People who live together as partners, without getting married, often say that marriage is just a bit of paper. What difference does it make if you are married or not?

Well, Christian marriage is much more than a consenting adult relationship, more than a convenient arrangement. Christian Churches hold it in high regard as a “holy mystery”. And Catholics call it a sacrament.

Christians believe that the love of husband and wife is like a mirror: it reflects God’s love for the world and in particular Christ’s love for the Church. So their married life is a privileged way in which they can make Christ present to today’s world.

Christian marriage has no room for pre-nuptial agreements. That’s because it’s unconditional. For better for worse, in sickness and in health means that the couple agree to stay together come what may and to face whatever life’s challenges may prove to be.

To begin married life with certain pre-conditions, or with the idea that if things don’t work out then there’s always another option on the horizon, runs contrary to the idea of Christian marriage.

And linked with this is the concept of indissolubility. Sadly, there are cases when everyone agrees it is better for a man and woman to live apart. But if all the circumstances were right at the time of the marriage, then a second marriage is not an option. (Annulments are granted when things were clearly wrong from the start.).

It goes without saying that Christian marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s because the love shared, and particularly its sexual expression, demands a total giving, a complete sharing of lives together. Each partner gives themselves to the other in a gesture of absolute trust and unreserved love. That’s what the older language about worshipping with the body actually meant. They are no longer two but become one body.

It’s easy just to live together. But to be united in Christian marriage is a vocation to something much deeper.

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