In Matrimony, a man and woman are united with each other as a sign of unity between Jesus and his Church. Matrimony requires the consent of the couple, as expressed in the marriage promises. Marriage is a natural institution between one man and one woman. The married couple is called to participate with God in His plan of creation. The main mission of the married couple is to create a family and therefore reflect God’s great love for the world.
God calls couples to a special vocation through the Sacrament of Matrimony: to live a life of love in a community. In this sacrament a man and a woman celebrate their commitment to lifelong love for each other. Matrimony builds the people of God, the Church. Matrimony is based on the personal decision of a man and a woman, who promise to dedicate themselves to each other for their entire lives. As a sacrament, the couple’s union is a reflection of the love of Christ for his Church.
Because marriage is important in building the Church, the people of God, the celebration of the sacrament takes place in the Church before a clergy member (bishop, priest, or deacon). Two other witnesses must be present to confirm that the couple made an exchange of consent. During the ceremony itself, the couple exchanges promises (consent) since they are the ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony. The standard promises that the couple exchanges are as follows:
“I, (name), take you, (name) to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Through the Sacrament of Matrimony, couples receive the grace they need to perfect their human love in a way that makes it similar to Christ’s love for his Church. In the Sacrament of Matrimony, the Holy Spirit gives the couple the strength of enduring love.
The Holy Spirit also helps them to build the domestic church, a term referring to the family unit. In the domestic church, children are introduced to the faith by learning to worship God, to love and forgive, and to work together in a spirit of charity. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit, the family forms a community of grace and prayer where children practice living a holy life and loving one another.
The Sacrament of Matrimony produces the following effect: it forms an indissoluble (unbreakable) bond between a man and a woman. Hence, through the Sacrament of Matrimony, the husband and wife are no longer two, but rather one (in heart and mind).
One of the key virtues of matrimony is purity. This virtue is not selfishness; it is surrender and sacrifice. We see this most clearly in the Sacrament of Matrimony since married life crushes selfishness because it merges two individuals into a corporate life in which neither individual lives for self but for the other. Matrimony narrows selfishness because the rearing of children demands sacrifice. A husband and wife may live only for each other, but a father and mother must die to themselves in order to live for their children.