“And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
These are the recorded words of Jesus at the Last Supper, the night before He died.
Have you ever thought about the connection between the Eucharist, which Christ established that night, and the conjugal act between a husband and a wife?
Were you aware there was a connection?
Let’s look at this deeper.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EUCHARIST
Had the Apostles just witnessed a mere Roman execution of Jesus? Was that the end?, they wondered.
But then they rewound the tape, so to speak, back to the Last Supper. They realized Christ had said He was offering His life up (Matt 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, cf. 1 Cor 11:23-26). His death was a sacrifice.
What appeared to be their defeat turned out to be their salvation.
Christ established the Eucharist as a sacred meal, by which His followers would enter into a covenantal relationship with Him.
Jesus even said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). This shows the intimacy in which God desires to have with each of us. We can enter that by keeping Christ’s commands, which includes celebrating the Eucharist.
CCC 1365 says the Eucharist is a sacrifice: “In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which He gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (cf. CCC 1366-72).
THE SACREDNESS OF THE CONJUGAL ACT
As I have discussed in the past, it is no mere coincidence that our Lord, Jesus performed a Eucharistic Miracle at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11).
Spousal unity manifests itself most explicitly in the conjugal act. The act itself is sacred.
For several reasons.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), section 1617 says Christian marriage is an “efficacious sign [of] the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and the Church.”
A covenant is a vow of unity, to never be broken. It goes past a contract, as the collateral sealing the bond is one’s own life. Christ already paid up His end of the deal at Calvary. Now it’s our turn to repay Him.
CCC 1643 goes on to describe the conjugal act in powerful language:
“Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter—appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul” (emphasis added).
That same section goes on to describe the goods of marriage (of which there are four), a topic discussed on this blog in the past.
The conjugal act remains a holy action because it is a sign of fidelity, faithfulness, and mutual-giving. This love is so special, God allows it to literally be life-giving.
HOW THE EUCHARIST AND THE CONJUGAL ACT MIRROR ONE ANOTHER
I hope you can see the connection now.
Each time a husband and wife engage in the conjugal act, they renew their marital covenant, which itself is a sign of the New Covenant, established by Christ at the Last Supper and ratified at Calvary.
“The deepest reason [for marital indissolubility] is found in the fidelity of God to his covenant, in that of Christ to his Church. Through the sacrament of Matrimony the spouses are enabled to represent this fidelity and witness to it. Through the sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage receives a new and deeper meaning,” reads CCC 1647 (emphasis added, cf. CCC 1621, 1640).
Because the conjugal act remains a sacred act established by God Himself as a sign of His fidelity and His love for us, we cannot tolerate anything that makes a perversion or mockery of this.
He emptied Himself on the Cross out of love for us (Phil 2:7-8). Just as Christ gave His body as a sacrifice, so too each conjugal act renews the covenantal relationship with God, in imitation of the Eucharist.
So, I would like to hear from you, my readers.
What do you think about the covenantal aspect of the conjugal act? Were you aware of its deep meaning?
How about the connection to the Eucharist? Does any of this fascinate you like it does me?