Do you believe in the real presence of Christ in marriage?
To remind us of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the US Bishops launched a multi-year Eucharistic Revival effort. I propose that such a movement needs alongside it a revival also for the Sacrament of Marriage.
LINDA JI ADDRESSES ATTENDEES DURING A SPECIAL WORLD MARRIAGE DAY EVENT AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL CAMPUS HELD ON FEB. 10. PHOTO BY KIERNAN COLIFLORES/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
St. John Paul II called marriage the “primordial sacrament” in his Theology of the Body Wednesday audiences. Marriage is the original, “most ancient” sacrament belonging to creation itself, designed by God for all humanity from the beginning.
As written in Genesis, humans are created in God’s image as male and female, with masculinity and femininity in our very bodies. Marriage of a man and woman is a fundamental human relationship that reflects our Creator: God who is a relationship of three loving persons in one God.
In this male-female complementarity and union as a family, we reveal God who is love.
Sin and error have marred our behaving so, even our believing that this is who we are. Jesus Christ, the Son of God through whom all things are created, elevates marriage to a sacrament, redeems it and gifts it back to us with grace. Thus, through sacramental marriage, couples are called to be visible signs of that invisible grace of Christ’s love in the world through the whole of their union — their lives, minds, souls and bodies.
It feels challenging to live up to this call. I imagine that a sacrament of Christ’s love should look beautiful and elegant. My husband and my married life looks messy and fraught, and our parenting probably looks worse. The challenge is to look at us with the eyes of faith. Just as faith is requisite to discern the Real Presence of Christ — His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — under the appearances of bread and wine Christ’s love in a married couple can also be hidden without faith. But the sacrament is efficacious, no matter the holiness of the minister. (Remember, the minister of the sacrament of marriage is the couple!) At any moment, with conversion and opening our eyes of faith, we can see the sign—married couples can be the sign — of Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church.
Within the messy sandbox of our lives — corporate workplace, public school, financial debt, leaky roof, illness, our past wounds, our present selfishness — my husband and I have our Passion moments and days, weeks and years. Last year, my husband carried me and our children through my cancer treatment journey: moments of immense pain, days in and out of the hospital, weeks of slow recovery. In marriage, we take up our cross and sacrifice for each other and our family and community. Often imperfectly executed but always leaning on God’s strength and grace, our spousal relationship reveals the nuptial mystery of salvation in Christ.
Blindness to the Eucharist is tied to blindness to sacramental marriage or any of the sacraments. It is a loss of our sacramental imagination, our eyes of faith. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom who suffered and died for his Bride. A revival of sacramental marriage will help us open our eyes to the Eucharist by reflecting Christ’s Passion, death, and resurrection lived out in the everyday lives of married couples.
This is all very lofty sounding, but how are married couples to do this in the messy sandbox of earthly life? Like any other disciple, married couples must discern, submit, and be nourished. Remembering that marriage is a vocation, a sacrament in the service of communion, married couples continuously discern in prayer how God is calling us specifically to be signs of Christ’s love. As the Spirit moves, the couple also moves, submitting our will to that of the Father who with the Son created us to be images of God. We eat Jesus’ Body and Blood for the strength and courage to carry our own cross. We receive the gift of the Bridegroom in the Eucharist to be gifts ourselves to our spouse and in the service of the Bride of Christ.
If none of this sounds new, it is because a revival is really a call for us to recall what has been there all along and enliven it once more. Let us open our eyes of faith and see Christ’s real presence in the sacraments. For those of us who are married, let us be what we are: a living reflection of God who is love in the world.