02 October 2015

Marriage: Words Mean Things

We continue with day two of our journey with the Roman Catechism and its treatment of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  In this entry, as in what will follow, the clarity and precision of the language is, in itself, a joy:

Nature and Meaning of Marriage 

The nature and meaning of marriage are, therefore, to be first explained. Vice not infrequently assumes the semblance of virtue, and hence care must be taken that the faithful be not deceived by a false appearance of marriage, and thus stain their souls with turpitude and wicked lusts. To explain this subject, let us begin with the meaning of the word itself.

Names Of This Sacrament

The word matrimony is derived from the fact that the principal object which a female should propose to herself in marriage is to become a mother; or from the fact that to a mother it belongs to conceive, bring forth and train her offspring.

It is also called wedlock (conjugium) from joining together, because a lawful wife is united to her husband, as it were, by a common yoke.

It is called nuptials, because, as St. Ambrose observes, the bride veiled her face through modesty ­­ a custom which would also seem to imply that she was to be subject and obedient to her husband.

Definition Of Matrimony

Matrimony, according to the general opinion of theologians, is defined: The conjugal union of man and woman, contracted between two qualified persons, which obliges them to live together throughout life.

In order that the different parts of this definition may be better understood, it should be taught that, although a perfect marriage has all the following conditions, ­­ namely, internal consent, external compact expressed by words, the obligation and tie which arise from the contract, and the marriage debt by which it is consummated; yet the obligation and tie expressed by the word union alone have the force and nature of marriage.

The special character of this union is marked by the word conjugal. This word is added because other contracts, by which men and women bind themselves to help each other in consideration of money received or other reason, differ essentially from matrimony.

Next follow the words between qualified persons; for persons excluded by law cannot contract marriage, and if they do their marriage is invalid. Persons, for instance, within the fourth degree of kindred, a boy before his fourteenth year, and a female before her twelfth, the ages established by law, cannot contract marriage.

The words, which obliges them to live together throughout life, express the indissolubility of the tie which binds husband and wife.

Essence And Cause Of Marriage

Hence it is evident that marriage consists in the tie spoken of above. Some eminent theologians, it is true, say that it consists in the consent, as when they define it: The consent of the man and woman. But we are to understand them to mean that the consent is the efficient cause of marriage, which is the doctrine of the Fathers of the Council of Florence; because, without the consent and contract, the obligation and tie cannot possibly exist.

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