The "matter" of sacraments

Every Sacrament comprises, inter alia, matter and form. In the Eucharist, the matter is the subject of the consecration, viz. the bread and wine. In baptism, confirmation, and anointing, the matter is the instrumentality, be it water or oil. I’m puzzled about the matter for reconciliation, matrimony, and holy orders.

The intriguing suggestion was made here that the matter of Orders is, as in the eucharist, the subject (viz. a male who is able to receive the sacrament), and I suppose that by the same reasoning, the matter of the sacrament of matrimony is a man and a woman who are eligible to receive the sacrament. Does that seem correct, and if not, what is the correct matter for these two sacraments? I suppose that by analogy to baptism, confirmation, and anointing, the instrumentality of the imposition of hands could be considered the matter for Orders, but that leaves matrimony standing alone (and on a shallow scriptural foundation, I must confess).

Lastly, reconciliation. I’ve read non-magisterial sources that variously suggest the confession made or the penance imposed as the “matter,” but these seem to play fast and loose with the meaning of materia. So what is the matter in the sacrament of reconciliation?

From the Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis by Pope Pius XII (see here):

  1. Wherefore, after invoking the divine light, We of Our Apostolic Authority and from certain knowledge declare, and as far as may be necessary decree and provide: that the matter, and the only matter, of the Sacred Orders of the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy is the imposition of hands; and that the form, and the only form, is the words which determine the application of this matter, which univocally signify the sacramental effects - namely the power of Order and the grace of the Holy Spirit - and which are accepted and used by the Church in that sense. It follows as a consequence that We should declare, and in order to remove all controversy and to preclude doubts of conscience, We do by Our Apostolic Authority declare, and if there was ever a lawful disposition to the contrary We now decree that at least in the future the traditio instrumentorum is not necessary for the validity of the Sacred Orders of the Diaconate, the Priesthood, and the Episcopacy.

I was taught that our sins are the matter for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is our sins that are absolved.

The imposed penance would not be the matter because penance is not required. You can have a valid confession without the priest imposing penance.

That is what Thomas Aquinas taught.

Or a valid absolution without confession, in cases when the penitent is in danger of death and unable to confess.

Thanks for the replies on orders and reconciliation.

And matrimony?

The matter for matrimony is the bodies of the man and the woman.

The matter of matrimony is the consent of the man and woman

Oops. :blush:

Is there a magisterial document which supports that?

Will these do?

Is there a magisterial document which supports that?Will these do?

No. Why would you think so? :confused: None of the documents cited there—unless there’s something squireled away in Theology of the Body that I missed—address my question.

If you don’t want to read them, I suggest you go to Ask an apologist.

Or reason it out for yourself: what is examined when a couple seek a declaration of nullity? The validity of their bodies or the validity of their consent?

Prior to my last reply, I opened every one and searched for “matter”: it wasn’t used in the relevant context.

Or reason it out for yourself: what is examined when a couple seek a declaration of nullity? The validity of their bodies or the validity of their consent?

I’m not interested in finding an answer which seems most reasonable to me, at the moment; I want to know what the Church teaches. If the answer is that the Church doesn’t have an official teaching on the subject, then we’re free to reason it out.

Do you agree that the Church follows its own teaching when it’s deciding on the grounds for a declaration of nullity? Doesn’t it make sense then to reason from those grounds about what constitutes the ‘matter’ of matrimony?

Not sure why I’m wasting my time on this. You asked. I answered. You don’t like my answer. Go Ask an Apologist.

What is your understanding of what the “matter” is?

FYI, from the Summa Theologica (see here):

Question 42. Matrimony as a sacrament

Article 1. Whether matrimony is a sacrament?

Objection 2. Further, a sacrament according to Hugh (De Sacram. i) is “a material element.” But matrimony has not a material element for its matter. Therefore it is not a sacrament.

Reply to Objection 2. The sacrament of Matrimony, like that of Penance, is perfected by the act of the recipient. Wherefore just as Penance has no other matter than the sensible acts themselves, which take the place of the material element, so it is in Matrimony.

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