The Sacrament of Marriage
There are commonalties and differences regarding marriage in our Church compared to other churches in the Catholic Faith Tradition, particularly the Roman Catholic Tradition. In regard to the Sacrament of Marriage, there are more commonalities than differences, but there are some significant differences.
Being a church in the Catholic Faith Tradition our Church teaches that the ideal of Christian Marriage is the image of the relationship of Christ and His Church. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (5:15) wrote:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
At its most basic level, marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and mutual love and support. In the Catholic Faith Tradition, marriage is considered to be more than a natural institution. Marriage was elevated by Christ Himself, in His participation in the wedding at Cana, to be one of the seven Sacraments. A marriage between two Christians, therefore, has a supernatural element as well as a natural one.
The ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage are the spouses themselves, because the external sign of the Sacrament is not the wedding ceremony, but the marriage contract itself. This does not mean the wedding license that the couple receives, but the vows that each spouse makes to the other. As long as each spouse intends to contract a true marriage, the Sacrament is performed.
The effect of the Sacrament is an increase in sanctifying grace for the spouses, a participation in the divine life of God Himself.
First, our Church does not get involved in the ecclesiastical legalities that some churches use to determine the validity or sacramentality of a marriage. Our Church’s presumption is that every marriage is a valid and, if between a Christian man and woman, a Sacramental marriage. “Who are we to judge?”
Canon 6, paragraphs 14º to 15º of our Church Law state our core doctrinal understanding on Christian marriage:
14º We believe in the sanctity of marriage as a life long commitment between a man and woman.
15º We believe that within certain marriages there may be circumstances or conditions that make life within that relationship unbearable or dangerous and thus divorce becomes appropriate or even necessary. Realizing that Jesus is merciful and it is God alone who understands fully the reality of any human decision, the St. Thomas Church welcomes to all of the sacraments those who have been divorced and/or remarried.
Marriage after Divorce.
So, while we hold, encourage, and promote the Christian ideal of a life-long commitment of a man and woman in marriage, we live in a world of exceptions and happenings that can lead to divorce. So, like our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Faith Tradition we welcome divorced persons to all of the Sacraments of the Church and will witness marriages after divorce.
Further, our priests and deacons will witness the wedding of any man and women who comes to us asking for a Christian wedding ceremony. Our Canons direct our clergy to hold two preparatory sessions with the couple to discuss the Sacrament of Marriage as well as potential hazards to the commitment required when making marriage vows.
Our mission as a Church is to make the unconditional love of Jesus Christ for humankind present in our lives at all times, especially at key moments of spiritual and physical need.
So, providing a Christian Wedding Ceremony to couples who have not been able to meet their church’s marriage requirements for one reason or another has been one of the significant ways we are fulfilling our mission.
For additional information or to arrange a marriage ceremony, please call or email our Church Office to talk with a priest.