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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 23

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 23 [XXI.]—Sin Has Not Arisen Out of the Goodness of Marriage; The Sacrament of Matrimony a Great One in the Case of Christ and the Church—A Very Small One in the Case of a Man and His Wife.

If now we interrogate, so to speak, those goods of marriage to which we have often referred, 2142 and inquire how it is that sin could possibly have been propagated from them to infants, we shall get this answer from the first of them—the work of procreation of offspring: “My happiness would in paradise have been greater if sin had not been committed. For to me belongs that blessing of almighty God: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply.’ 2143 For accomplishing this good work, divers members were created suited to each sex; these members were, of course, in existence before sin, but they were not objects of shame.” This will be the answer of the second good—the fidelity of chastity: “If sin had not been committed, what in paradise could have been more secure than myself, when there was no lust of my own to spur me, none of another to tempt me?” And then this will be the answer of the sacramental bond of marriage,—the third good: “Of me was that word spoken in paradise before the entrance of sin: ‘A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall become one flesh.’” 2144 This the apostle applies to the case of Christ and of the Church, and calls it then “a great sacrament.” 2145 What, then, in Christ and in the Church is great, in the instances of each married pair it is but very small, but even then it is the sacrament of an inseparable union. What now is there in these three blessings of marriage out of which the bond of sin could pass over to posterity? Absolutely nothing. And in these blessings it is certain that the goodness of matrimony is entirely comprised; and even now good wedlock consists of these same blessings.



See above, chs. 11, 19, and On Original Sin, ch. 39.


Gen. i. 29.


Gen. ii. 24.


Eph v. 32. [In the original Greek, “a great mystery;” i.e., “a great revelation,”—W.]

Next: Chapter 24

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