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The Sacrament of Marriage is a lasting commitment of a man and a woman to a lifelong partnership, established for the good of each other and the procreation of their children.
The Old Testament states that man was made in the image and likeness of God, and that man and woman were made for each other and through marriage, they become one. The Church teaches that since God created man out of love, and calls on him to love, it is proper that the union of man and woman should be a Sacrament. The love of man and woman mirrors the love of God and their children are part of God’s creation
Marriage is different to most of the Sacraments which are conferred by a priest, or bishop. The man and woman confer the Sacrament of Marriage upon each other when they express their consent to marry before God and the Church.
As a Sacrament Marriage is part of the Church’s liturgy. Jesus taught that marriage is indissoluble: “Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Matthew 19:6). Through the sacrament of Matrimony, the Church teaches that Jesus gives the strength and grace to live the real meaning of marriage. In the writings of St Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:25–26).
The Marriage Ceremony
The exchange of consent between a man and a woman is an essential part of the marriage ceremony.
Catholic wedding vows are generally preceded by three questions from the priest:
“Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”
“Will you honour each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”
“Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”
The presence of the priest and of other witnesses testifies to the fact that marriage is part of the Church which recognises the lifelong and exclusive commitment of the bride and groom to each other. Catholic marriage is a vocation and it requires the married couple to accept certain obligations toward each other, the children, and the community.
The bride and groom say “ I do” to the wedding vows, but the presence of the Church community supports the couple throughout their married life. All those present are acknowledged to be saying to the couple “We do” We witness and support your marriage.
The popular notion that a wedding is primarily the business of the bride and groom is not true in the Sacramental sense. The Church, witness of the marriage, has a stake in the Sacrament of marriage. It makes a difference to the community of believers and to society that marriages are freely entered , “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” (Familiaris Consortio, #86) Pope John Paul II
Exchanging of Rings:
The rings, although not required as part of a Catholic marriage, are an ancient symbol of the couple’s commitment to one another and their desire to enter into the covenant relationship of marriage. In the Scriptures, rings were given as signs of commitment. After being blessed by the priest the rings are exchanged between bride and groom. This exchange signifies that in married life the weaknesses of one partner will be compensated for by the strengths of the other.