- Brian Myers
Part of Creation
The following essay is based on an essay written for my Marriage class as part of my masters degree. The content and style was influenced by the assignment.
“Marriage was clearly something that was a part of creation. The other sacraments of the church, like Eucharist and Baptism, came from the ministry of Jesus.”
I was surprised by this statement from Thomas. It is clearly a simple statement made in the context of a larger argument which needs further unpacking and nuancing, but still it surprised me that he was making a distinction between marriage and the other sacraments in this regard. While I understand that that Eucharist and Baptism and are more clearly instituted by Christ in the scriptures, it seems that these sacraments are also a part of creation.
In Kevin Irwin’s description of the cosmic mass model in Models of the Eucharist, he defined sacramentality as “naming and using things from this world and discovered in human life that reveal and disclose the presence and action of God among us.” He goes on to say:
Jesus, the church, and the seven sacraments are best appreciated as particular and privileged expressions of the God who has revealed and continues to reveal the divine – yes, God’s very self – through the material of human existence and in the community of human relationships, all placed within a world that is itself regarded as sacramental.
In the Eucharist class, I was fascinated by the process through which the Church came to recognize Eucharist as a Sacrament. I wrote a reflection paper at that time on how the community recognized something profound in their experience of gathering together for this meal. Similarly, I am fascinated by the process through which the Church came to recognize marriage as a Sacrament. This was not a process of discovering the seven ways God reveals himself to us, but rather a process of discerning which of the millions of ways God reveals himself to us are particular and privileged.
My surprise at Thomas’s assertion that marriage is unique among the other sacraments in that it was a part of creation was twofold. First, I was surprised Baptism and Eucharist were not recognized as part of creation. Irwin pointed out that we bathe and we dine, and in these ordinary experiences we experience God’s life and love. These experiences were “raised to the dignity of a sacrament”, to use the words in the introduction to the Rite of Marriage. While Christ certainly gave new meaning to these experiences, he was elevating elements of human experience found in creation. This does not seem so different from the institution of the marriage sacrament. “The Lord elevated marriage to the status of a sign of the new covenant established by God through the Blood of his Son. In this sense, the Lord instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony. In point of fact, considered as a natural sign, marriage was instituted with the creation of the man and the woman; it was inscribed in nature itself.”
Second, I was surprised that it took so long for the Church to recognize the sacramental nature of the experience of marriage. I was surprised when Thomas indicated “Christian marriage was the last sacrament to achieve this status.” While I recognize that the experience of marriage has changed significantly over the centuries, it seems that the formation of a family, the founding a home, the sexual intimacy, the birth of children, and so many other elements of the experience of marriage and family so clearly and profoundly communicate God’s life and love. How could the Church have missed the sacramentality of this experience for so long? In his catechesis on the theology of the body, John Paul II eloquently explained how this experience is a fundamental part of the experience of being human. We cannot help but recognize the great mystery in this experience. It is no surprise to me that the Church eventually did come to recognize the profound sacramental nature of the experience of marriage.
 David M Thomas, Christian Marriage: The New Challenge (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2007), 10, accessed September 7, 2015, https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=x7QCgs6KrusC.
 Kevin W Irwin, Models of the Eucharist (New York: Paulist Press, 2005), 43.
 Ibid., 44–45.
 Ibid., 48.
 Daniel Flores, “Marriage: Sacrament of Enduring Love,” in A Book of Readings on Marriage (Washington, DC, 2010), 3.
 Thomas, Christian Marriage, 59.