The Sacrament of Marriage
Marriage is the sacred union of a man and woman that comes from the hand of God. In other words, God invented marriage, not man. By creating us male and female, God inscribed the call to marriage in our very being. This is not the truth just for Catholics but for all persons. It’s the way were made.
Marriage in the Catholic Church is a Sacrament. Much more than just a contract, it is a covenant between a husband and wife ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. As such, the love between a husband and wife should point to the love God has for His people. By faithfully living their marriage covenant, couples help build the Kingdom of God by making manifest His love.
The Church of the Madalene is pleased to assist and to host wedding celebrations. For more information about participating in the Sacrament of Marriage at the Church of the Madalene, call the church office for more information 918-744-0023.
The Sacrament of Marriage: A Better Understanding
Matrimony and the sanctity of sex
God didn't have to make the human race male and female as He did. God didn't have to share His creative power with His own creatures and make the beginning of a new human life depend upon the free cooperation of a man and a woman with Himself. There is a limitless number of other ways in which God could have arranged for the multiplication of human beings, had He chosen to do so. But God didn't do it any other way.
He chose to make man male and female, and to give him the power, in partnership with Himself, to produce new human life. By the act of intimate union which we call sexual intercourse, man and woman would fashion a physical image of themselves; and into this new body, so wondrously begun, God would infuse a spiritual and immortal soul. Since God is the author of sex and since all that God does is good, it follows then that sex in itself is something good. Indeed, because of its close relationship with God who is a partner to the reproductive act, sex is not merely something good—it is something sacred and holy. This is a point that needs emphasizing, this basic sanctity of sex. When the sense of the sacredness of sex is lost, the sanctity of marriage also is forgotten. Sex becomes a plaything, an exciting tool for pleasure rather than an instrument of God.
The union of marriage
To ensure the right use of the procreative power God founded the institution of marriage: the lifelong and irrevocable union of one man and one woman. The necessity of such a union is apparent, since it is essential not only that children be born but that they be lovingly reared and cared for by the father and mother who bring them into the world. But it was not merely for the purpose of peopling the earth that God instituted marriage. "It is not good that the man is alone," said God as Adam slept in Eden. "I will make him a helper like himself." It is God's design that man and woman should complete each other, draw strength from each other, and contribute to one another's spiritual growth. It is in the lifelong espousal of one man and one woman, wherein minds and hearts as well as bodies are fused into a new and richer unity, that this purpose of God is achieved. Jesus explicitly affirmed the permanence of marriage: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:7).
A new sacrament
Up to the time of Christ, marriage, although a sacred union, was still only a civil contract between a man and a woman. Jesus, however, took this contract, this exchange of marital consent between man and woman, and made the contract a conveyor of grace. He made marriage a sacrament, the sacrament of Matrimony among Christians. Matrimony is defined as "the sacrament by which a baptized man and a baptized woman bind themselves for life in a lawful marriage and receive the grace to discharge their duties."
Grace supports a natural union
From man's beginning, marriage was a sacred union. It was God's instrument for the begetting, the rearing, the education, and the moral training of successive generations of human beings. Marriage was a "natural," we might say, for elevation to the holy rank of a sacrament. Besides the priesthood, there is no state in life that pleads for grace as demandingly as does marriage. No matter how well matched they may be, it is not easy for any two people to live together day in and day out, year after year, with their inescapable faults and personality defects grating upon each other. It's not easy to help one another grow in goodness and nobility in spite of those faults—little by little adjusting to one another so that the faults of one "fit in" to the perfections of the other and unity arises from the very differences of the two persons. This is a beautiful evolution, but it is not easy. No matter how selfless a couple may be, it is not easy for them to face the prospect of responsible parenthood, with all the sacrifices that entails. Especially it is not easy to face the prospect of an ultimate judgment, in which they will have to answer to God for the souls of the children who have been entrusted to them. If ever there was a state of life which called for grace, marriage is it.
Who administers this sacrament?
A sacrament, as we know, is an outward sign that confers an inner grace. In the sacrament of Matrimony, the outward sign is the exchange of marital consent on the part of a baptized man and a baptized woman. In other words, the couple who are getting married administer the sacrament of Matrimony to each other. It is not correct to say (although we often do) that "John and Mary were married by the priest." More correctly we should say, "John and Mary married each other in the presence of the priest." The priest cannot administer the sacrament of Matrimony; only the couple can do that. The priest (or deacon) is simply the official witness, representing Christ and Christ's Church. The priest's presence is normally essential; without him there is no sacrament and no marriage. But he does not confer the sacrament.
Catholic marriage requires sacramental Matrimony
Aside from exceptional cases, a Catholic cannot validly contract marriage except in the presence of a priest. A Catholic who attempts to enter into marriage before a minister or a civil magistrate (such as a judge or a justice of the peace) is not really married at all. Two non-Catholics who are married by a minister or a civil magistrate are genuinely married. If the two are unbaptized, theirs is a "natural" marriage, such as was marriage before Jesus instituted the sacrament of Matrimony. If both non-Catholics are baptized, however, their marriage is a sacrament. But for a Catholic, there just isn't any other way to marry validly except to receive the sacrament of Matrimony. When Jesus institutes a sacrament, he requires that his followers use it.
In summary, the sacramental grace of Matrimony: 1) perfects the natural love of husband and wife; 2) elevates this love to a supernatural level which far surpasses mere mental and physical compatibility; 3) gives to marital love a sanctifying quality, making it an instrument for growth in holiness and marriage a path to sainthood; 4) imparts conscientiousness in the begetting and rearing of children; 5) gives prudence in the innumerable problems consequent upon family life; and 6) enables husband and wife to adjust to one another's shortcomings and to bear with one another's faults.
This is only a little of what the grace of Matrimony will accomplish for those who, by their cooperation, give God a chance to show what He can do.