‘The love of a man and a woman is made holy in the sacrament of marriage and becomes the mirror of your everlasting love.’
Marriage is a sacrament by which two people are united in love and become one.
A sacrament is the outward sign of something sacred. For many Christians, the sacraments as signs of the blessing of God, lie at the heart of worship.
For many people, marriage is simply a civil ceremony, a legal step confirming the union of a man and a woman. But most Christians believe that it is a sacrament, which conveys God’s blessing onto the newly wedded couple.
In 1984 in Britain there were 396,000 marriages and over half of these took place in a Register Office, which shows a decline in the amount of couples that opt for the more traditional marriage. Why do people marry?
The main reasons for marriage are as follows:
*to commit yourself to the person you love for a lifetime
*to bring up children in a secure and loving home
*to control and direct the sex instinct
*for friendship and companionship through life
In the gospel of Mark Jesus gives an explanation about the meaning and purpose of marriage, ‘……….And for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.’(Mk 10:7-8), ‘……..So they are no longer two but one. Man must not separate, then, what God has joined together.’(Mk 10:8-9)
The Catholic Church follows this teaching in Marks Gospel. Only death can end a marriage in the eyes of a church. If a couple have been married in a Church and get a divorce from the state, the Church teaches that they are still married in the eyes of God.
The vows carried out during a marriage are almost like a rulebook that tells the couple how they should treat each other and respect each other according to the words of God.
‘I take thee to be my wedded husband/wife to have and to hold
and thereto I give thee my promise.’
Both partners make this promise and then in turn they place a ring on each others fourth finger and repeat:
with my body I thee honour and all my worldly goods with thee I share
in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit.’
The ring is a sign of love and fidelity. The couple have promised themselves to each other in love as a permanent and exclusive relationship. The ring is a token of their promise to each other.
Since the middle ages it has been traditional for the bridegroom to place the ring on the fourth finger of the bride. The ring was placed on the fourth finger after the words, ‘In the name of the Father, son and Holy Spirit, Amen. Another reason for placing the ring on the fourth finger is because it was believed that it contained a vain going to the heart.
In a Register Office there are only two statements required from both the bride and groom:
‘I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I may not be joined in matrimony to……..’ and
‘I call upon these persons here present to witness that I (FULL NAME) do take thee…….to be my lawful wedded wife/husband.’
When a marriage takes place in a Register Office they are made infront of the Superintendent Registrar of the district.
These vows are very sacred and are a guideline for all marriages. They are supposed to be undertaken by both partners in the marriage. When they are not followed properly a breakdown will occur within the marriage and both spouses will suffer because of it.
Marriage is a public affair as it is carried out in your local community.
Through marriage God’s love is said to be ‘reflected’. In the love that the man and women have for each other.
When Pope John Paul ll spoke in Britain, he presented this vision of married life:
‘A man and a woman pledge themselves to one another in an unbreakable alliance of total mutual self-giving.’ A total union of love. Love that is not a passing emotion or temporary infatuation but a responsible and free decision to bind oneself completely, ‘In good times and bad’, to one’s partner. It is a love to be proclaimed before the eyes of the whole world.’
In this statement the Pope is saying that marriage is concerned with the best type of possible love and this love must be shown throughout the world.
Unfortunately in some marriages this love may not be pure or strong enough so some marriages do break down. There are many causes responsible for the breakdown of marriages.
‘We must reach out with love- the love of Christ- to those who know the pain of failure in marriage; to those who know the loneliness of bringing up a family on their own; to those whose family life is dominated by tragedy or by illness of mind or body.’(Pope John Paul-in York on May 31st 1982)
The main causes of marriage breakdown are:
Failure- meaning breakdown in communication caused by selfishness, argument, neglect, resentment etc.
Tragedy- accidents or sudden death, loss of income, redundancy, unemployment etc.
Illness- when one partner may become a real burden to the other, either physically or mentally.
All of the above cause great strain on even the strongest of marriages when this strain becomes unbearable a divorce is usually carried out where both partners split up.
Britain has the highest divorce rate in Western Europe. Most divorces occur due to, finance, lack of companionship, false hopes, human nature and children.
In 1857 a divorce could be obtained by a man if he could prove his wife had been unfaithful. By 1937 desertion and insanity were grounds for divorce also. In 1966 a report from the Church of England stated that divorce should be allowed for the breakdown of marriage. In 1969 came the Divorce Act, some people felt that this made divorce to easy but many divorces had occurred before 1969, they had just not been legally dissolved.
As a result many young people have suffered the trauma of seeing their parents divorce. As the idea of a family has been attacked society has become increasingly violent and immoral.
Others say that a great deal of pain has been indured by couples staying together for the children. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this argument the Christian Churches have to deal with divorce,
*on the one hand they feel that they have to uphold the sanctity of marriage as this is expressed in the Bible
*on the other hand they know that they need love, support and care for the people who have been divorced.
The Divorce Act allows a divorce to be granted if it can be shown that the marriage has suffered an ‘irretrievable breakdown’. For example, if the couple have been living apart for two years, if adultery has occurred or if there has been ‘unreasonable behaviour’
A number of organizations exist to help couples who are experiencing difficulties in their marriage. Two of them are Relate and the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council.
Relate- Began in the 1940’s. It is a charity which depends on clients for financial support. Its marriage counselors are volunteers who undergo two years of training. Relate provides help for people in a number of ways:
*by providing counselling to those experiencing specific problems
*by providing counselling to help those who have lost a partner due to death etc.
*helping couples enhance their relationship
CMAC- Catholic Marriage Advisory Council is the largest counselling service in the U.K. CMAC offers:
*marriage guidance counselling with trained counsellors
*help for couple who want to know more about natural family planning
*research into the ways marriages can be sustained and enriched.
‘Suppose a man marries a woman and later decides that he doesn’t want her because she is guilty of some shameful act. So he writes out divorce papers, gives them to her and sends her away from his home.’(Old Testament, Deuteronomy 24:1) and
‘For married people I have a command which is not my own but the Lord’s: a wife must not leave her husband; but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband: and a husband must not divorce his wife.’(1 Corinthians 7:10-11)
‘Man must not separate……what God has joined together.’(Jesus, in Mk 10:9)
‘I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman, commits adultery.’(Jesus in Matthew 19:8-9)
The Catholic Church teaches that a marriage between two baptized couples is a sacrament and cannot be dissolved. If the marriage involves one partner who is not baptised then the marriage can be dissolved but only under serious circumstances.
The Catholic Church can also annul a marriage if there is a lack of consent, lack of judgment, an inability to carry out the duties of the marriage and a lack of intention.
‘Every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. A man should fulfill his duty as a husband and a woman should fulfill her duty as a wife.’ (1 Corinthians 7:2-4)
sex before marriage yes or no?