God as the recipient of marriage vows?


#1

In a recent wedding prep session, the priest told my fiancé and I that we do not make our marriage vows to each other, but to God, who accepts them and fulfills them on our behalves.

*I have no idea what that means. *

I would like to understand it, though, since I’ve spent the last year or so preparing to make this commitment to the woman I love, personally, financially, and sacramentally. I think I should understand the theology behind this lifelong agreement I’m about to make (and in my defense, I thought I did).

If you’re wondering why I didn’t ask him then and there, he said it as an off the cuff remark and then changed the topic. Since I was running on about 2 hours sleep that day, I forgot to ask him about it before I left.


#2

With the sacrament of matrimony, in the Latin Church, the couple confers the sacrament on one another, while the priest simply witnesses their consent on behalf of the Church. The blessing of the priest does not cause the marriage to come about, simply the mutual consent of the spouses (unlike other sacraments, for instance, the Eucharist, which requires the priest’s speaking of the words over the bread and wine).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say:

1623 According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. In the tradition of the Eastern Churches, the priests (bishops or presbyters) are witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses,but for the validity of the sacrament their blessing is also necessary.

1630 The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church’s minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c3a7.htm

-ACEGC


#3

Thanks Edward. That was my understanding.


#4

[quote="Binary, post:1, topic:297489"]
In a recent wedding prep session, the priest told my fiancé and I that we do not make our marriage vows to each other, but to God, who accepts them and fulfills them on our behalves.

*I have no idea what that means. *

I would like to understand it, though, since I've spent the last year or so preparing to make this commitment to the woman I love, personally, financially, and sacramentally. I think I should understand the theology behind this lifelong agreement I'm about to make (and in my defense, I thought I did).

If you're wondering why I didn't ask him then and there, he said it as an off the cuff remark and then changed the topic. Since I was running on about 2 hours sleep that day, I forgot to ask him about it before I left.

[/quote]

The fulfillment of the sacrament of Matrimony is the reception of the Holy Spirit, which grace strengthens us in our marriage in all respects.

Also, in the Catholic matrimonial covenant there is compliance with divine law, natural law, and canon law. In both the eastern and Latin canon law, the Church must give aproval for a valid marriage involving a Catholic. This is in fulfillment of its Apostolic authority given by Christ to his Church.

Canon 1055.1 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children, has, between the baptised, been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.
Canon 1059 The marriage of catholics, even if only one party is baptised, is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of the civil authority in respect of the merely civil effects of the marriage.
Canon 1163.2 A marriage which is invalid because of an impediment of the natural law or of the divine positive law, can be validated retroactively only after the impediment has ceased.


#5

I don’t understand that priest’s position. The marriage promises are addressed to each other, not God. I would have said that the vows are made to each other BEFORE God, and that the fulfilling of the vows is what is lived-out in married life through the actions of the spouses. The priest’s position makes them sound like the kind of vows that a member of a religious order makes to God in the process of formal acceptance into such an order.


#6

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that in a sacramental marriage you are not just making promises to each other, but you are also making promises to God?

I’m not sure about that last part exactly, but at least it seems like whatever the priest meant that it would have to do with the different role of God in a sacramental marriage as opposed to a purely natural one.


#7

Thanks Vico. Could you dumb down your first sentence a bit for me? If you asked me, I would have said that the fulfillment of the sacrament is the living out of the marital vows, whether it’s through consummation, fidelity, or cooking dinner for each other.

When you say we receive the Holy Spirit, it makes me think of the response “and with your spirit” at mass. Is there a similar reception in both matrimony and holy orders, since both sacraments are ordered towards a vocation?


#8

Also, thanks Edward_George for the great response.


#9

Yes it is like Holy Orders. A sacramental marriage is a sanctified vocation. It is for the good and sanctification of the two in a lifelong community and may also may be fruitful producing Catholic children for the good of all mankind.

It the terms used by the Latin Catholic Church: each sacrament gives grace to the properly disposed, and for Holy Matrimony there are actual grace and sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is an increase of supernatural grace for those that are in a state of grace. Actual graces give supernatural help particular to matrimony.

Fr. Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, Sacramental GraceThe grace conferred by the valid and fruitful reception of the sacraments. It may be one or more of several kinds:

[LIST=1]
*]sanctifying grace is communicated in baptism, penance and in anointing of the sick when needed;
*]sanctifying grace is always increased when a sacrament is received in the state of grace;
*]actual grace is given by all the sacraments, either actually at the time of reception or also by title as a person needs divine help;
*]the sacramental character is indelibly imprinted on the soul in baptism, confirmation, and the priesthood; and
*]a distinctive sacramental grace is imparted by each of the seven sacraments, corresponding to their respective purpose in the supernatural life of the soul.
[/LIST]


#10

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