Marriage is a beautiful relationship, but it’s also a sacrament. Sacraments are an outward sign of inward grace, and matrimony in particular offers an image of the Trinity and the love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on Gaudium et Spes, a document from the Second Vatican Council, and particularly how it shows the beauty of the sacrament of marriage.
Fr. Matthew pointed out that in modern times marriage can be seen as simply a romantic decision or simply a practical one, but that marriage as Christ intended it offers so much more. He said, “Yes, there is mutual help and service that is rendered. But this is not just a practical relationship. This is not just a relationship between a man and a woman born out of convenience. This is one of intimate union, not even just of action, of mission in their life, but even of their persons.”
The married love that a husband and wife share is an image of the Trinity, and the intimate love and union that a husband and wife experience points us to the intimate union and love that is shared between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Matthew emphasized the special intimacy that comes from the sacrament of marriage, saying, “Have you ever heard or noticed how people, the longer they’re married, the more alike they become? They start to look like each other. I mean, almost physically, although that can’t possibly happen. But what happens is they’re also learning common gestures, common expressions. Husband and wife tend to, over time, resemble each other more because of the intimate union of their persons. You can see it even externally. And it’s to me a beautiful reminder of that intimacy that husband and wife are called to.”
Reading from Gaudium et Spes, Fr. Matthew pointed to a section that highlights what this intimacy points to, and how it is strengthened through the Church. He read, “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power, and the saving activity of the Church.”
Though marriage is a sacrament, in order for married love to blossom, it requires the other sacraments, in order that husbands and wives may be continually perfected through their day-to-day lives. Fr. Matthew pointed out that while grace makes marriage possible, the sacraments allow it to blossom.
“It’s Christ grace and the power that comes from His redemptive act that makes the sacrament of matrimony possible. Right? If it wasn’t for for Jesus and His institution of the sacrament of matrimony, then there would only be the natural institution of marriage,” he explained.
“On the other hand, it is the church that allows this relationship to blossom. In the sacraments, through the gift of Holy Communion that couples can receive together and grow in deeper union, through the sacrament of Confession, which helps heal the woundedness that not only husbands and wives, but that all of us experience. So how beautiful it is that that marriage is caught up not only in the love between man and woman, but even in the love of the Trinity, and is preserved by the protection of the Church.”
Participating in the sacraments as a married couple also fosters greater union with the Body of Christ, through the baptism of children, the communion to comes from receiving the Eucharist, and the healing that comes from the sacrament of Confession. All these impact not only the individual holiness of spouses, not only the marriage relationship, but the entire Church.
Encouraging spouses to recognize the beauty, the power, and the meaning of their marriage, Fr. Matthew said, “In your married love, caught up into that divine love and governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power in the saving activity of the church, you are contributing to not only your own salvation, not only to the salvation of your children that God might bless you with, but even to the entire Church. Your holiness is building up the Church.”