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Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist – His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Marriage is an image of the Holy Eucharist.

The Church since its earliest days has held up marriage as a profound image of God’s love for His people, brought to fruition in Christ’s love for His bride, the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, describes how God’s covenant with His people Israel images the union of man and woman in marriage:

The election of Israel…appears as the love story of God and his people. The covenant is expounded through the analogy of betrothal and marriage, as the binding of God’s love to man and of man to God. Thus human love was able to serve as a profoundly real analogy of God’s action in Israel.[1]

Early in His public ministry, Jesus presented Himself as the Bridegroom. When asked why His disciples did not fast like the disciples of John and the Pharisees, Jesus responds:

“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” Mark 2:19-20

Benedict XVI further describes how the Eucharist corresponds to the union of man and woman in marriage:

In the Eucharist a communion takes place that corresponds to the union of man and woman in marriage. Just as they become “one flesh,” so in Communion we all become “one spirit,” one person, with Christ. The spousal mystery, announced in the Old Testament, of the intimate union of God and man takes place in the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, precisely through his Passion and in a very real way (see Eph 5:29-32; 1 Cor 6:17; Gal 3:28).[2]

In his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), Saint John Paul II illustrates this truth in a powerful way:

Christ is the Bridegroom because “he has given himself”: his body has been “given,” his blood has been “poured out” (see Lk 22:19-20). In this way “he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). The “sincere gift” contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love. As the Redeemer of the world, Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption. It is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride…Christ is united with his “body” as the bridegroom with the bride. All this is contained in the Letter to the Ephesians. The perennial “unity of the two” that exists between man and woman from the very “beginning” is introduced into this “great mystery” of Christ and the Church.[3]

In their wedding vows, husband and wife are committing to total, free, faithful, and fruitful love. This is what Christ has also done for us on the cross. At the Last Supper, the first celebration of the Eucharistic feast, Christ said “This is my body given for you.” When husband and wife consummate their marriage in the marital embrace, they echo the words of Christ in giving their bodies to each other in one-flesh union. Marriage points to the Eucharist. As St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32).

Through the graces that come from the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, along with praying together as a couple and regular reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, spouses are given the grace to love each other as Jesus loves His Church.

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 141.

[2] Ibid., 142.

[3] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, §26, internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1988/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19880815_mulieris-dignitatem.html (accessed June 1, 2018).