A Sacrament of Christ’s Love Christian marriage that is raised to the dignity of a sacrament is modeled upon Christ’s love for the Church. In marriage, therefore, spouses are called upon to give visible expression to Christ’s love for the Church by leading a life of sacrificial love. “Christ our Lord has abundantly blessed this love, which is rich in its various features, coming as it does from the spring of divine love and modeled on Christ’s own union with the Church” (GS 48). Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and ends with a vision of the ‘wedding feast of the Lamb’ (cf. Gen 1:27; Rev 19:7, 9). Sacred Scripture speaks of marriage and its ‘mystery’, its institution, and the meaning God has given to it. It also speaks of its origin and its purpose… the difficulties arising from sin, and its renewal in Jesus Christ.? The Old Testament describes God’s love for his people as similar to the love of a husband for his wife. The New Testament also compares Christ’s love for his Church to the love of a husband for his wife (cf. Eph 5:21-33). He unites himself indissolubly to his Bride, the Church.
The Catholic Church teaches that “Marriage is not a purely human institution, despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes.”8 All cultures uphold the greatness of matrimonial union. “The well-being of the individual person and both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life” (GS 47). Hence marriage is not a tangential issue in Christian life. It is right at the heart of the Christian mystery. It serves to illustrate Christian mystery by means of its striking analogy. No analogy is really adequate in its attempt to communicate Christ’s love for the Church. Yet, speaking of marriage and the family, Pope John Paul II states, “In this entire world there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, Unity and Community. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery.”
God’s love for his people is central to Judeo-Christian religious tradition. “The communion of love between God and people… finds a meaningful expression in the marriage covenant which is established between a man and a woman.” This “communion between God and his people finds its definite fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the bridegroom who loves and gives himself as the savior of humanity, uniting it to himself as his body.”
We cannot understand the Christian mystery unless we keep in mind the “great mystery” involved in the creation of man as male and female and the vocation of both to conjugal love. According to the analogy, God’s eternal plan for us is to “marry”y. He wanted this eternal plan to be so present to us that he stamped an image of it in our very being by creating us male and female and calling us to marriage.
“For this reason,” St Pauls in his epistle writes, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church”
This union is both creative and transformative. The self-emptying of the spouses in “conjugal love reaches that fullness to which it is interiorly ordained, conjugal charity, which is the proper and specific way in which the spouses participate in and are called to live the very charity of Christ who gave himself on the cross. In a sacramental marriage, the husband lays down his life to serve her husband, as a visual reminder to the world that God the Father sent his only Son, “not to condemn the world, but to save it”, and that the Son freely laid down his life for us, and as his Bride, we choose to lay down our lives to serve him.
This excerpt is taken from the Book “Love in Crisis”.