Today’s Catechism sections discuss the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony and Matrimonial consent. Supporting material comes from the Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes”.
II. The Celebration of Marriage
1621 In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ.120 In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up.121 It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but "one body" in Christ.122
1622 "Inasmuch as it is a sacramental action of sanctification, the liturgical celebration of marriage . . . must be, per se, valid, worthy, and fruitful."123 It is therefore appropriate for the bride and groom to prepare themselves for the celebration of their marriage by receiving the sacrament of penance.
1623 In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that 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 Eastern liturgies the minister of this sacrament (which is called "Crowning") is the priest or bishop who, after receiving the mutual consent of the spouses, successively crowns the bridegroom and the bride as a sign of the marriage covenant.
1624 The various liturgies abound in prayers of blessing and epiclesis asking God's grace and blessing on the new couple, especially the bride. In the epiclesis of this sacrament the spouses receive the Holy Spirit as the communion of love of Christ and the Church.124 The Holy Spirit is the seal of their covenant, the ever available source of their love and the strength to renew their fidelity.
III. Matrimonial Consent
1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; "to be free" means:
- not being under constraint;
- not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.
1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that "makes the marriage."125 If consent is lacking there is no marriage.
1627 The consent consists in a "human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other": "I take you to be my wife" - "I take you to be my husband."126 This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two "becoming one flesh."127
1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear.128 No human power can substitute for this consent.129 If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.
1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed.130In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged.131
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.
1631 This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons converge to explain this requirement:132
- Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church;
- Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children;
- Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses);
- the public character of the consent protects the "I do" once given and helps the spouses remain faithful to it.
1632 So that the "I do" of the spouses may be a free and responsible act and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of prime importance.
The example and teaching given by parents and families remain the special form of this preparation.
The role of pastors and of the Christian community as the "family of God" is indispensable for the transmission of the human and Christian values of marriage and family,133 and much more so in our era when many young people experience broken homes which no longer sufficiently assure this initiation:
It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people, above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married love, its role and its exercise, so that, having learned the value of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable courtship and enter upon a marriage of their own.134
The Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes” explains Matrimonial consent.
48. The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes.(1) All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love "are no longer two, but one flesh" (Matt. 19:ff), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.(2)
120 Cf. SC 61.
121 Cf. LG 6.
122 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 10:17.
123 FC 67.
124 Cf. ⇒ Eph 5:32.
125 ⇒ CIC, can. 1057 # 1.
126 GS 48 # 1; OCM 45; cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1057 # 2.
127 ⇒ Gen 2:24; cf. ⇒ Mt 10:8; ⇒ Eph 5:31.
128 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1103.
129 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1057 # 1.
130 Cf. ⇒ CIC, cann. 1095-1107.
131 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1071.
132 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1813-1816; ⇒ CIC, can. 1108.
133 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1063.
134 GS 49 # 3.