Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother. For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.
GAUDIUM ET SPES §48 – Vatican Council II
In every culture marriage exists for God created humanity male and female. As Christ put it, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `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.” (Matt 19:4-6) Marriage is the mutual giving of love freely and fruitfully in life long commitment. However by his incarnation, life, death and resurrection Christ has elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, the Sacrament of Matrimony.
The Sacrament of Matrimony, alongside Holy Orders, is a sacrament ordered towards the salvation of another – it is a sacrament at the service of communion. The husband and wife enter into a sacramental relationship by which they will mutually build each other up in the faith, and pass that faith on to their children. This family is the basic building block of all societies, including the society of the Church. The couple are a sign of the love Christ has for his Church and an icon of the Kingdom of God made manifest in the world. It is for this reason that Christian marriage is described as a vocation.
Christian marriage incorporates all the goodness of the natural desire to marry; love, the desire for a family, to spend a lifetime with that other who is special to you. However it also goes much further, asking questions about how to grow together in faith, how to build up the Church, and how to be good witnesses to the Gospel. Most of all though matrimony is a sacrament, which means that it has specific graces attached to it. In our fallen world God draws alongside a couple, enters into their lives, and gives them graces to aid them on their journey into family life and lifelong fidelity.
When you fall in love and decide to get married it is a beautiful thing, and something the Church celebrates. The Church is with you on this journey and your parish priest will help you prepare to enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony, talking you through the meaning and graces of the sacrament, the commitment you are making to each other and to your future children, and help you think through how you will live out this wonderful sacrament of communion together.
GAUDIUM ET SPES (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)
Vatican Council II on 7th December, 1965
HUMANAE VITAE (Human Life)
Encyclical of Bl. Pope Paul VI on 25th July, 1968
FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO (The Family in the Modern World)
Apostolic Exhortation of Pope St. John Paul II on 22nd November, 1981
PREPARATION FOR THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE
Pontifical Council for the Family
NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING
The Couple to Couple League in Great Britain