Benedict XVI, in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, has several points dedicated to pointing out the relationship between the two sacraments. Obviously, since the Eucharist is the sacramental memorial of the Paschal mystery of Christ, all the other sacraments are linked to it.
As the Church teaches us, if the other sacraments confer grace on us, the Author of grace is found in the Eucharist. That is why the Eucharist has that character of being the source and summit of the whole Christian life (LG, 11).
But it is true that marriage, because of its spousal character, has a particular relationship with the Eucharist, which is the sacrament of the "Marriage of the Lamb." God wanted to make an alliance of love with His new people, the Church, in the Blood of his Son. He has married her in the nuptial bed of the cross with an unprecedented love, a sacrificial love. "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). If under the sacramental signs of bread and wine, in the Eucharistic celebration, there is the sacramental actualization of that love and of that surrender of Christ for His Church, then the love between the spouses is called to be "sacrament", a visible sign, a sensitive sign of that love.
But it is legitimate to ask ourselves, “How can the spouses live that highest vocation to manifest visibly that love of the divine Spouse to His Church?” Only by approaching the Eucharist and receiving it frequently and with dignity, can the spouses be transformed from within by that spousal love of Christ, in order to make it visible to men incarnating the mystery that is realized in the Eucharist. The husband and his wife have to enter into the Eucharistic mystery, live it from within. In this way, the personal encounter with Christ in the Eucharist transforms the life of the spouses both inside and outside, they become visible signs of that love, definitive and total, a love without reservations.
Affirms Pope Benedict XVI: "The mutual consent that husband and wife exchange in Christ, which establishes them as a community of life and love, also has a Eucharistic dimension. " (SC, 27). What is that Eucharistic dimension? What does it consist of? The surrender of Christ was not the fruit of a political conspiracy. Jesus was not the victim of a deception for which he was doomed to death against his will. "No one takes my life, I'm the one who gives it freely." Christ gives his yes, his consent to the Church, he gives himself for her with spousal love, he joins her forever. In the same way, the spouses can contemplate in the Eucharist the permanent surrender of Christ that strengthens and makes possible their mutual surrender.
On the other hand, in addition to the analogies, we must point out the difference between the union of Christ with his Church and the spousal union in marriage. In the first case, the Church receives everything from Christ. Her role is to respond to love with love, although she is aware of never being able to love as she is loved. In marriage, on the other hand, there is reciprocity, an equality that makes both spouses imitators of Christ. The love that Christ has for his Church is the one that sustains and illuminates the love that the husband has for his wife, but it is also the one that the wife must imitate when giving herself to her husband.
The gift of Christ for his Church makes her fruitful in the Holy Spirit, who is love and life. In the same way, conjugal love between spouses must be open to fertility, because love is always a source of life. That is why Christ the Eucharist is the Bread of Life. His dedication for love, the very act of self-giving of Christ for the Church, constitutes the mystery of the Eucharist. And that life given, that blood shed, is a source of life for the whole Church.
I want to finish this article by encouraging spouses to find their deepest identity by contemplating and worshiping the Eucharist. Only through the vital union with Christ, united as branches to the Vine, can the spouses really be what they are called to be: a sacrament, a visible sign of the love of Christ for his Church, a living Eucharist.
My blog “God’s plan for the family”
I belong to the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother since its foundation in 1990, and have been a priest for 21 years. I am licensed in Pharmacy from the University of Madrid and hold a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Cross University in Rome. I am committed to the lay apostolate and give retreats for youth and adults.
Fr. Félix López is author and editor of the Blog "God’s Plan for the Family", which can be found on the website www.familiesfullyalive.com.