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Chapter 9: Marriage, Sexual Acts, and Family Life

Question C: What Difference Does the Sacrament Make to Marriage?

The principle of the sacramentality of marriage is the new covenant, by which God forms with humankind an exclusive, everlasting, and bodily communion (see CMP, 19, 34). It is exclusive, because Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, joins God with his people in the unique communion that will become the heavenly kingdom. This communion will last forever, because God is perfectly faithful and the blessed will sin no more. This new covenant is bodily, because those who enter into it not only share in Jesus’ divine life and cooperate with him in human acts but share in his risen bodily life. By participating in the Eucharist, they begin now to live in glorious bodily communion with him, and, if faithful, they will do so forever.

In the beginning, marriage already had a sacred character, which was enhanced under the old covenant. Jesus renewed the sacredness of marriage and perfected it, with the result that the marriages of Christian couples are sacramental, signifying the union of Jesus with his Church. Thus, Christian marriage, which contributes directly to the new covenant’s fulfillment, has a special firmness: by the light of their faith, the spouses are enabled to understand the absolute indissolubility of their marriage and the ultimate, salvific significance of that indissolubility. Moreover, by the grace of the sacrament, the spouses are empowered to persevere until death in faithful conjugal love, so that every Christian husband and wife not only should but can recognize, accept, and manifest the indissolubility and exclusivity of their sacramental marital communion.90

1. Marriage Is Sacred in Itself and within the Old Covenant

Marriage in itself is not purely secular. In several respects, marriage was sacred from the beginning, as the Old Testament makes clear; its religious significance does not begin when Jesus makes it a sacrament of the new covenant. Thus, following previous popes, Pius XI teaches “that there is a certain sacredness and religious character attaching even to the purely natural union of man and woman,” which arises from its divine origin, its ministry of begetting and raising children for God, and its effect of joining the couple in communion with God.91

a) Married life is cooperation with God in creating persons. Marriage is sacred because of its divinely assigned mission: to hand on God’s gift of life and raise children for him.92

Among the works of God’s creation, human persons are special, since they are made in God’s image and likeness (see Gn 1.26–27). Creating man and woman to complement each other by becoming one flesh (see Gn 2.18–23), God blesses them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gn 1.28). Parenthood is the handing on of God’s image:

When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them “Humankind” when they were created.
 When Adam had lived one hundred thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. (Gn 5.1–3).
With fertility, God empowers men and women to cooperate in his creative work. When Eve bears Cain she says: “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord” (Gn 4.1), and the heroic mother of seven sons recalls their origin from God: “It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you” (2 Mc 7.22; cf. Jb 31.15, Jer 1.5).

Children are born for God and belong to him (see Ezk 16.20–21). Forming them, God makes them for his own glory (see Is 43.6–7). Since he created man and woman, and directed them to one-flesh communion, God is entitled to the fruit of their union: “Godly offspring” (Mal 2.15). It follows that children are a divine heritage and reward (see Ps 127.3–5). In the perspective of the Old Testament, fertility manifests God’s love and is a great blessing (see Gn 12.2, 17.16, 26.24; Ps 113.9, 128.3–4), while sterility is a privation (see Gn 30.1, 1 Sm 1.6).

Vatican II sums up the matter by teaching that marriage is a special participation in God’s own creative work; the couple “cooperate with the love of the creator and the savior, who through them will enlarge and enrich his own family day by day” (GS 50). The Council also teaches that human life and the couple’s role in transmitting it should be understood and evaluated in the perspective of eternity, for these realities are not limited to this world alone (see GS 51).

b) God reveals his creative love in the communion of man and woman. God creates out of gratuitous love, to manifest his goodness and share his happiness with created persons (see CMP, 19.A). So, created reality as such is, in a wide sense, a sacrament, inasmuch as it is a visible sign of God’s love. Within this sacrament, human persons, as male and female, manifest God’s goodness in a special way, for he creates them in his own image and likeness (see Gn 1.26–27). This image consists not only in the spiritual powers of knowledge and freedom, but in the communion of persons that man and woman form. God calls men and women to communion, and they fulfill themselves by freely giving themselves to each other (see Gn 2.18–24). As John Paul II explains: “Mankind, to resemble God, must be a couple, two persons moving one towards the other, two persons whom perfect love will gather into unity. This movement and this love make them resemble God, who is Love itself, the absolute Unity of the three persons.”93 Thus, by sexual differentiation, the human body, male and female, reveals creation as the fundamental gift, divine love as the source of this gift, and God’s plan for the man’s and the woman’s mutual self-giving.94

c) Marriage is an integral part of the sacrament of creation. Because of the human body’s God-given significance, which John Paul II calls its “nuptial meaning,” married couples by their bodiliness, sexual differentiation, and bodily communion constitute a visible sign of the mystery of God’s truth and love.95 In the original innocence in which God created them, human persons were without shame, because they did not regard one another as objects, but experienced their sexuality’s nuptial significance, and so not only felt themselves to be, but were in truth in their very bodiliness, subjects of holiness. John Paul II explains:

The words of Genesis 2.24, “a man . . . cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh”, spoken in the context of this original reality in a theological sense, constitute marriage as an integral part and, in a certain sense, a central part of the “sacrament of creation”. They constitute—or perhaps rather, they simply confirm, the character of its origin. According to these words, marriage is a sacrament inasmuch as it is an integral part and, I would say, the central point of “the sacrament of creation”. In this sense it is the primordial sacrament.96
Thus, from the beginning of creation, marriage expresses God’s plan that humankind should “be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1.4) and should not only manifest divine goodness, as all creation does, but personally share in God’s love and freely respond to it. As Jesus points out, God himself joins husband and wife together so that their union is holy and indissoluble (see Mt 19.6, Mk 10.9).97

d) Marriage is analogous to God’s covenant relationship with Israel. To clarify the covenant relationship between God and Israel, the prophets use the marital relationship, which naturally expresses God’s love and calls for human self-giving. Israel slipped into the practices of paganism, whose gods begot rather than created, and whose worship involved fertility rites. So, although Israel’s Lord is the creator, who altogether transcends sexuality, Israel’s sin against the covenant is a kind of adultery or harlotry. God’s response, despite justified outrage at the offense, is absolute faithfulness and readiness to forgive (see Hos 1–3). The law forbade a man who divorced his faithless wife to take her back (see Dt 24.1–4), but God recalls Israel, his faithless wife, to her first love, which she experienced toward him in the desert (see Jer 2–3). Even when Israel suffers the consequences of her infidelity, consequences likened to the curses of sterility and early widowhood, she is encouraged to hope (Is 54.5–8; cf. Ezk 16 and 23). When men divorce their Jewish wives to marry pagans, Israel’s infidelity to God becomes intertwined with men’s infidelity to their wives. So, when men ask why God no longer accepts their sacrifices with favor, the answer is:

Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. . . . So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel. (Mal 2.14–16)
Thus, once the marital relationship is recognized as analogous to God’s covenantal relationship with Israel, marriage itself is seen to be a covenant, which God witnesses and guarantees.98

In this way, within the old covenant, marriage became a sign of God’s covenantal relationship with his people, and each couple’s marital relationship began to be seen as sharing in the sacredness and indissolubility of that salvific relationship.

2. Every Marriage of a Baptized Couple Is an Enduring Sacrament

While marriage is sacred in itself and within the old covenant, the marriage of two baptized Christians enjoys an additional sacredness, for it is one of the seven sacraments of the new covenant, and so is both a sign of God’s saving work in Jesus and a means by which that work is effective in the lives of the faithful who do what they can to cooperate with it (see DS 1310–11/695, 1606–8/849–51, 1800/970).

a) Christian marriage is a communion within the new covenant. The Church teaches that marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the new covenant (see DS 718/367, 761/402, 794/424, 860/465, 1601/844, 1801/971). Enumerating the sacraments, the Council of Florence interprets Scripture and ties the sacramentality of marriage to Jesus’ union with the Church: “The seventh is the sacrament of matrimony which is a sign of the close union of Christ and the Church according to the words of the Apostle: ‘This is a great mystery—I mean in reference to Christ and to the Church’ (Eph 5.32)” (DS 1327/702).99

The Council of Trent summarizes Jesus’ teaching on marriage and then goes on to explain precisely why matrimony is a sacrament:

 Moreover, Christ himself, who instituted the holy sacraments and brought them to perfection, merited for us by his passion the grace that brings natural love to perfection, and strengthens the indissoluble unity, and sanctifies the spouses. The Apostle Paul intimates this when he says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for her” (Eph 5.25); and he goes on to add: “This is a great mystery—I mean in reference to Christ and to the Church” (Eph 5.32).
 Therefore, since matrimony under the law of the gospel is, because of the grace given through Christ, superior to the marriage unions of earlier times, our holy Fathers, the councils, and the tradition of the universal Church have always rightly taught that matrimony should be included among the sacraments of the New Law. (DS 1799–1800/969–70, translation amended)
According to this teaching, Christian marriage is a sacrament because it is a covenantal communion within the new covenant and an effective part of it.

b) Sacramentality renders perfect marriage practicable. The teaching of the Church that the marriage of a Christian couple is a sacrament means it is not only a sign imaging Jesus’ union with the Church but an effective sign, one by which the Holy Spirit acts to build up and strengthen the communion of the new covenant. The couple receives the Holy Spirit’s grace through Jesus to enable them to live their own marital communion, including its development into parental and familial communion, as their small portion of the Church united with Jesus, and thus to enjoy in their marriage the fruits of Jesus’ sacrifice.100 Trent mentions marital love brought to perfection, indissoluble unity, and personal sanctification through their common life. John Paul II explains this point:

 Through the sacrament, Christ establishes a permanent presence in every marriage relationship, through which the partners must establish with Christ the Redeemer an uninterrupted, open and sincere dialogue which opens them to his healing, restoring and always sanctifying grace. Without this door open to the Redeemer, who “has become our wisdom and also our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption” (1 Cor 1.30), it is not possible to build a Christian marriage, that is, the intimate and continuous union of life in complementarity between a man and a woman (Charter of the Rights of the Family, Preamble B), which is at the same time an effective channel of supernatural life.101
The Lord Jesus’ participation in each Christian marriage is not simply a fact reinforcing the requirement of fidelity to marriage as indissoluble but a gift empowering fallen men and women to meet this requirement. Thus, Jesus’ restoration of marriage not only recalls his followers to their responsibilities but renews and strengthens them with the Holy Spirit’s power so that they can realize and enjoy the benefits of marriage as God meant it to be.

c) The sacrament endures throughout the marriage. The sign in which the sacrament consists is the conjugal bond itself, that is, the Christian marital communion of the two persons.102 Since this marital communion is initiated by the spouses’ mutual covenantal consent, the sacrament cannot come to be without that consent. However, marital communion, and thus the sacrament, is fully constituted only when the marriage is consummated by conjugal intercourse, so that the couple become two in one flesh (see B.1.a–b, above). Once constituted, this one-flesh union lasts until one of the spouses dies, and so the sacrament of marriage, which begins on the wedding day, continues throughout the couple’s life. Concerning this, Pius XI approvingly quotes St. Robert Bellarmine:

The sacrament of matrimony can be regarded in two ways: first, in the making, and then in its permanent state. For it is a sacrament like to that of the Eucharist, which not only when it is being conferred, but also whilst it remains, is a sacrament; for as long as the married parties are alive, so long is their union a sacrament of Christ and the Church.103
It follows that a couple who strive to fulfill their responsibilities are never without the help and the confirming power of the Holy Spirit given in the sacrament. Indeed, Pius XI follows St. Augustine in teaching that, just as those who apostasize carry the baptismal seal with them, so even those who commit adultery carry the sacrament with them, although now it marks their infidelity rather than channeling their faith and love.104

To understand the persistence of the conjugal bond, and so of the sacrament, it is necessary to bear in mind what this bond is. It is not a legal fiction nor is it only a moral obligation, although legal and moral consequences flow from it; it is not the biological process of mating nor the fact of parenthood, although those realities of the natural order fulfill it. Essentially the bond is the two persons’ real union in which they become, as it were, one new person—a new reality affecting the man and the woman insofar as they belong to both the order of nature and the moral order. The enduring sacrament, thus, is the marital union of the man and the woman, by virtue of which they, as husband and wife, together are a married couple.105

d) The sacrament is not something added to a Christian marriage. Since the sign in the sacrament of matrimony is the very union of the man and the woman whereby they are a married couple, the Church teaches “that among Christians every true marriage is, in itself and by itself, a sacrament; and that nothing can be further from the truth than to say that the sacrament is a certain added ornament, or outward endowment,” such that a Christian couple could form a marital covenant without by that very fact receiving the sacrament.106

To understand this point, it helps to bear in mind that the baptism of the man and the woman made them individually, but in their whole personal being and permanently, members of the Church, thus bringing them into her covenantal union with Jesus. Hence, when in marrying the couple become, as it were, one new person, their marital communion also exists within the Church, and their marital covenant belongs to the new covenant. Their marriage therefore is sacramental precisely because their conjugal communion itself, without anything further, not only signifies the union of Jesus with his Church but develops that union.107

3. The Sacramentality of Marriage Affects Its Properties

The sacramental character of Christian marriage confirms the properties that belong to marriage as such: unity (the necessity of monogamy) and indissolubility (the impossibility of divorce).

a) The sacrament confirms marriage’s unity and indissolubility. Marriage’s natural sacredness, its sacramentality in the wide sense, already puts the bond initiated by the spouses’ covenantal commitments beyond their own power. Several Fathers of the Church, in particular St. Augustine, conceived of indissolubility as an enduring moral obligation (already in pagan Rome, sacramentum meant a sacral obligation), which was strengthened in the case of Christians by their marital union’s function as a sign of the absolutely unbreakable union of Christ with his Church.108 Despite these Fathers’ lack of clarity about the more-than-moral indissolubility of marriage as such, their insight into the relationship between Christian marriage and the new covenant provided a sound basis for subsequent development.

In clarifying her teaching concerning the sacraments against heretical opinions, the Church, beginning in the twelfth century, explicitly taught that the marriage of a Christian couple is a sacrament alongside baptism and the Eucharist, which are not only sacred signs but effective means of grace (see DS 718/367, 761/402).109 Around the same time, papal judgments clarified the fact that nonconsummated marriages and marriages of non-Christians might be dissolved but the consummated marriage of a Christian couple is absolutely indissoluble (see DS 754/395, 755/396, 768–69/405–6). In 1201, Innocent III also interpreted the one-flesh communion to which Jesus pointed as excluding polygamy, and explained the practice of polygamy in the Old Testament as a divine concession no longer available to Christians (see DS 778/408).110

b) The Church teaches infallibly on marriage’s properties. Subsequent Church teaching infallibly proposed this developed understanding of the sacrament of matrimony and its properties of unity and indissolubility.

A thirteenth-century profession of faith already specified that Christian marriage excludes polygamy (see DS 860/465). The Council of Florence taught that marriage is “indissoluble because it signifies the indivisible union of Christ with the Church,” and explained that while a married person is allowed to separate from an adulterous spouse, he or she may not remarry “since the bond of a marriage lawfully contracted is perpetual” (DS 1327/702). The Council of Trent definitively teaches Christian marriage’s unity by condemning the opinion that divine law allows Christians to have many wives simultaneously (see DS 1802/972). Trent, likewise, teaches that the indissolubility of marriage already was expressed in the account of creation (in Gn 2.23–24), and more openly revealed by Jesus (in Mt 19.6, Mk 10.9; see DS 1797–98/969). Then, in a paragraph already quoted, Trent teaches that Christ’s grace in Christian marriage confirms its indissolubility (see DS 1799/969); the Council then goes on with definitive canons to condemn both the opinion that marriage can be dissolved on account of heresy, domestic incompatibility, or willful desertion, and the opinion that the Church errs in teaching that marriage cannot be dissolved on account of adultery (see DS 1805/975, 1807/977).

During the centuries after Trent, all Catholic bishops, by the manuals of moral theology they approved for seminarians and the catechisms they approved for the faithful, proposed as based on Scripture the same teaching about marriage’s unity and indissolubility, and Catholics accepted this teaching with faith as an essential element of the moral order revealed by God.111 Even without Trent’s solemn definitions, such unanimity in the Church’s faith and teaching would suffice to manifest their infallible character (see LG 12 and 25).

c) Today’s magisterium reaffirms the same truths. As twentieth-century secular, and even religious, opinion rejected the traditional conception of marriage, Pius XI clearly and strongly reaffirmed both that Jesus’ teaching excludes polygamy among Christians and that divine law decrees that not even the Church can dissolve sacramental marriages.112 Vatican II counts polygamy and the “plague of divorce” among the deformations which obscure the dignity of the institution of marriage (GS 47); the Council also teaches both that the mutual consent which gives rise to the conjugal covenant is irrevocable and that—for the good of the couple, of children, and of society—the sacred bond of marriage, once it exists, does not depend on human choice (see GS 48).

Developing the teaching of Vatican II and gathering the fruits of the 1980 Synod of Bishops, John Paul II teaches that conjugal communion, which has its natural basis in the complementarity of man and woman, is perfected by the sacrament. He proceeds not only to reaffirm the rejection of polygamy and divorce but to clarify the reasons why they are incompatible with Christian marriage.113 The same teaching also is embodied in the Church’s law.114

d) The persistence of the sacrament also confirms indissolubility. Like the other sacraments, matrimony is a complex, cooperative act, uniting the recipients’ covenantal commitments with the human redemptive act of Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s work of healing and sanctification (see CMP, 30.B). Jesus’ teaching reveals what marriage was meant to be in the beginning and how hardness of heart subverted it. By the sacrament, “freeing man from his hardness of heart, he makes man capable of realizing this truth in its entirety.”115 Inasmuch as the sacrament endures, Jesus’ active presence within each marriage also endures, as Vatican II teaches:

 Christ the Lord abundantly blessed this many-faceted [conjugal] love, welling up as it does from the fountain of divine love and structured as it is on the model of his union with the Church. For as God of old made himself present (cf. Hos 2; Jer 3.6–13; Ezk 16 and 23; Is 54) to his people through a covenant of love and fidelity, so now the savior of men and the spouse (cf. Mt 9.15, Mk 2.19–20, Lk 5.34–35, Jn 3.29; cf. also 2 Cor 11.2; Eph 5.27; Rv 19.7–8, 21.2, 9) of the Church comes into the lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony. He abides with them thereafter so that, just as he loved the Church and handed himself over on her behalf (cf. Eph 5.25), the spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal. (GS 48).
Because a Christian marriage as a sacrament is a lasting cooperation with Jesus’ redemptive act, the spouses are bound by their conjugal covenant not only to each other but to the Lord Jesus, who is a party to their marriage. Now, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tm 2.13). Thus, Jesus’ involvement provides an additional reason why the husband and wife cannot dissolve the bond by mutual consent. But more than that, it guarantees the Holy Spirit’s presence, and so confirms indissolubility by a fidelity which the couple achieve only by accepting it as a gift of grace.116

4. Marital Communion Participates in Everlasting Heavenly Communion

The first principle of Christian life is charity, the communion of love that the three divine persons are—God is love—and which they graciously will to extend to include created persons (see CMP, 24.B). Hence, the overarching responsibility for Christians is to abide in God’s love and to love one another with the same love with which Jesus loves them. Because of Jesus’ presence in the sacrament of marriage, Vatican II teaches: “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that the spouses may be efficaciously led to God and helped and strengthened in their sublime mission as father and mother” (GS 48). Indeed, the divine-human communion, the new and everlasting covenant centering on Jesus in glory, actually is realized in and through the communion of Christian marriage and its fulfillment in a Christian family, which unites human persons not only with one another but, through their baptismal and eucharistic Communion with Jesus, with the divine persons.

Of course, the same might be said of any good interpersonal relationship among Christians, for example, a personal friendship, a community of religious, an association of teachers and students, or even a business partnership. However, the interpersonal communion of marriage involves a special bodily aspect, and in Christian marriage this aspect is intimately related to its sacramentality. Now, no good fruit of human nature or effort will be absent from the heavenly kingdom (see GS 39). Therefore, the bodily aspect of Christian marital communion also contributes to the new covenant communion and in some mysterious way will last forever in heavenly communion.

a) Every human good realized on earth will last forever. God calls men and women to cooperate with him in completing his work of creation and preparing for his ultimate act of re-creation, by which his plan for the whole created universe will be brought to fulfillment. Carried out through love, the secular activities of Christian life, including those proper to marriage and family life, prepare material for the heavenly kingdom (see LG 31, 34; GS 38). When God creates the new heavens and new earth and Jesus hands over his kingdom to his Father, not only love itself but all its good fruits—the material prepared for the kingdom—will endure, and so every good that fulfills human nature and effort will find its place in that everlasting heavenly communion (see GS 39). While the ways in which people now act for and experience these goods may not be appropriate in heaven, the positive reality and goodness of all the fruits of human nature and effort will find a place in heaven, but freed from the evil which now mutilates them, glorified, and transformed to overcome the limitations which make them, as yet, imperfect (see GS 39).

Considered in this light, Christian life lived in grace is seen to be already life in the heavenly kingdom, although not experienced as such; at present the kingdom is incipient but incomplete, and so its coming remains the object of hope and prayer. How the good fruits of one’s day-by-day life belong to the kingdom even now and how they will be transformed are mysterious; indeed, even how the bodies of Christians belong to the kingdom and will be transformed by resurrection defies imagination (see 1 Cor 15.35–50). But resurrection life, which already somehow exists, will perfect bodiliness, not eliminate it, fully “clothe” those who are saved, not denude them (2 Cor 5.1–5).

Perhaps an analogy will help. Christians who live now according to God’s plan revealed in Jesus are related to the coming heavenly kingdom somewhat as God’s people of Old Testament times were related to the Church established by Christ. The people of that time already belonged to the Church and cooperated in the gradual Incarnation of the Word; the writings of the Old Testament contain material which the Holy Spirit has reworked, clarified, and completed in the New. Similarly, those who live according to God’s plan in the present age prepare material for the everlasting kingdom.

b) Eucharistic bodily communion in Jesus will last forever. The sacrament of the Eucharist is both the principle and a paradigm of what is happening in the whole of Christian life: it transforms natural materials refined by human work into the glorified body and blood of Jesus, and builds up the divine-human communion which is to last forever (see GS 38). The Eucharist is not merely a sign of what will be; for although the sign it involves will drop away, the Eucharist truly realizes what will be: divine-human communion in and with Jesus. Of course, Christians do not yet fully experience the communion they enjoy in the sacrament; they still can lose this communion through sin, and the communion does not now have the effects it will have on their bodies, which remain subject to weakness, suffering, disease, and death. But in heaven, these negative features and limits will drop away, and the sacrament of the Eucharist will be no more. Only the positive reality of interpersonal communion, now present but veiled in the sacrament, will remain as the unending heavenly wedding feast.

The human dimension of the communion established by the Eucharist involves not merely a spiritual union of mind and will, through cooperation in faith with Jesus’ redemptive act, but bodily union with and in the glorified body of the risen Lord: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (Jn 6.56). Since the interpersonal communion established by the Eucharist will last forever, and since it has a bodily dimension, this human bodily communion with and in Jesus also will last, and, indeed, will be the foundation for the relationship: “Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6.57). In a very real sense, and not merely metaphorically, the Eucharist builds up the Church as one body: “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10.16–17). This one body of Jesus will include in their gloriously risen bodily reality all who abide in him until death. Hence, without losing their distinct personalities, all human persons who are saved will forever share together completely in a one-flesh communion with and in Jesus (see CMP, 19.E, 33.C, 34.E.7).

c) Bodily marital communion contributes to heavenly communion. In general, the sacraments are remarkably consonant with the requirements of human nature. This is no accident. God created human nature for the kingdom, and so it includes what was necessary on humankind’s part for God’s revelation which initiates the kingdom, for the Word’s Incarnation and redemptive act which definitively establish it, and for the Spirit’s work of sanctification and re-creation which are perfecting it. Marriage fits this pattern: it is a natural sacrament, renewed by Jesus to be an unbreakable communion and an effective means of sanctification. The covenant of sacramental marriage flows from the covenant Jesus established on the cross and continually renews in the sacrament of the Eucharist.117 Thus, Jesus’ new covenant is dynamically present within marriage itself, as John Paul II teaches:

 Not only does the Covenant inspire the life of the couple, it fully partakes in that life, injecting its own energy in the lives of the spouses; it “models” their love from within; they love one another not only as Christ loved, but, mysteriously, with the very love of Christ, as his Spirit is given to them . . . in the measure in which they let themselves be “modelled” by him (cf. Gal 2.25; Eph 4.23). At Mass, through the ministry of the priest, the Spirit of the Lord makes the body and blood of the Lord from bread and wine; in and through the sacrament of marriage, the Spirit can make the very love of the Lord from conjugal love; if the couple let themselves be transformed, they can love with the “new heart” promised by the New Covenant (cf. Jer 31.31; Familiaris consortio, no. 20).118

An important similarity between the new covenant and the marital covenant is that both communions are one-flesh unities, real and objective sharings in a common, bodily life. Marriage, however, is very limited, since it joins only two persons on the basis of each one’s natural incompleteness with respect to the single organic function of reproduction. By contrast, the bodily communion built up by the Eucharist joins in Jesus all who share in the one bread with respect to the entire, glorious life which they hope to live in him forever.

Still, if Christian marriage is considered insofar as it depends on Jesus’ covenant present in the Eucharist, it is clear that the marital covenant as a sacrament realizes in a specific way Jesus’ new covenant. Hence, the married couple as such, in their very one-flesh union, also are united in Jesus with each other and with other Christian couples and individuals. In this way, marital communion, in its bodily aspect, not only signifies but is part of the communion of the new covenant.

d) Marital communion will be perfected in heavenly communion. Since none of the fruits of human nature and effort will be lost, the good of marriage, its very one-flesh communion, certainly will be preserved and perfected in the heavenly kingdom. And since the bodily communion of heaven cannot be dissolved, one-flesh marital communion, insofar as it already is a material element of the kingdom, also cannot be dissolved.

Still, “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels” (Mt 22.30; cf. Mk 12.25, Lk 20.34–36); moreover, death does dissolve a marriage, so that widows and widowers are free to remarry (see 1 Cor 7.7–9; DS 1353/—). How, then, can the one-flesh communion of marriage endure forever? The answer is that it cannot endure insofar as it is based on sexual differentiation, is limited to couples, and is fulfilled by having and raising children. Rather, it will endure in the resurrection without these limits and will be perfected within the greater one-flesh communion of the blessed in and with the Lord Jesus.119

The ethical requirement of exclusivity belongs to marital communion according to its natural basis, and so also characterizes the sacrament. With death, however, the sacrament gives way to the greater reality to which it points. Hence, widows and widowers can remarry without violating marital communion, yet married couples should regard their love, not as transitory, but as undying.120

e) Virginity or celibacy complements the sacrament of marriage. Virginity or celibacy for the kingdom’s sake also signifies and anticipates heavenly communion. The Church definitively teaches that it is better and more blessed to remain in such Christian virginity or celibacy than it is to be joined in sacramental marriage (see DS 1810/980; OT 10; cf. LG 42, PC 12, PO 16). Still, as John Paul II teaches: “Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes it and confirms it. Marriage and virginity or celibacy are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the covenant of God with his people.”121

Although those who receive and respond to the gift of virginity or celibacy do not violate the basic human good of marital communion, they do forgo it, leaving unfulfilled the instinct of nature toward sexual union and parenthood.122 By their extraordinary renunciation, they bear powerful witness to the kingdom’s definitive value.123 In Jesus’ striking phrase, they make “themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19.12). Moreover, while their way of life is not a sacrament of the bodily intimacy of resurrection life, it is a sign of the inclusivity of the communion of the blessed in Jesus and of his absolute centrality in the kingdom of heaven.

Thus, virginity or celibacy for the kingdom and the sacrament of marriage are necessary and complementary signs. Marriage manifests that heaven will be an intimate, interpersonal, communion in which human bodily persons will find their fulfillment; virginity or celibacy manifests that heavenly communion will be inclusive, rather than exclusive, and will surpass the limitations of the most intimate communion men and women can experience in this life.124

5. Special Responsibilities Pertain to Marriage as a Sacrament

The remainder of this chapter will treat the many responsibilities of Christian spouses and parents, considering these responsibilities insofar as they flow from faith and love. Here it is necessary only to consider some arising directly and immediately from the sacramentality of Christian marriage.

a) Christian couples should regard marriage as a vocation. Consent to marriage and commitment to fulfill the responsibilities flowing from it determine a very large part of a married person’s life. Since the whole of Christian life should be lived according to faith, couples should undertake and live their married life as a very important part of their Christian vocation. Because marriage is a sacrament, it is all the more clear and important that no one should suppose he or she could undertake or live it independently of faith, hope, and love (see GS 48; cf. LG 41). Thus, Vatican II treats marriage as a vocation (see GS 48, 49, 52; cf. LG 35).125 Hence, all the responsibilities regarding personal vocation (treated in 2.E) should be considered to pertain to marriage as a sacrament.

In affluent contemporary societies, the view is widespread that marriage is only an arrangement for attaining specific goals; this is radically at odds with regarding marriage as part of one’s Christian vocation. Such an arrangement, which falls short of authentic marital communion, is only a means for satisfying individuals’ desires by carrying out their agendas and achieving specific objectives. True marital communion is not a mere means, though, but a human good in itself, willed by each spouse unselfishly for the other’s good as well as his or her own. Such marital communion, as a lasting reality, must not be evaluated by its usefulness or satisfactoriness; rather, it must be sought and accepted as a blessing, cherished for itself, and nurtured. To fulfill the responsibilities of marriage as a sacrament, therefore, Christian spouses should undertake married life as a deliberate response to God’s call, give their marital consent as a yes to God’s will that they become and remain one, always regard each other as God’s gift, anticipate any children they might have as God’s children entrusted to their care, and subordinate to this vocational perspective their particular desires and specific goals: sexual and emotional satisfaction, a home and other possessions, an approved social status, and even the self-fulfillment to be found in parenthood.

b) The family should function as a little Church within the parish. From the beginning, the Church welcomed and incorporated not only individuals but entire families and households (see Acts 11.13–14; 16.15, 31; 18.8; 1 Cor 1.16, 16.15). Indeed, we know from the New Testament that early Christian congregations sometimes were based on households, and this seems to have been the norm during the first three centuries.126 When persecutions or other adversities made parish life impossible, the Church often survived in Christian households.

Today, too, just as the parish is a local church within the diocese, so the Christian family is a little church within the parish. For, as the Greek word for church, ekklesia, suggests, a church is a community called together by God,127 and a Christian family should be such a community, inasmuch as Christians should marry and have children according to God’s plan and in response to his vocation. Joined to Christ by baptism and consecrated by the sacrament of matrimony, the two or three (or more) family members are gathered in Jesus’ name, and he lives in their midst (see Mt 18.20). For this reason, Vatican II refers to the family as the “domestic Church” (LG 11; cf. AA 11).128 John Paul II explains:

The meaning of this traditional Christian idea is that the home is the Church in miniature. The Church is the sacrament of God’s love. She is a communion of faith and life. She is a mother and teacher. She is at the service of the whole human family as it goes forward towards its ultimate destiny. In the same way the family is a community of life and love. It educates and leads its members to their full human maturity and it serves the good of all along the road of life.129
Hence, the couple and their whole household not only should work together to build up the wider society (see AA 11) but, as Christians, should “work for the upbuilding of the people of God through their marriage and their family.”130

c) The sacrament of marriage shapes this miniature Church. Like every sacrament, marriage looks back to the new covenant as Jesus established it, instantiates that covenant at present, and points forward to that covenant as it will be fulfilled in heaven (see S.t., 3, q. 60, a. 3).

Considering the covenant as a reality established by Jesus’ death and resurrection, the couple should recall and bear witness to it, and so carry out their part in Jesus’ prophetic office.131 They should nurture their own faith and, in fidelity to their vocation as parents, hand it on intact to their children. Moreover, by living their specific form of family life, good Christian families become witnesses to love and life, give testimony to their faith and hope, and so challenge other families to accept, or more perfectly share in, these gifts (see GS 48). This witness is especially needed at a time when the values of secularism permeate so many families, with the bad result that they either fail to develop the Christian virtues of self-sacrifice, fidelity, and chastity, or else set them aside while seeking a specious happiness in consumerism, individualistic liberation, and ephemeral pleasure.

Considering the covenant as a reality instantiated in their marital communion, the couple should put into practice the merciful love which forgives and redeems, serve and build up communion among God’s people, and so carry out their part in Jesus’ kingly office.132 The Christian family does this by walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the new law of love. Charity indeed must begin at home, in each family member’s generous and unselfish quest for the others’ good; but it must extend beyond the family circle to the Church at large, and then to all men and women, who also are called to enter the kingdom and find their fulfillment as members of God’s family.

Considering the covenant as the heavenly communion in which their marriage will find its ultimate fulfillment, the couple should unite the whole of their married and family life to Jesus’ sacrifice, gratefully offering it to God as material for the kingdom and so carrying out their part in Jesus’ priestly office.133 The persisting sacrament of marriage, developing and completing for the married couple the graces of baptism and confirmation, enables family life as a whole to be an effective means of sanctification.134 Still, love remains imperfect and sin always is possible, so that family members not only can but should obtain forgiveness and reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, and should deepen and perfect their communion with one another and with the divine persons by participating in the Eucharist. Family prayer, devotions, and the use of sacramentals prepare for the Eucharist and prolong it within the household. By joining together constantly in petition, praise, and thanksgiving, the members of the family maintain unbroken dialogue with God. Families inevitably are anxious and troubled about many things; only by regular prayer can they keep other things in their proper place, subordinate to the quest for God’s kingdom.

90. An excellent work treating many aspects of the sacramentality of marriage more fully than is possible here: Peter J. Elliott, What God Has Joined: The Sacramentality of Marriage (Staten Island, N.Y.: Alba House, 1990).

91. Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 570, PE, 208.80. Leo XIII, Arcanum, ASS 12 (1879) 392, PE, 81.19, teaches that marriage not only is a divine institution but “was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the Incarnation of his Son” (the wedding of the divine with the human), so that it is inherently religious and a sort of sacrament even within the old covenant and among nonbelievers.

92. Paul VI, Humanae vitae, 1, AAS 60 (1968) 481, PE, 277.1, begins: “Humanae vitae tradendae munus gravissimum.”

93. John Paul II, Homily at a Mass for Families (Kinshasa, Zaire), 2, AAS 72 (1980) 425, OR, 12 May 1980, 4; cf. John Paul II, General Audience (14 Nov. 1979), 3, Inseg. 2.2 (1979) 1155–56, OR, 19 Nov. 1979, 1, 16; John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 11, AAS 74 (1982) 91–93, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 3. Also Paul VI, Address to Members of “Equipes Notre-Dame”, 3, AAS 62 (1970) 429, OR, 14 May 1970, 8, teaches: “The duality of sexes was willed by God so that man and woman together might be the image of God and, like him, a source of life.”

94. See John Paul II, General Audience (9 Jan. 1980), 2–5, Inseg. 3.1 (1980) 88–91, OR, 14 Jan. 1980, 1, 20.

95. See John Paul II, General Audience (20 Feb. 1980), 2–5, Inseg. 3.1 (1980) 429–31, OR, 25 Feb. 1980, 1, 12. Sacrament is used here not in the specific sense in which it refers to the seven signs instituted by Christ and administered by the Church, but in a wider sense, in which it refers to the mystery of God, hidden from eternity, considered in its very revelation: see John Paul II, General Audience (20 Oct. 1982), 7–8, Inseg. 5.3 (1982) 860–61, OR, 25 Oct. 1982, 3, 11.

96. John Paul II, General Audience (6 Oct. 1982), 6, Inseg. 5.3 (1982) 700, OR, 11 Oct. 1982, 2.

97. Origen, Commentaries on Matthew, 14, 16, in The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, selected and trans. W. A. Jurgens (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1970), 211, articulates this aspect of marriage’s natural sacramentality: “Certainly it is God who joins two in one, so that when He marries a woman to a man, there are no longer two. And since it is God who joins them, there is in this joining a grace for those who are joined by God. Paul knew this, and he said that just as holy celibacy was a grace, so also was marriage according to the Word of God a grace. He says, ‘I would that all men were like myself; but each has his own grace from God, one in this way, another in that’ (1 Cor 7.7).”

98. See John Paul II, General Audience (22 Sept. 1982), Inseg. 5.3 (1982) 517–22, OR, 27 Sept. 1982, 1, 8; General Audience (12 Jan. 1983), Inseg. 6.1 (1983) 100–104, OR, 17 Jan. 1983, 3, 12.

99. The word this in Eph 5.32 may refer to the one-flesh unity of husband and wife referred to by Gn 2.24, which is quoted in Eph 5.31. On that reading, the one-flesh communion formed by husband and wife points ahead, even in the beginning, to the communion of the new covenant, and so begins to manifest (in an obscure way) the mystery of God’s eternal plan to unite all things in Christ (see Eph 1.9–10, Rv 19.7). See Markus Barth, Ephesians: Translation and Commentary on Chapters 4–6, The Anchor Bible, 34A (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974), 641–47, 720–38. However, neither Florence nor Trent claims that Eph 5.32 by itself asserts the sacramentality of marriage. The Church’s doctrine that marriage is a sacrament follows from Eph 5.32 when it is considered together with other data: Jesus’ teaching about the indissolubility of marriage in the beginning, the real efficacy of God’s redemptive work in him, Scripture’s witness to the sacredness of marriage even under the old covenant, Jesus’ use of the marriage and wedding feast analogy to describe the new covenant, and his participation in the wedding feast at Cana. On the history of the development of doctrine on the sacrament of marriage, see G. Le Bras, “La doctrine du mariage chez les théologiens et les canonistes depuis l’an mille,” Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 9.2:2123–2317.

100. See John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 15, AAS 74 (1982) 97, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 3–4. On the family as the domestic church, see 5.b–c, below.

101. John Paul II, Address to Those Engaged in Marriage Apostolate (3 Dec. 1983), 3, Inseg. 6.2 (1983) 1241, OR, 6 Feb. 1984, 8. Also, John Paul II, Homily During Mass for Families (Faenza), 6, Inseg. 9.1 (1986) 1352–53, OR, 2 June 1986, 8, teaches: for Christian couples “to marry is above all an act of faith; it is the bringing of their human love into the supernatural order; it is the entrusting of their love to God, so that God himself will watch over it, guaranteeing it with his grace and blessing. According to the words of the Divine Master himself, it is not so much they who join themselves, but rather the Heavenly Father. Their principal duty is to preserve this union. They will succeed in so far as they recall that God has constituted himself guarantor of that union, and, consequently, in so far as they turn to him with full and unlimited trust in moments of difficulty.”

102. John Paul II, Address to Two International Groups of Researchers (3 Nov. 1979), 4, Inseg. 2.2 (1979) 1032–33, OR, 3 Dec. 1979, 15, teaches: “Certainly, every sacrament involves participation in Christ’s nuptial love for his Church. But, in marriage, the method and the content of this participation are specific. The spouses participate in it as spouses, together, as a couple, so that the first and immediate effect of marriage (”res et sacramentum") is not supernatural grace itself, but the Christian conjugal bond, a typically Christian communion of two persons because it represents the mystery of Christ’s incarnation and the mystery of his covenant. The content of participation in Christ’s life is also specific: . . . it is certainly a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values."

103. Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 583, PE, 208.110. See Leonard F. Gerke, Christian Marriage: A Permanent Sacrament (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1965), for a full exposition of this point and a defense against contrary theological opinions. Gerke also argues (119–28, 138–54, 155, 157) that the actions of married life, and especially conjugal intercourse, are the permanent, visible, sacramental sign, and that these sacramentalized acts, rightly done by those in grace, give grace.

104. See Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 555, PE, 208.41; St. Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia 1.10, PL, 44:419–20.

105. Pius VIII, Traditi humilitati, Bullarii romani continuatio, 9 (Prato: 1856), 26–27, PE, 30.10, teaches that the conjugal union itself is the sacrament: “It is agreed that the union of marriage signifies the perpetual and sublime union of Christ with his Church; as a result, the close union of husband and wife is a sacrament, that is, a sacred sign of the immortal love of Christ for his spouse.” Cf. John Paul II, General Audience (5 Jan. 1983), 4–7, Inseg. 6.1 (1983) 43–45, OR, 3–10 Jan. 1983, 8.

106. Leo XIII, Arcanum, ASS 12 (1879) 394, PE, 81.24. Cf. DS 2966/1766; Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 554, PE, 208.39; CIC, c. 1055, §2. An important and sound theological treatment of this matter: Carlo Caffarra, “Marriage as a Reality in the Order of Creation and Marriage as a Sacrament,” in Contemporary Perspectives on Christian Marriage, 117–80.

107. See John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 13 (the paragraph beginning “Nam per baptismum” or “Indeed, by means of baptism”), AAS 74 (1982) 95, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 3.

108. See Schillebeeckx, Marriage, 280–87.

109. The doctrine on sacramentality was anticipated in the long tradition. Early in the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to Polycarp 5, PG, 5:723, says Christians should marry with their bishop’s decision, so that their marriage will be according to the Lord and not according to desire. (Schillebeeckx, Marriage, 245, minimizes the significance of this passage.) Again, the third letter of Cyril to Nestorius, included in the proceedings of the Council of Ephesus, includes a striking passage (in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner, S.J., vol. 1, Nicea I to Lateran V [London: Sheed and Ward, 1990], 58, lines 23–39) explaining that the purpose of the Incarnation is to “bless the beginning of our existence,” by undoing the effects of sin, and that for this reason the Lord in his new covenant “blessed marriage and, when invited, went down to Cana in Galilee with his holy apostles.”

110. One need not accept this explanation, but may hold the more likely view that polygamy never was willed by God but only tolerated, as divorce was: see Joyce, Christian Marriage, 579–80. St. Thomas offers a clear summary of the developed, Catholic understanding of the sacrament of matrimony, with its implications for the unity and the indissolubility of every consummated Christian marriage, omitting only the significance of consummation: S.c.g., 4.78.

111. See Joyce, Christian Marriage, 400–409, for a summary of acts by the Holy See since Trent defending the absolute indissolubility of sacramental marriage.

112. See Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 547 and 552–53, PE, 208.21 and 35–36.

113. See John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 19–20, AAS 74 (1982) 101–4, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 4–5.

114. CIC, c. 1056: “The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness in virtue of the sacrament”; c. 1057, §2: “Matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which a man and a woman, through an irrevocable covenant, mutually give and accept each other in order to establish marriage”; c. 1134: “From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament”; and c. 1141: “A ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”

115. John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 13, AAS 74 (1982) 94, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 3.

116. An excellent scriptural study on this theme: Guy Bourgeault, S.J., “Fidélité conjugale et divorce,” Science et esprit 24 (1972): 155–75.

117. See John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 57, AAS 74 (1982) 149–50, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 11.

118. John Paul II, Address to the “Equipes Notre-Dame” (23 Sept. 1982), 2, Inseg. 5.3 (1982) 543–44, OR, 15 Nov. 1982, 6. Also, John Paul II, General Audience (4 July 1984), 6, Inseg. 7.2 (1984) 10, OR, 9 July 1984, 8, teaches that by virtue of the sacrament, the practice of conjugal life becomes liturgical: “In that [sacramental] sign—through the ‘language of the body’—man and woman encounter the great ‘mystery’ in order to transfer the light of that mystery—the light of truth and beauty, expressed in liturgical language—to the ‘language of the body’, that is, to the language of the practise of love, of fidelity, of conjugal honesty, that is, to the ethos rooted in the ‘redemption of the body’ (cf. Rom 8.23). In this way, conjugal life becomes in a certain sense liturgical.”

119. John Paul II, General Audience (16 Dec. 1981), 4, Inseg. 4.2 (1981) 1138, OR, 4 Jan. 1982, 2, teaches: “We must think of the reality of the ‘other world’ in the categories of the rediscovery of a new, perfect subjectivity of everyone and at the same time of the rediscovery of a new, perfect intersubjectivity of all. In this way, this reality signifies the real and definitive fulfilment of human subjectivity, and, on this basis, the definitive fulfilment of the ‘nuptial’ meaning of the body. The complete concentration of created subjectivity, redeemed and glorified, on God himself will not take man away from this fulfilment, in fact—on the contrary—it will introduce him into it and consolidate him in it.”

120. Pius XII, Address to the World Union of Family Organizations (16 Sept. 1957), AAS 49 (1957) 900–901, The Pope Speaks 4 (1957–58): 289, teaches: “Far from destroying the bonds of human and supernatural love which are contracted in marriage, death can perfect them and strengthen them. It is true that legally, and on the plane of perceptible realities, the matrimonial institution does not exist any more, but that which constituted its soul, gave it strength and beauty—conjugal love with all its splendor and its eternal vows—lives on just as the spiritual and free beings live on who have pledged themselves to each other.” What Pope Pius says here about conjugal love must be developed in view of Vatican II’s teaching (in GS 38–39) that not only does charity itself subsist but its work—all the good fruits of human nature and effort—which will be found again, transformed, in heaven.

121. John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 16, AAS 74 (1982) 98, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 4. In the same place, John Paul also reaffirms the superiority of the charism of virginity or celibacy for the kingdom’s sake to that of marriage.

122. See Paul VI, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, 50–56, AAS 59 (1967) 677–79, PE, 276.50–56; also see Paul M. Quay, S.J., The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality (Evanston, Ill.: Credo House, 1985), 85–99.

123. See OT 10; also Jean Galot, S.J., “La motivation évangélique du célibat,” Gregorianum 53 (1972): 731–57.

124. St. Thomas, In Sent., 4, d. 38, q. 1, a. 5, holds that marriage and virginity are complementary signs, but he explains the complementarity in a different way.

125. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter on the Occasion of the International Youth Year, 9, AAS 77 (1985) 602, OR, 1 Apr. 1985, 5, points out that “before the Second Vatican Council the concept of ‘vocation’ was applied first of all to the priesthood and religious life, as if Christ had addressed to the young person his evangelical ‘Follow me’ only for these cases. The Council has broadened this way of looking at things. . . . every human life vocation, as a Christian vocation, corresponds to the evangelical call. Christ’s ‘Follow me’ makes itself heard on the different paths taken by the disciples and confessors of the divine Redeemer.” This teaching makes clear the error of Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Christian State of Life, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983), 421, in denying that marriage can be a vocation: “No sound and balanced Christian will ever say of himself that he chose marriage by virtue of a divine election, an election comparable to the election and vocation experienced or even only perceived by those called to the priesthood or to the personal following of Christ in religious life.”

126. See Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, 2nd ed. (London: Dacre Press, 1945), 12–35.

127. See John Paul II, General Audience (20 July 1991); L’Osservatore Romano, It. ed., 21 July 1991, 4; OR, 22 July 1991, 11.

128. Helpful theological studies: Domenico Sartore, C.S.I., “La famiglia, chiesa domestica,” Lateranum 45 (1979): 282–303; Jean Beyer, S.J., “Ecclesia domestica,” Periodica de re morali, canonica, liturgica 79 (1990): 293–326; Vigen Guroian, “Family and Christian Virtue in a Post-Christendom World: Reflections on the Ecclesial Vision of John Chrysostom,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 35 (1991): 327–50.

129. John Paul II, Homily at Mass in Belmont Racecourse (Perth), 3, Inseg. 9.2 (1986) 1782, OR, 9 Dec. 1986, 21.

130. CIC, c. 226, §1.

131. Focusing primarily on the prophetic responsibility of the family, John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 62, AAS 81 (1989) 514–15, OR, 6 Feb. 1989, 20, teaches: “The Christian family, as the ‘domestic Church’, also makes up a natural and fundamental school for formation in the faith; father and mother receive from the Sacrament of Matrimony the grace and the ministry of the Christian education of their children, before whom they bear witness and to whom they transmit both human and religious values. While learning their first words, children learn also the praise of God, whom they feel is near them as a loving and providential Father; while learning the first acts of love, children also learn to open themselves to others, and through the gift of self receive the meaning of living as a human being. The daily life itself of a truly Christian family makes up the first ‘experience of Church’, intended to find confirmation and development in an active and responsible process of the children’s introduction into the wider ecclesial community and civil society. The more that Christian spouses and parents grow in the awareness that their ‘domestic church’ participates in the life and mission of the universal Church, so much the more will their sons and daughters be able to be formed in a ‘sense of the Church’ and will perceive all the beauty of dedicating their energies to the service of the Kingdom of God.” Also see John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 51–54, AAS 74 (1982) 142–47, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 10–11.

132. On the kingly responsibility of the family, see John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 63–64, AAS 74 (1982) 155–58, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 12–13.

133. See John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 13, AAS 74 (1982) 95, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 3. Verbally, the Pope associates prophecy with the sacrament’s anticipatory aspect, but he is not here concerned with the threefold office. On the priestly responsibility of the family, see Familiaris consortio, 55–62, AAS 74 (1982) 147–55, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 11–12.

134. Leo XIII, Inscrutabili Dei consilio, ASS 10 (1877) 590, PE, 78.14, teaches that the benefits of the sacrament extend to the children: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, by raising to the dignity of a sacrament the contract of matrimony, in which he would have his own union with the Church typified, not only made the marriage tie more holy, but, in addition, provided efficacious sources of aid for parents and children alike, so that, by the discharge of their duties one to another, they might with greater ease attain to happiness both in time and in eternity.”