The truth of the love of man and woman is fully illuminated only in the love of the crucified Christ. He stressed that ‘marriage based on an exclusive and definitive love becomes an icon of the relationship between God and his people, and vice versa.
The family is the image of God, who is a communion of persons. Jesus, who reconciled all things in himself and redeemed us from sin, not only returned marriage and the family to their original form, but also raised marriage to the sacramental sign of his love for the Church. In the human family, gathered by Christ, ‘the image and likeness’ of the Most Holy Trinity has been restored, the mystery from which all true love flows.
The sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment. The sacrament is a gift given for the sanctification and salvation of the spouses, since “their mutual belonging is a real representation, through the sacramental sign, of the same relationship between Christ and the Church.
In accepting each other, and with Christ’s grace, the engaged couple promise each other total self-giving, faithfulness and openness to new life. The sacrament is not a “thing” or a “power”, for in it Christ himself “now encounters Christian spouses... He dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses.
Sexual union, lovingly experienced and sanctified by the sacrament, is in turn a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple. The sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one with us.
In the Church’s Latin tradition, the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the man and the woman who marry; by manifesting their consent and expressing it physically, they receive a great gift. Their consent and their bodily union are the divinely appointed means whereby they become “one flesh”.