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Document Details :
Title: Ehe - Leben aus den zuverlässigen Wort
Author(s): MALFÈR, Benno
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Date: Spring 1997
Marriage – life from the word that can be trusted
Marriage is one of the seven sacraments. The frame of reference here is a theological or churchdisciplinary understanding of marriage which fully legitimates it as a form of life for the baptised. Marriage and Church are not only not in contradiction, but actually participate analogously in the Holy Mystery of Christ. This legitimation was (is?) necessary within the Church in the debate with the eschatologically-motivated virginity option.
It was always difficult to fit marriage into the systematics of the idea of the sacraments as developed by medieval scholasticism (giver, receiver, matter, form etc.). We find it equally difficult today to make comprehensible in any kind of everyday religious language the extent to which the marriage of baptised persons is a full sign of the sacred Mystery and sacrament of the Church and why there cannot be a marriage of baptised persons that is not a sacrament etc.
A meditation on the connection between marriage and word seems to offer possibilities for developing this connection today.
Here are a few indications:
1. Marriage is a form of life which is constituted by the word that the partners say to each other and in which they trust.
2. The valid marriage, lived in full completeness, is founded on the trustworthy word of both partners.
3. The word that creates reality appeals to man in his freedom and responsibility (history).
4. The marital word articulates the unconditional acceptance of the other as other (sexual difference) and promises an intention never to withdraw this acceptance (faithfulness). This word of love, today codified in the marriage vow, constitutes marriage as a bond for life. At the same time the relation between the two words »I love you« and »I marry you« has varied greatly in history from culture to culture.
5. Such a promise is worthy of trust (= valid) only if it is given freely and with the appropriate competence. (For that reason canon law is concerned with the matter).
6. Only the partners themselves can vouch for the validity of this word; and if they do so, no external instance can negate this validity. This married couple is in its way word made flesh.
7. From the pragmatic linguistic viewpoint the marital word is a promise and the lived marriage is the fulfilment of this promise.
8. The constitutive character of the (trustworthy) word for marriage makes the word a living element of marriage. Marriage succeeds, insofar as the marriage partners continue to have something to say, insofar as the mutual acceptance or the difficulties with that can be freshly articulated in the changing circumstances of life. The extraverbal communication in marriage is an anticipation or commemoration of the verbal communication. That is the basis of freedom in marriage.
9. It is not difficult to see the structural analogies between the living bond of marriage constituted by the word and the newly constituted bond of God with man in Christ, the Word.
10. That marriage is a system of communication is commonly acknowledged today. In the effort to make this system succeed a dialogue between Christians and “humanists” is possible and necessary. That marriage is founded on the trustworthy word is also a working basis for ecumenical dialogue (interchurch marriages).
11. That the word (consensus, verba de presenti, verba de futuro, etc.) is of fundamental significance for marriage and for its validity, that this word has to do with God’s Word and consequently with liturgical celebration, was a subject of theological or canon law discussion in the Church up to the point of equating marriage with sacrament for the baptised.