St Augustine's Writings on the Sacrament of Marriage



his father into the Son and Holy Ghost Jewish marriage customs featured a wedding feast which could be a rather lengthy affair depending of course on the wealth or lack thereof of the couple themselves they could last him up to a week or even more and in the course of it there was a fair bit of eating and obviously quite a bit of drinking and wine is kept in reserve for weddings even to this day and is kept in large amounts and to run out of wine during the course of a wedding feast is not merely just an embarrassment it is something which reflects directly on the wedding couple themselves and if they run out it does not bode well for the marriage itself and so it was more than just a mere embarrassment that Mary noticed when she saw that they were running out of wine and turning to her divine son she informs him they have no more wine Christ's reply is something that can be easily misunderstood when he says woman what is that to me into the my hour has not yet come first of all when he addressed her as woman it was not in any way derogatory in fact at that time in place it was the highest title of respect to address someone as woman but then he says my hour has not yet come one might ask no of course the hour would be the hour of his betrayal his passion and his death what in the name of all that is holy has that got to do with a wedding feast and relieving a shortage of wine well it's really very simple because this would be the first of his miracles it would be the first time that he would show to the world his true identity that he not is not just a Galilean or a good man but he is God he possesses power to work miracles in so doing he would attract the attention of the who would have who take issue with that for men for whom instead of love and reverence being excited their jealousy and hatred would be in kindled God is rather like the Sun whose light shines on both wax and mud the same sunlight but the reactions can be quite different when it shines on wax it softens it when it shines on mud it hardens it when we come into we encounter a Christ and we do so personally there really can be no middle ground it's rather one or the other we will be shown for what we really are and we will either love him or we will hate him it's rather interesting that in a recent meeting of the board of the Academy Awards to decide which film was going to receive the award the best picture of the year when the subject of the passion came up the room was filled with blasphemies and cussing really they were shown to be what they really are and so Christ in consenting to work this miracle and showing himself to the world would actually be signing his own death warrant the world cannot tolerate those who are very good and those who are very bad they're very bad because they disturb its material security they're very good because they disturb his conscience and I venture to say that they can tolerate the very good with less ease than they can tolerate the bad but at any rate Christ would be crucified next to two thieves he saw a goodness incarnate and the very bad on Calvary together he was making that very plain that in working this miracle he would be setting out on the road to Calvary it's very important that he did this in a particular setting in the celebration of a marriage he's telling us that he thought this marriage in particular and marriage in general was worth dying for merits is something that is made created by God he is the author of marriage he is the one who writes the laws under which it is to be governed therefore it is not something which we can reinvent according to our own personal tastes it is not something whose definition in law can be adjusted to current fashion we must accept it as it has been given by God all of the current tendencies notwithstanding marriage has been made by God for the joining of one man and one woman and he's made it so for the purpose of the procreation of children and then secondly the consolation of the spouse's this is what God has given us and it is a great vocation he's inviting us to take it up so those who are called to it as a means of sanctification now there are quite a few contradictory misunderstandings about marriage both of them quite extreme some think of marriages not so it's so much a big deal you can get into it and out of it quite easily depending upon your inclinations so is thought or that marriage can be dispensed with altogether if you feel are just living together without the benefit of it that's one error the other extreme is that marriage is thought of as some kind of occupational therapy it's the kind of an institution that you can check yourself into to relieve whatever psychopathology happens to be besieging you just take a look at some of the outfall of the recent priest scandals the cry has gone up that celibacy should be done away with and the priest should marry really so marriage is gonna hear all that is it must be pretty magical like any other sacrament marriage is a channel through which grace flows and grace is something which builds on nature if there is are good things in someone some positive natural virtues in a man and a woman then grace has something upon which to build and grow but if a couple bring to marriage severe deficits some tremendous moral failings and grace can't do much for that there has to be something given on our part beginning with reverence for it so that preparation for marriage is that something that begins actually in childhood by the cultivation of virtue and the realization that marriage itself is a challenging vocation it is something for men and women not for boys and girls couples that come to the altar all starry-eyed thinking they're just punching their chick ticket to get into an earthly heaven worry me have they really stopped to think what they're in store for have they stopped to look at the challenges that their own parents have had to face over the years maybe not but when a couple have looked at all this and they've cultivated virtue they are men and women of prayer and sacrifice and now that spirit of seeking the benefit of the others when the great needle is given to them they can expect much in fact in the instruction that which is read during the course of the marriage ceremony it promises a rather startling thing for those who approach merit abiding by God's law availing of His grace and with the clear intention and will to sacrifice themselves for the sake of each other and for their children they can hope to to know the greatest measure of earthly happiness that one can have in this vale of tears San Agustin in writing on marriage talked about three the three goods of marriage for all the sacrifices that a couple have to put into it they can expect a great deal in return the first of these three goods is the good of fidelity but he one man and one woman belong entirely to each other and that they will be faithfully to each other in a bond that endures until death and in it they will be confident that they can make mutual sacrifices and that that at the time in times of hardship which will come they can have mutual support that here is a mutual mutually complementary relationship between a husband and a wife the wife is the heart of the home the husband is its head there is an they are equal in a certain sense but this is a compliment Terry if they complement each other now these days people are led to believe in a totally a gala terian point of view that yes they are equal completely across the board and that the government governing of a family is to be this wonderful joint effort in which everybody is democratically joyful well it doesn't work somebody has to have the last word somebody has to be in charge somebody has to shoulder the responsibility for the security and the position of the families needs st. Joseph was designated so by God and when the order was given and he passed it on and he gave the order to his family up let us flee to Egypt Mary could have said well pardon me I mean I'm the immaculately conceived mother of God I didn't get any message telling me that we had to go to Egypt so don't bother me with this besides my divine son hasn't said anything about it well that didn't happen of course Joseph took up his charge his duty as head of the family with humility and courage realizing of course that the woman that he was to give commands to was quite on a higher plane than he was and certainly so was his foster son who was God incarnate he is the he was the head of that family just as every father is the head of the family that God has given to him by God's decree now the dethroning of the father as head of the family in our age is the result of a warped ideology nevertheless an ideology which has not been short of seeming justifications of men who have not carried out their duty as it should be with humility and courage remembering that authority is given by God for the sake of service to those over whom you have that authority not for one's own aggrandizement so when a man treats his wife and children as possessions to be used of views that will he's really undermining his own authority and he isn't doing any other men any favors either authorities to be exercised the way Joseph did it not for his own benefit but for the support and the protection of those that have been entrusted to him there's a interesting part in the book of Genesis where talks about the creation of heed now one can glance over that and think must a nice little story and completely missed the profound theological truth that is it is hidden there God made Eve from the rib of Adam and think about it for a moment if I worst if I were to give you a choice which would you choose would you like to be created out of the dust of the earth or would you prefer to be built up from someone made in the likeness and image of God it gives you something of an idea of the dignity of woman and she occupies the place as the heart of the home that at any rate Eve was created from a bone from Adams side not from his head that he should lord it over him and not from his foot that he should dominate her not from his back that she should follow behind him not from his front then he should trail along behind her but from his Maria at his side where she belongs near his heart to be loved by him and under his arm to be protected by him the second good that Augusta mentioned was the good of the sacrament and in the conferral of this sacrament when a man and a woman approached the altar and repeat their vows God takes them at their word and then he joins them two in one flesh they are no longer two they are one we may not see it but then there are many realities which eyes cannot see which are more real than anything we can and marriage is one of those God has joined the two in one flesh he thought the whole of his infinite power to bear on these two people and what God has joined man must not tear asunder must not divide this is something we have to be reminded of occasionally in this day and age when divorce and the mentality that it fosters is in the very air we breathe a lot of folks are running around with the idea and their mind that divorce dissolves the marriage and renders one free to remarry etc etc etc think about it for a minute folks what they're saying is that a judge sitting on a bench somewhere canna fix a few little scrolls of ink to the bottom of a piece of paper and that will have the power to dissolve something which is required all of God's power to create can you think of a better example of arrogance than that and of sheer stupidity the judge might just as well sign a piece of paper and declare that the continent of Australia does not exist nothing could be further from his our God is the author of marriage and for those who think that marriage is just a piece of paper our divorce that's just a piece of paper and it's gonna be worth less than the paper it's printed on when one appears before the judgment seat of God at the sacrament of holy matrimony raising about an unbreakable stability and with that believe it or not great freedom because a couple can look at each to each other in absolute confidence and there's freedom with it because that confidence is unshakable that's not enjoyed by those who choose to live together without benefit of marriage those are relationships with her which are built to fall apart and one will always be looking for that telltale sign that that jig is up there was one couple once upon a time who were living outside of marriage living in sin and they always had this little ritual whereby they would eat their meals sitting right next to each other but then one day the husband committed the unforgivable sin of sitting up across the table from her he merely interpreted this as the infallible sign that the relationship was over dead and done with how preposterous in marriage made by God there are no such tripwires people can live in confidence that this it will is a bond that will endure the grace of the sacrament of holy matrimony joins two in one flesh but it also gives them the grace to carry out the tasks that are incumbent with the marriage state like any other grace it enlightens the intellect so that you will know what is good and and it strengthens the will so that you will be able to decide what is right and carry it through with perseverance so that you will be a good husband and wife to each other and a good husband and a good father and mother to your children that's a big enough challenge and you have God's grace to an aid you the string attached of course is that you have to keep that grace alive if for example someone approaches the altar in a state of mortal sin and attempts marriage is that marriage valid yes it is but they don't get the grace they need to carry out their duty which means that for all of us who are for those of you who are married we need to keep the grace of the sacrament alive what she means regular confession avoiding mortal sin and if you find yourself in it go to confession immediately because not only are you the loser for it those under your authority will suffer because your judgment will be impaired and your will will be weakened as a consequent this is especially on a public obligation on fathers of families of husbands you are the head of the family it is for you to pursue holiness above all others because all others are dependent upon you the marriage ceremony itself is an act of priesthood let me explain that as a priest I will do certain things which are acts of priesthood like for example giving absolution and on humans I will contact the Holy Eucharist and Holy Sacrifice of the mass but there is one sacrament I will never administer and that's the sacrament of holy matrimony it is the couple themselves who marry each other they confer the sacrament on each other one two people and who are baptized approach the altar they are exercising puddles the only time in their lives a priestly office now it's important to remember that marriage is a public sacrament and there have to be witnesses some witnesses are essential even for the validity of that marriage even though the couple themselves are the one who confer it the presence of a priest or deacon is one of those necessary witnesses unless of course you've got a dispensation from a bishop for form what this means is that for Catholics if both parties are Catholic or at least one is Catholic that marriage has to be witnessed in a church by a delegated priest or deacon if that does not happen and that marriage is not valid and they have no marriage rights coming out of it this means that we as Catholics are forbidden to lend what we call forbidden assistance at marriages which we know to be valid it doesn't matter when you're talking about people who are Protestants or some other religion their marriages are recognized as valid by the church but it's a couple or at least one of those is Catholic it must be in the church or it is not valid when you go to a wedding keep in mind that you are not just an idle spectator you are a witness and not own like a witness it a gives testimony and say a court of law what you are doing by your presence there is tests and more tests defying to the validity to the truth of what is happening in front of you and when that which is happening in front of you is not valid then you are standing in witness to something which is akin to perjury ladies and gentlemen this is where the rubber of our faith really meets the road because in this day and age merit when marriage is looked upon in such irreverent ways we may find ourselves invited to take part as witnesses to marriage which we will know to be invalid because at least one party is a Catholic and it's not taking place in the Catholic Church in front of a priest or a deacon and sometimes that might even occur within your own families that's tough there was a woman I know of once whose son had been married divorced and then he chose to attempt marriage again it was a mere attempted marriage his first marriage was valid and he was invited to come and she warned him I cannot the pressure was on but he stood up to it and he stayed home and cried he was vilified for what other people thought to be her on lack of consideration and sealing but what she did was right she remained faithful to Christ and refused to stand in testimony over something she knew to be false the third good that seen the Gustin mentioned and also which he insisted is the greatest good merit is the good of children again here is something which rubs modern ears kind of the wrong way because children today are not looked upon as the blessing that they once were in biblical times Berenice was regarded as a curse and it was and women were prey to be released from this shame by being allowed to conceive children today it's different because children rather than being looked upon is a great gift from God or rather looked upon as something of an inconvenience something that crimson our personal style and limits our own selfish indulgences we forget that God in giving men and woman the gift of marriage is inviting them to give him back citizens for heaven children are to be prized for what they are they come to us from God they are entrusted to us and we ought to give them back to God as it of heaven they are the greatest gift the crowning glory of marriage the if you have a couple who just spend their time gazing lovingly into each other's eyes then sooner or later they will notice the warts we all have them none of us are immaculately conceived but if instead of that they look out together as their children oh sure there will be problems but those flaws will not become the thin end of the wedge which will drive them apart the children will in fact be the mortar which bonds their marriage ever more particularly together so how do we look at children are they look are they put down on the deficit side or the for the positive side of the ledger there was a farmer in sub-saharan Africa not exactly somebody who was living on the lap of luxury mind you but he was he lamented that those Americans must be very poor if they can only afford 2.3 children for marriage how do we value children there was a couple in England who had one child a boy and after a rather long and undesired delay the woman was again found to be with child and they were very excited about it and so was the boy he was delighted with the idea of having a brother or sister unfortunately didn't work out that way the woman suffered a miscarriage and fell to the father to tell his son that he wouldn't have that brother or sister that he was hoping for and bowing before the inscrutable will of God he said it is better that way well the little boy was not so easily Baja and he retorted but the daddy what can be better than a baby that's the kind of wisdom our computerized programs won't ever produce the wisdom that God gives us and the good of children the greatest good of marriage marriage is something that has been instituted by God of the job for the joining of one man and one woman in an unbreakable bond to be dissolved only by death it's a wonderful sacrament through which grace flows it is a means of sanctification it is therefore holy ground upon which we ought not to tread to be respectful of it not to arrogate to ourselves the right of dissolution of it whenever we think it convenient or redefinition according to current fashion remember that it comes to us from the hand of God and as was indicated in today's gospel a hand that for the sake of marriage

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