Is marriage a sacrament?

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by Stalwart, Sep 10, 2020.

  1. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Let’s have a discussion about it. I’ve made a couple of points in various places that I’d like to collect together in one place.

    The first response: “does it need to be?” Does everything which is holy and sacred have to be a sacrament? In a prior post I discussed Confirmation, and an equivalent point would apply to Matrimony:

    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/dont-know-where-to-begin.3939/#post-38702
    Confirmation is a holy rite mentioned in the Scriptures, but as we know the Lord established two Sacraments, and they are what's properly considered to be a Sacrament, fulfilling the definition. That is not a slight against Confirmation, because not everything has to be a sacrament. What's problematic for me is to insist that everything holy or sacred has to be a sacrament, which it most assuredly doesn't, and the Roman church for centuries didn't view marriage, or confession, or confirmation as sacraments. But in the middle ages, they decided to make more and more things into sacraments, even considered making Kingly coronation into a sacrament. So it's just madness, and plays monkey business with the apostolic faith. We have many holy rites in the church, and two sacraments established by the Lord.”



    I make a similar point about the pretend newly-minted “Sacrament” of Last Unction, which is not a sacrament at all (and doesn’t have to be):

    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/sacraments-2-or-7.912/page-2#post-21093
    I believe we must have the 2 Scriptural Sacraments defined by our Lord, and there are several other sacred rites and rituals (as Anglican theology describes) which include Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony, and the like. But like, for instance Extreme Unction is just a regular Sacrament of the Eucharist, and why Rome has created a new number for it is quite unclear. [maybe just to make an even seven?!] We have the sacred rite and ritual ('The Annointing of the Sick',BCP) but it's a waste of taxonomy to call it a brand new Sacrament.


    Next: does Holy Matrimony fit the technical definition of a sacrament? And is it “less” than those things which we do call sacraments?

    https://forums.anglican.net/threads...tual-virginity-of-mary.2064/page-6#post-36829
    it doesn't fit the definition of a sacrament provided by St. Augustine ("outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace"). It is also much grander in being instituted for Adam and Eve in the Garden, at the very origin of all things, and not "merely" in the New Testament era as the Sacraments of Baptism and of Holy Communion are.”


    Finally, what of its Sacramental definition in the Roman church? I answer as follows:

    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/do-lutherans-have-apostolic-succession.4027/#post-40350
    Friend, matrimony was only declared to be a sacrament in the 1400s.

    That being said, most people interpret “not being a sacrament” as being less than, or less holy to, the things which are sacraments. However matrimony was instituted at the foundation of the world, while Eucharist and Baptism were instituted “only” in the New Testament, so a case can be made that Matrimony is actually more sacred than them. Things don’t have to be sacraments to be holy; sacraments are instrumental; matrimony is instrumental; these are holy instruments in the hands of God.

    Those things which were instituted by the Lord we call sacraments; others, instituted by God the Father, we call holy rites and ordinances, etc. Everything is holy and sacred within the walls of the Church. Trying to make everything sacred into a sacrament is a Roman medieval error, which would’ve been abominable to the Fathers.

    Read St. Augustine’s treatise on divorce (De Divortiis); he never once says that divorce is wrong “because marriage is a sacrament." And for why divorce is wrong, he shows it for other reasons, and spends 100% of the time exegeting from the Scriptures! Never says "it is wrong because of Tradition" either.

    Let’s stop aping and chasing after Roman errors.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  2. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Yes, according to the Articles of Religion, holy matrimony is one of the five "commonly called Sacraments but not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel". Do you disagree with the Articles of Religion on this point?
     
  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I certainly agree that they were commonly called Sacraments, because of the Roman influence; however if you look at the Prayerbook, or any Anglican writings for the next few centuries, or the writings of the Church Fathers such as the treatise I mentioned from St. Augustine, you won't find it be described as a sacrament.

    So I agree that it was (and is!) commonly called a Sacrament, but I'm speaking of the thing itself, not what some people are calling it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
  4. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Dude, St Paul himself called marriage a great sacrament ("mysterion touto mega"). Read Ephesians 5. The sacramental character of matrimony has been embraced since the time of the Apostles.

    When Article XXV refers to the offices of Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction as "Commonly called Sacraments" it is in no way to denigrate them as Roman errors. If so, such a statement would have been placed in Article XXII. Because it wasn't placed there, and because Article XXV nowhere mentions Roman influences, your interpretation is improper.

    "Commonly called Sacraments" as used in Article XXV means sacraments "ordained and approved by common authority", i.e., Church Tradition (See Article XXXIV, Traditions of the Church).
     
  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Do you have a definition of what the word "Sacrament" is? If so, please provide it, because it sounds like you're calling a sacrament anything which has a hint of mystery in it.


    Great, since you're using that word so precisely ("sacramental character"), there should be no difficulty in stating specifically what the word sacrament means, and what its character is. I am ready to provide my definition as well.
     
  6. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Then why didn't you just go ahead and provide it? Why the obfuscation??

    As for me, I don't have a definition for a sacrament, and if I did I would I know it would be decidedly deficient as it would be MY definition. However, the Church has a definition for a Sacrament, which I accept in obedience to her:

    "[A]n outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof." -Catechism, BCP 1928

    If your definition differs from this, then I don't see how providing it would be helpful.
     
  7. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    You are wrong on 2 counts here:

    1) what we know is that Our Lord established two Sacraments "as generally necessary to salvation" (Catechism, BCP 1928). There is nothing in scripture to indicate that He intended to limit the number of all Sacraments for all time to those 2. And, as I have already pointed out, the Articles identify 5 other sacraments passed down to us through Tradition, that we have properly received.

    2) The tradition of 7 sacraments is not a Roman one alone, but is one shared by both Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox communions. All the ancient churches, despite many other areas of dispute, are united on this.
     
  8. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's precisely my definition. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. I quote it in the OP, coming from St. Augustine himself.

    Now, how is marriage a sacrament, according to that definition? If you look at the Anglican divines, you'll see them saying, look it just doesn't fit that definition, so it is something else. And before you try to shoehorn it into that definition, I ask as in the OP: why does it have to be a sacrament, in order to be sacred, indissoluble, etc? Why can't we say that it's even more sacred than the 2 sacraments of the Gospel, and is a 'great mystery' as per St. Paul?


    Not at all. The Eastern Orthodox most definitely do not count the 7 sacraments in the Roman way, as our EO friend @Liturgyworks has stated numerous times. In fact marriage is among many other sacred ordinances of the church not counted as sacraments in the EO world.

    But in either case, it matters little for the Anglican tradition, which is all we're concerned with here.


    Again, if you look at your words carefully here, embedded within is a belief that if marriage were to shown to not be a sacrament, it would become less sacred. That's the problem. There's no reason why the Lord needed to indicate anything here. He instituted 2 sacraments which convey his Body, and the Regeneration of the natural man, and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. This latter the church has split into Baptism the sacrament, and Confirmation (ordinance). Marriage which preceded all of those and is possibly more holy than any of them, is a sacred mystery and ordinance. The Lord commanded us to confess, and gave the church the keys to Absolve; but that's not a sacrament, and is a sacred ordinance of the Church.

    The Church has many mysteries. Why they must be sacraments or lose their sacred character is a mystery to me.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
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  9. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The point I would like to make here involves the notion of a sign. Now we have lots of signs in life, we have stop signs, street signs, directional signs, advertising signs, for sale signs, etc etc etc. Signs in general point the direction to something, or declare something, or tell us about something. By that reasoning a sacrament would need to point to something or declare something, and by the 1928 definition there would need to be something tangible and some sign or grace.

    Indeed the 1661/2 definition is not dissimilar: "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof."

    Clearly Holy Baptism and Holy Communion fit tightly to this definition, and are singled out by the Prayer Books, and indeed are often referred to as the Dominical Sacraments.

    In Genesis 14:18-20 we read "And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said,
    ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything." The notion of the shared meal with Bread and Wine has a long history in the Jewish traditions, and is exemplified in the Passover commemoration with some significance. This is almost certainly the setting in which we find Jesus calling us to do this as his anamnesis.

    Baptism in various forms had also got some history and was seen as part of the may outsiders might come into the community of Israel, and indeed John the Baptist's baptism of repentance was noteworthy, not as an invention, but as a declaration that something was amiss in town, and more importantly because Jesus came to John.

    It is indeed to specific endorsement by Jesus, and Jesus specific commands recorded in the Gospels, Do this as my anamnesis and Go and Baptise, that leads us to single the two out.

    There are however many things that are sacramental in nature. Whether you call them sacramentals, lesser sacraments, or whatever is of little concern to me. I think the notion of seven sacraments is purely silly and artificial and some of the Eastern's speak of many many more. Life is chock-a-block full of outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual graces. As I write this the glorious golden ball in the sky is peaking over the horizon, pointing to the warmth of God's love and light for the living of this day. Is not the dawn in some very real sense sacramental.

    In Marriage the outward and visible sign is the giving and receiving of rings, and in the words of the 1661/2 rite "signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church;"
     
  10. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry, I don't even understand why we are continuing to debate this. Article XXV calls the 5 lesser sacraments "Sacraments". The Homily on Common Prayer and Sacraments, calls them Sacraments. In both instances, the Anglican reformers made it crystal clear that they were not of the same order or prominence as the two greater sacraments as being generally necessary for salvation, and yet, nevertheless they received them as sacraments. They didn't reject them or call them Romish nonsense. They received them. Now in your private judgment you seek to go where the reformers never did and undo the tradition of the Church on this point. I can see having this argument with a Baptist or a pentecostal but not with someone whose avatar bears an Anglican badge. The formularies of Anglicanism recognize Matrimony, Confirmation, etc, as sacraments and for an Anglican imho the matter should be closed. And that is where I'll leave it.
     
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  11. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    You're not engaging with my point, and I am sad for that. Let's not measure badges, friend; just see John Jewel's treatise on the sacraments where he discusses why the 2 sacraments are the only 2 sacraments, etc.

    Men of good will can disagree, without impugning each other's character as you are doing here. We know historically that the divines have not received the '5' as sacraments or interpreted the Articles in the manner you do here. In the 19th century a window was opened to calling them sacraments, because of the ambiguous language of 'the commonly called Sacraments', and that's fine, we can debate that. But that's not really my question here.

    My questions, if you would just engage genuinely, and with good will, are very simple:
    1. Must everything sacred be called a sacrament?
    2. What would you do in the 1100s before Matrimony was declared a sacrament by the Papacy?
    3. How does matrimony fit the definition of 'an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace'?
    4. Does it become less sacred and indissoluble if not called a sacrament?

    These are four genuine, heartfelt questions. If you for some reason feel offended or impugned, then I suppose others could pick up these questions with me. My goal is to recover the primordial wisdom of the Church, and I'm thankful to the Anglican tradition as the only place to do so most purely, and most perfectly, of all currently-surviving churches of Christendom.
     
  12. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    1. Must everything sacred be called a sacrament?

    No, and I don't know anyone other than you who has made such a claim.

    2. What would you do in the 1100s before Matrimony was declared a sacrament by the Papacy?

    I don't understand your question. Matrimony is a sacrament. Declarations, Papal or otherwise, do not turn something into a Sacrament. Rather, when the Church declares some ordinance a sacrament, it is formally acknowledging that since the time of the Apostles, the Church, whether overtly or covertly, has recognized and esteemed the ordinance as a sacrament.

    3. How does matrimony fit the definition of 'an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace'?

    It doesn't, strictly speaking. Per Article XXV, the 5 lesser sacraments "have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God" which is one of the ways they differ in status from the 2 greater sacraments. However, the Anglican reformers did not reject the lesser sacraments on that account. They recognized that the lesser sacraments still possessed a visible sign, though not one commanded by God, and an inner grace, though not a grace that is generally necessary for salvation. Keep in mind, the Church initially had a much wider view of what constituted a sacrament than we do today. Why even the author of the definition of a sacrament that you used, St. Augustine, did not limit the term sacrament to just the 2 greater sacraments. Rather, he was even more liberal with the term than even Tradition, calling things like the Lord's Prayer and the Creed sacraments. His understanding was that a sacrament was "a sacred sign" that "possesses an inward power or hidden meaning."

    4. Does it become less sacred and indissoluble if not called a sacrament?

    No, because no matter what you call it, Matrimony is a sacrament, which the Church recognized and passed down to us through Tradition. Its indissoluble character is revealed in scripture, which is a separate issue from its status as a sacrament.
     
  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    A question...

    "[A]n outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof." -Catechism, BCP 1928


    Was matrimony "ordained by Christ," or was it ordained by the Father long before the first advent? If the latter, it would seem that matrimony doesn't meet the above definition.
     
  14. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    As I said earlier the 1928 definition is essentially the definition of 1661/2 BCP.

    John 2 has Jesus in attendance at the Marriage in Cana of Galilee. In John 4 we read Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized.

    If you are labouring the point 'ordained by Christ' as I feel you may well be, I would like to see your take on this. I do know how I understand it, and I am not for one moment questioning the validity of the Dominical Sacraments, however I would like to you to be a little clearer. I fear if you tear the sacramental nature for marriage all you are left with is a secular contract which I dont think is what any of us want to be left with.

    So perhaps you could lay before us what you intend and mean, we might have a better understanding.
     
  15. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's right. While the establishment by Christ is not part of the definition of a sacrament, still the Catechism does say that those things which are sacraments had been established by Christ.


    Great, so if we state here that matrimony is not a sacrament, that will not make it less sacred, agreed?


    For most of the middle ages, and for the entirety of antiquity, you had people who never spoke of Matrimony as a sacrament. You have St. Cyril's Catechetical Lectures, where he only speaks of Baptism and the Eucharist. You have St. Augustine's lectures on marriage where he never calls it a sacrament; and when discussing why you can't divorce, he never says "because it's against its sacramental character". Bishop Jewel quotes St. Ambrose whose treatise called "On the Sacraments" ... only discusses Baptism and the Lord's Supper (for some reason).

    So my question (since you're asking), is how would you confidently know (in 1100, say) that matrimony was a "sacrament" established "by the Apostles", if people around you didn't say that, and didn't think that?

    Okay so matrimony doesn't fit the definition of a Sacrament. Good.

    "the Church initially had a much wider view of what constituted a sacrament": not according to St. Ambrose, or St. Cyril, as I show above. They were pretty narrow.

    As for St. Augustine, can you show where he called the Lord's Prayer and the Creed sacraments? Remember that there is an "early" Augustine and a "late" Augustine where the latter famously retracted and disavowed most of his early writings.


    That's not my question. If everyone around you were to say that Marriage was something other than a sacrament, would it become more indissoluble? In other words, is its indissolubility at stake here, in our discussion of its nature?
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  16. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's definitely not my aim here. The actual problem here is the opposite: that unless something is a sacrament, then we can treat it as secular and be indifferent to it. That was the danger and the error of the middle ages, to try to formally convert all sacred things into sacraments. Then when modernity arrived, the natural conclusion was that anything not a sacrament was fair game for cynicism and skepticism.

    So in showing that marriage is not a sacrament but still sacred; maybe more sacred than the sacraments; we can begin to defend the sacred rites and ordinances of the Church; things established by Christ, things established by the Father, etc.

    In doing so, we would be able to start to recover a much larger and wider kingdom where the sacred once again reigns supreme, than what the Roman/papal thinking would leave us with.
     
  17. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Not agreed. This is becoming a circular conversation. Whether you call it a sacrament or not doesn't matter. The Tradition of the Church is that it is a sacrament. You stating it is not a sacrament doesn't make it less sacred, it makes you less correct.

    I reject your premise. John Calvin, even when he attempted to unmake matrimony a sacrament, had to concede that it was accepted as one as early as St. Gregory (which was in the 6th century btw). And even if you were right (which I do not agree you are) and no writings survived saying "just for clarification when St Paul called a marriage a great sacrament, he actually meant it," you do err if you think that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Writings were often reserved for discussing controversies. Lack of writings on the subject is as attributable to the fact that it was so universally accepted as to need no elaboration as it is to the hypothesis that the tradition did not exist at all. I would say it is even more likely that the former is the case, given that the Anglican reformers received the lesser sacraments as being surely "delivered from the Apostles".

    And need I remind you, one of the hallmarks of Tradition is that it is not always written down.

    Clearly, Jewel was not expecting the reader to consider it an exhaustive list, since Ambrose identified 3 rites, that is, Baptism, Confirmation, and the Lord's Supper, as Sacraments in the treatise Jewel quoted. He was clearly making a point to focus on the Sacraments of the Gospel. Moreover, it is clear from Ambrose's treatise that he was not making an attempt to speak on all the sacraments but only those that his audience, recently baptized catechumens, would be most interested in, those involved in getting them to the point of taking their first communion.

    So lack of proper catechesis is grounds for nullifying church doctrine? Seems like a pretty poor litmus test for eternal truth. In 1100, I would most likely be illiterate, so I wouldn't give a fig what the writings had to say on the sacramental character of marriage. I would trust the Church's teaching authority to show me through Tradition what I am to believe.

    If you want to convince me that men, even church fathers, are fallible and can get things wrong, you'll get no objection here. That is why we must look to Apostolic Tradition as it has been preserved, passed down, and taught by the common authority of the Church as the best repository of truth, not a few convenient quotes from individual church fathers.

    Asked and answered. I already stated that the indesolubility of marriage is a commandment of scripture, independent of it being a sacrament. You are conflating issues.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
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  18. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's not what I'm asking. What I'm asking is that if you thought something was a sacrament, but then later you learned that it wasn't, would you then proceed to consider it as less sacred?


    Sure, later on you begin to have a few people saying that it is, despite the fact that it doesn't fit the definition. But even into the middle ages you will find theologians who didn't think it was a sacrament, and weren't quite as confident as you seem to be in the year 2020. That's why the Papacy thought it had to define it as a sacrament, because up until then there was divergent opinion. I guess they didn't get the memo.


    Tradition is not a source of revelation. By advocating something which has no basis in Scripture and was not taught in the fathers, you are stepping far outside of the pale of orthodoxy.

    Secondly, even if I were to humor you, I would want to ask where I can go to consult this "Tradition" and what's inside it. Maybe St. Cyril and I can go check it out together, because neither one of us was aware that God had deposited some of his revelation in it.

    And Church tradition, while it is real and is precious, may not add to the Deposit of Faith, or declare its own sacraments. So if it was not done by God, then it was not done, at all.


    I'm not sure what book you're referring to, because here is St. Ambrose, with Jewel's commentary on it:

    "Saint Ambrose, having occasion of purpose to entreat of the Sacraments, speaketh but of two.  De Sacramentis, saith he, quae acceptistis, sermonem adorior :  “I begin to speak of the sacraments which you have received.”  And yet in his whole treatise, divided into six books, he writeth but of two :  his book is extant, if any man doubt this, he may see it."


    Great so, since the Church did not have it on the books that marriage was a sacrament in 1100, then you would follow that?


    Okay, so we can preserve the sanctity, holiness, and indissolubility of marriage, regardless of how this conversation goes, can we agree on that?
     
  19. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    I don't see any value on indulging your thought experiments and what if scenarios. The Church has held since the Apostles that there are 7 sacraments, of which one is Matrimony. There's nowhere to budge on that point.
     
  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I do not view matrimony as a sign or source of grace. Unsaved people get married (even in churches) with great frequency, and it seems extraordinarily odd to suppose that God has bestowed His favor upon them simply because they 'tied the knot.' Grace comes to Christians, not to heathen (some of whom play at Christianity, as we all are aware). So I don't feel that matrimony meets the offered definition in that regard.

    What is matrimony, then? It is a blood covenant event. It is an institution created by God and given to humans, wherein they may enter into a binding mutual agreement between two parties in a manner similar to the binding agreements God has made with humanity. We see many of the elements of a blood covenant in marriage: the exchange of gifts (rings), the exchange of names, the shedding of blood (when the hymen breaks), and so on. Matrimony can also be seen as a foreshadow and type of God's covenant to take us (believers) as the Bride of Christ (God's covenant is the antitype). So of course it is far more than a 'secular contract.'

    I do concede that the 'ordained by Christ' portion of the definition could be viewed as met if one were to stipulate that Christ ordained marriage from the foundation of the world. Attendance at one wedding hardly qualifies as 'ordaining' weddings for all mankind. But then, one could say that Christ ordained the earth itself and all the people who would ever be born on it. That might be using the word 'ordained' too loosely to be of the 'sacramental' meaning some would assign to it.