After watching a program on EWTN, I decided to rewatch and take some notes to share:
Symbolon: Living the Faith
In the Rite of Marriage, the priest asks the couple three questions that shed much light on what marriage is really all about…
1. Have you come here freely? And without reservation to give yourselves in marriage?
2. Will honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?
3. Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?
Marriage is meant to be a free choice of each person. It is meant to be a total giving of ones self, holding nothing back. Love which is meant to be faithful all throughout ones life. And, it is meant to be a love which is fruitful, goes outward and willingly accepts children as a blessing from God. But to live a marriage that is free, total and faithful is not easy; we need God’s help, we need His Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Marriage is a Sacrament
Marriage is a great mystery, a sacrament or sign of Christ’s love. Eph. 5:32 Christ’s love, as well as “Married Love” is Free, Total, Faithful and Fruitful. We can see these for signs in the marriage ceremony itself. The priest asks the three questions of consent (see above) and these questions are not only present on the wedding day, be every day of married life.
Why do we number marriage among the seven sacraments of the Church? Whenever we take upon an office, and marriage is an office of a kind of service in the Church, God gives us a special grace in order to take on that office well and in this case it is to offer to love one other person in the same way that Christ loves His Church. Each one is Christ to the other in the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is extremely difficult, especially in this day and age, to live the life of matrimony – and Christ understands that and gives to us this special grace to live not in just a natural mode, but a supernatural mode which really makes us capable of loving others as Christ loves us. Like in the Wedding at Cana, that couple did everything they thought was necessary – and still came up short, but Christ was there! Jesus did not just give them the bare minimum to get by, but gave to them gallons and gallons of the best wine possible. God does not give just enough to get by, but enough to make your marriage rich and powerful.
Marriage should reflect Christ’s union with the Church
The first grace of matrimony is what we call the bond and this comes to be from the sacred promises the spouses make to one another. As the word “bond” suggests, it binds the two together in a permanent relationship, like Christ to His Church. So, strictly speaking, it isn’t that the Church doesn’t allow for divorce, but that the Church believes that divorce is impossible. This bond that is put together by God cannot be broken by any human power and that is why we say when we marry, “till death do us part.”
Marriage is indissoluble – it’s a life-long commitment.
Why can’t marriage just be a contract between a man and woman? What would that promise sound like? “I promise to stay with you in good times, in health and in wealth – until something better comes along.” There would be nobody crying, there’s nothing beautiful about that, this isn’t what our hearts long for. You would not be marrying a person, you would be marrying your own selfishness, you’re just marrying your own desires. Instead of being a true covenant – it’s just an exchange of goods and services and you can just imagine the insecurity that would build in a relationship. “Is my husband going to stay with me?” “Do I need to stay thin enough for him to stay around?” Then there’s the insecurity this would breed in the hearts of the children, “I don’t know if Dad is in this for the long run or not.” In the end, it’s not a total gift of one’s self, it’s just a partial loan. If marriage is supposed to be, as St. Paul said, a great sign of Christ’s love for the Church, then what does this say of Christ’s love for the Church? You know, “I will be with you until the end of the age, or maybe I’ll stick around or maybe I won’t?” This isn’t really the Vatican imposing her doctrines upon us, it is it is the longing of the human heart; every love longs to be eternal. “I will love you, and no other,” this is what the human heart longs for, a love which reflects the divine.
You may have heard the term “annulments” in the Church, and it is a term which is greatly misunderstood. It sounds as if the Church is making null that which would have otherwise been a valid marriage. The proper term is “a declaration of nullity.” This comes at the end of a long process in a court called a tribunal in which those engaged in the process of inquiry find that no marriage ever took place. So, an annulment is not a Catholic divorce, it is a finding that no marriage ever took place in the first place and so there is nothing to divorce.
Divorce is a legal term whereby a state or the government is dissolving a legitimate, valid, legal marriage. An annulment is something completely different, it is saying that would appear to be a valid sacramental union between two people was not valid and there never was a real union to begin with. How can that be? How can two people walk into a church as singles, perform the ceremony and walk out as singles? What could invalidate that union? Well, let’s say the man is forcing the woman to marry him, or let’s say the woman is being significantly deceitful – like saying “I have a huge credit card debt” or “I have a boyfriend, and I don’t want to tell my potential husband because that could really ruin the wedding day.” Obviously, these are going to be impediments to a valid sacramental union and so upon deep investigation and prayerful consideration, the Church will look back at that wedding day and if it was a valid marriage. If it was, then the Church will say “What God has put together, let no man separate.” These are the words of Christ, it is not the imposition of the Vatican upon us. When Christ told the Apostles, “When you marry a wife, divorce her and marry someone else, you commit adultery.” The disciples had a hard time with this! They said, “If that’s the case, then it’s better not to get married. If I can’t get divorced, then what’s the point of getting married in the first place?” It speaks to the hardness of heart that Christ was trying to redeem in the first place.
For making a marriage, consent is required. One has to be free, not forced (feel fear) whether internally or externally. Externally, one may desire to marry another person but if he or she is married to someone else, that is an external impediment to making that choice with this person. The free choice to marry also has to be an informed choice. Recall that marriage is to be free, total, faithful and fruitful. So if, for some reason, one directly wills against what marriage is – perhaps one decides “I am not going to permit fruitfulness, that I don’t want to have children,” or perhaps one directly wills against the permanence of marriage in that “I’ll marry for a while, divorce and then marry someone else later,” in that case, you’re not really consenting to what marriage is and if you’re not consenting to what marriage really is – then you’re not really marrying.
Who can enter into a Sacramental Marriage?
Two people who are:
- Opposite sex
- Free internally (they really choose this person to be their spouse)
- Free externally (not finding themselves in circumstances which make them unable to marry this particular person).
Full episodes available at: http://www.symboloncatholic.org – though I did not find this one. I watched this one on EWTN.
Another video, this one from Ascension Press: