Marriage is a gift of God in creation; and the marriage of unbelievers is as real, and often as enduring, as the marriage of believers. The words ‘ till death us do part’ are not a special religious ideal; they describe the form of relationship that God has given to human beings as a natural endowment. Knowing that they must both one day die, the partners offer each other a security and continuity in life, that will help them to approach death with humility and a good conscience. Yet it is important that those who marry know the full extent of what they are doing. And Christians believe that that requires an understanding of the love that God has shown mankind in Christ, a love which marriage is called to reflect.
Those who understand God’s love to them will understand their own love as a part of God’ s work in the world, and will be better equipped for what they undertake. Precisely because it is a lifelong partnership, marriage is chosen by God to express the permanence of his love for us, which accompanies us through all the changing scenes of life not only until the day we die, but beyond death to resurrection.
The description of Christian marriage as a ‘sacrament’ is valued because it has its source in the New Testament (the ‘ great mystery’ of Eph 5.32), although the term does not have exactly the same sense as when it is applied to the two ‘sacraments of the Gospel’ , baptism and eucharist. It means that the pledged relation of husband and wife is a sign of the pledge of love that Christ has for his Church, the promises he has made to it, the faithfulness, forgiveness, and patience that he has shown it, the delight he takes in it.
The grace of God in the Holy Spirit is given to all who enter marriage in the conscious desire to hear his call, seeking his strength to live together as they have promised. This is why marriage in the context of worship, properly prepared for by a process of reflection and discussion about the life of faith, is an important ministry of the Church.