The Sacrament of Marriage
In the Catholic tradition, Marriage is a sacrament. That means, as you may recall, that it is an outward sign of an inner grace, given to us by Jesus.
The Church teaches that it is within the Sacrament of Marriage that we aspire most closely to the life of the Trinity. Marriage becomes a fundamental icon of the life of God. It models the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church. It is a privileged participation in the unfolding of God’s kingdom.
The Church states in its pastoral notes on Marriage:
The rite of Marriage, like all liturgical rites, expresses the Paschal Mystery of Christ, his life, death and resurrection. This is the primary meaning of the sacrament and this must be evident in its celebration… In the Christian dispensation, moreover, married love is not only symbolic of God’s love for the world, but also and especially of the very incarnation of God’s love in the Christ-event.”
The Church takes great joy in preparing couples to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage. For a Catholic, the expectation is that the wedding celebration will be in the presence of the official Church witness: a Deacon, Priest or Bishop. People commonly refer to this as, “getting married in the Church.”
The man and the woman are the ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage and the Priest or Deacon is the official Church witness. The man and woman marry each other; the Priest (Deacon) does not marry them; he witnesses their vows.
It is most appropriate to celebrate the wedding in the parish where you worship each Sunday. At St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, it is customary for the couple to participate in a Marriage Preparation Course prior to celebrating the wedding. It is important to note that the preparation is focused on marriage not simply the day of the wedding. The first step is to speak with the Priest or Deacon about the preparation process, particularly if this is a second marriage for one or both of the bride and groom. This meeting should occur at least one year before the date of marriage.
The married couples in our parish are a sign to us of God’s faithfulness. Our parish family is strengthened by the witness of married couples.
(We would like to thank Catherine Ecker (email@example.com), who is the principal author.)