wide angle view from the top level ~ 182 views
Location: Hohenpeissenberg, Bavaria
20 Jan 2013
today’s mass was about The Sacrament of Matrimony. 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. He chose to make man male and female, and to give them the power 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.
It is God, then, who bestowed upon humans the power of procreation. It is God who planned and who gave to men and women their genital organs. It is God who (to guarantee the perpetuation of the human race) attached to the use of those organs a high degree of physical pleasure.
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.
The sanctity of sex
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.
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.
To ensure the right use of the procreative power God founded the institution of marriage.
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, 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).
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.
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.”
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, like the emergence of the butterfly from its chrysalis; 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.
The priest cannot administer the sacrament of Matrimony; only the contracting 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.
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.
The promise of grace
If a husband (or a wife) is having a bad day, perhaps discouraged under the pressure of an acute domestic problem, tempted to self-pity, with the awful feeling that it was a mistake ever to get married—that is one good time to remember that Matrimony is a sacrament.
It is a good time to remember that each spouse has an absolute right to whatever grace may be needed in this emergency; whatever grace may be needed to strengthen human weakness and to guide to a solution of the problem.
To Christian spouses who do their human best to make theirs a truly Christian marriage, God has pledged his grace, when needed and as needed.
As the just-wed couple turn away from the altar, their souls are spiritually stronger, spiritually more beautiful than when they came to the altar a few moments earlier.
It is essential, of course, that they present themselves to receive this sacrament with souls which already are in the state of sanctifying grace.
For its full effectiveness this grace needs the cooperation of both partners to the marriage. The grace is intended for that single entity, that “one-from-two,” which a married couple have become. But if one partner should prove derelict to Christian duty, the other spouse still can count on exceptional graces of strength and wisdom.
To be more specific, the sacramental grace of Matrimony:
Perfects the natural love of husband and wife;
Elevates this love to a supernatural level which far surpasses mere mental and physical compatibility;
Gives to marital love a sanctifying quality, making it an instrument for growth in holiness and marriage a path to sainthood;
Imparts conscientiousness in the begetting and rearing of children;
Gives prudence in the innumerable problems consequent upon family life;
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.
The marriage bond
In addition to the conferring of grace, another effect of the sacrament of Matrimony is the forging of the marriage bond, a moral change wrought in the souls of the married couple.
By the unity of marriage is meant that a man can have only one wife, and a woman only one husband. They are two in one flesh, not many in one flesh. Since Christ’s time, monogamy (one spouse) must be the rule without exception.
A Catholic couple, both esteeming marriage as a vocation under God, receiving the sacrament of Matrimony after a chaste courtship in which prayer and the sacraments have kept God close, kneeling together to receive Holy Communion at their Nuptial Mass—there is a marriage upon which they, and all who love them, can pin their hopes.