – 6 months notice is required.
A Marriage Preparation Course is required.
Paperwork: Prenuptial Inquiry done with a priest or Deacon.
You will need to furnish an updated copy of your baptism certificate.
Planning the liturgy – a binder with readings and prayers of the faithful is provided.
You will also need to arrange a meeting with our Music Director, Jessica Kapoor.
What, then, is married love?
St. Paul’s beautiful description of mature love:
Love is patient and kind;
it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable;
love does not keep a record of wrongs;
love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.
Love never gives up.........
Love is eternal. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.