The Sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life - CCC 1661
Sacraments at the Service of Communion: Matrimony
Scripture begins with the creation and union of man and woman and ends with ‘the wedding feast of the Lamb’ (Revelation 19:7,9). Jesus entered the public ministry at the wedding of Cana, when he turned water into wine. Clearly, marriage reveals something about God’s relationship with us. Scripture often refers to marriage, its origin and purpose, the meaning God gave to it, and its renewal in the covenant made by Jesus with his Church. Man and woman were created for each other.
The Sacrament of Marriage is a covenant, which is more than a contract. A covenant always expresses a relationship between persons. The marriage covenant refers to the relationship between the husband and wife, a permanent union of persons capable of knowing and loving each other and God. The celebration of marriage is also a liturgical act, appropriately held in a public liturgy at church. Catholics are urged to celebrate their marriage within the Eucharistic Liturgy.
A Sacrament of love
By their marriage, the couple witnesses Christ's spousal love for the Church. One of the Nuptial Blessings in the liturgical celebration of marriage refers to this in saying, ‘Father, you have made the union of man and wife so holy a mystery that it symbolises the marriage of Christ and his Church.’
Husband and wife are called to mirror Christ in Holy Matrimony. They are called to give of themselves in a manner that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. According to the Lord’s own teaching, the matrimonial union is indissoluble (see Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:7-9), just as Christ never withdraws his love from us in spite of our failings.
Marriage is the call to be open to life, to receive it as a gift, and to bring it into the world. God has intended the act of marital love as the means of expressing our desire for intimacy, one in which we, as responsible parents, are open to the gift of life. Marriage is fashioned by God as the institution by which children are welcomed into the world, loved, and come to know their heavenly Father. Through marriage preparation, the Church hopes all couples will be able to discern how this beautiful vocation is about growing in uniting love and cooperating with God in creating His children.
What makes a Catholic marriage?
The sacredness of marriage: Marriage is not merely a human agreement between two consenting individuals; it is a relationship - a covenant - before and under God (Genesis 2:22).
The intimacy of marriage: Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships, uniting a man and a woman in a ‘one-flesh’ union (Genesis 2:23 -25). Marriage involves ‘leaving’ your family and ‘being united’ to your spouse. It makes two into a union of one in an unconditional, selfless and life-giving love.
The mutuality of marriage: Marriage is a relationship of free self-giving of a man and a woman to one another (Ephesians 5:25-30). The husband and wife are to be first and foremost concerned about the wellbeing of the other person and to be committed to each other in steadfast love and devotion. This involves the need for forgiveness.
The exclusiveness of marriage: Marriage is not only permanent, sacred, intimate, and mutual; it is also exclusive (Genesis 2:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5). This means that no other human relationship must interfere with the marriage commitment between husband and wife.
Want to receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony (Marriage)?
- You must be free to marry. Those in irregular marital situations (e.g. civil divorce) must approach their parish priest in the first instance for advice.
- The diocesan policy on marriage states that at least six months’ notice of marriage is normally required at the parish closest to the Catholic party. This is to ensure paperwork and preparation can both be completed.
- Attend a marriage preparation course approved by the Church. You can find out more information on when these courses are available on our Marriage and Family Life pages.