Is marriage in need of salvation? In the past, divorce rates were often used as a benchmark on the state of marriage. Today there is a growing trend for young people simply not to marry. And this same age group, Millennials are the largest generational group of “nones” or independently religious. In recent Wednesday Audiences, Pope Francis expressed great concern over the state of marriage and the family (cf. April 29, 2015). And Pope John Paul II warned us, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live,” (John Paul II, Homily, 30 November 1986).
So what is the best response to this state of marriage and the faith? Some suggest Hardcore Catholic Millennials have a “robust attitude” about their Catholic identity, living their brand of the faith on social media. Others suggest Millennials “ache for sacramentality” found in more traditional liturgies or worship services. Is there even a relationship between marriage and religion? The Church believes so, and that relationship can be seen most visibly in the Sacraments.
As with all aspects of salvation, the Church, the Sacrament of salvation, has the best response to the needs of the world. Her best response is her Sacrament of love, the Eucharist, the source and summit of her life. In the Eucharist, we celebrate God’s loving relationship with us. The Church expresses this relationship like that of a marriage (cf. Jeremiah 16:9, 25:10, 33:11; Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35; John 2:7-10; Ephesians 5:22-33). The love exchanged in the Eucharist has a nuptial meaning, and thereby is to be reflected in the love between spouses (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis 27).
As members of the Church, we are joined intimately with Christ. This relationship between Christ the Bridegroom and his Church the Bride is most celebrated in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This “nuptial mystery” began in Baptism and finds perfection in the Eucharist (Sacramentum Caritatis 27). Therefore, we might look to the Salvation received in the Eucharist as a source for the Salvation of marriage today.
During this year’s liturgical celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we hear about the cup of Salvation. We drink from the Chalice of Salvation because Christ has obtained for us eternal Redemption with his own blood (cf. Hebrews 9:11-15). So “precious in the eyes of the Lord” are we that he loved us “to the end” (Psalm 116:15; John 13:1; cf. CCC 1380). And in our partaking in the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate what Christ makes possible: a permanent, faithful, and exclusive relationship between God and us.
Those qualities inherent to the Eucharist, the “sacrament of the Bridegroom and the Bride,” are the same qualities necessary for the marriage between a man and a woman (Mulieris Dignitatem 26). The union of Christ and the Church made present in the Eucharist needs to be the image of the unity of husband and wife made present in marriage. The unity longed for between those betrothed can be possible and sustained when a Eucharistic culture is infused into the state of marriage. The Most Holy Presence of Christ is that Cup to save marriage.
Only by faith in Christ may we experience the intimacy we long for in this Sacrament of love. By our participation in the life of the Church, we vow to belong to God and to one another even unto death. We promise to always and forever be God’s faithful servants in the presence of those who, too, make the same promise. Our mutual exchange of vows is possible only because of the Presence of Christ. We partake in the Body of Christ, making us the one Body of Christ, the Church. We drink from the same Cup of Salvation as the one Bride of Christ, the Church. The intimacy of spouses requires daily attention just as the intimacy of faith demands. Let us always make Christ present in marriage so there can be a growing trend of Christ in the world.
James Spurgin is a Senior Editor for RCL Benziger.Sign Up for Our E-Newsletter!