Early Writings Recognizing Sacrament of Marriage

I was wondering if anyone knew of early Christian writings that explicitly reference marriage as a sacrament of the church.

Thanks in advance…

Eph. 5: 32
Paul concludes with the significant words in which he characterizes Christian marriage: "This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church."


Early enough for ya?

Of course, Paul does not mean it in the strict Catholic sense of sacrament. And I thought the word was mystery here?

Sure he does. The sacraments are a mystery. We will never understand how God transmits His grace through the sacraments, but He does.

And when Paul compares marriage to the mystical union of Christ to the Church, that IS highly sacramental. Just as we are wedded to our spouses, and create new life through our marriages, Christ and His Bride the Church create new life through the sacraments in their union together.

Paul wouldn’t be comparing marriage to Christ and the Church if he didn’t mean it in a sacramental way.

Sacrament in in Latin. Mysterion in Greek.

They are the same word. Mysterion is used in the Greek speaking Catholic Churches, Sacramentum in the Latin Rite.

Here are some:

~210 A.D. - “[Jesus is] a monogamist in spirit, having one Church as His spouse, according to the figure of Adam and of Eve, which (figure) the apostle interprets of that great sacrament of Christ and the Church, (teaching that), through the spiritual, it was analogous to the carnal monogamy.” Tertullian, On Monogamy Chapter 5.

~208 A.D. - “[W]hen the apostle interprets, The two shall be (joined) into one flesh, of the Church and Christ, according to the spiritual nuptials of the Church and Christ (for Christ is one, and one is His Church), we are bound to recognise a duplication and additional enforcement for us of the law of unity of marriage, not only in accordance with the foundation of our race, but in accordance with the sacrament of Christ.” Tertullian, On Exhortation to Chastity Chapter 5.

420 A.D. - " ‘A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall become one flesh.’ Genesis 2:24. This the apostle applies to the case of Christ and of the Church, and calls it then a great sacrament. What, then, in Christ and in the Church is great, in the instances of each married pair it is but very small, but even then it is the sacrament of an inseparable union." St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence Chapter 23.

Jesus Christ himself spoke of the supernatural component of a Christian marriage when he said, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9)

In the early second century, St. Ignatius mentioned the ordinarily necessary involvement of the Church in Christian marriage, saying, "But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God . . . " ( 5, 2To Polycarp)

Echoing the words of Jesus, in the early third century, St. Clement of Alexandria said, “… mulier cum viro per Deum conjungitur,” (". . . a wife is joined to a man by God.") ( 3, 10The Stromata)

Thus, when a Christian man and a Christian woman marry, when they exchange marriage vows with the Church’s approval and consummate their marriage, God not only witnesses their actions but through those very outward signs God graciously joins the husband and wife together in an indissoluble, lifelong, spiritual bond. And it is reasonable to assume that the good Lord would not create such an indissoluble bond between two people without also providing them with sufficient additional grace that that bond can be salvific for them. Thus, the elements of a sacrament in the modern technical sense are all there: an outward sign (the exchange of marriage vows and the consummation of the marriage), instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, that gives grace (the indissoluble, spiritual bond between husband and wife and the additional grace sufficient that it can be salvific for them).

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