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The Early Church Fathers on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Methodius of Olympus, (A.D. 250-311)
    St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384)
    Timotheus of Alexandria, ( AD. c.310-c.395)
    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386)
    St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403)
    Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398)
    St. Gregory of Nyssa, (A.D. c.335 - c.394)
    St. Amphilochius, (A.D. c.339-c.403)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    Theodore of Mopsuestia, (A.D. 350-428)
St. Methodius of Olympus, (A.D. 250-311), Asia Minor; bishop, ecclesiastical writer, martyr.

"I seem to myself to discover clearly from the Scriptures, that after virginity had been introduced, the Word did not entirely do away with marriage. For not because the moon is greater than the stars, is light on this account withdrawn from the other stars."

Orat. ii. n. 1, Galland, p. 678.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 237-238

St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384), bishop of Milevis, Numidia, in Africa; from Augustine's writings we can assume Optatus was a convert; he is best known for his opposition to the heresy of Donatism.

"She who is under the yoke (of marriage) is in part Christ's; the virgin Christ's wholly; the former is not entirely fettered to the world; the latter in no way attached to it, for that which in her who is under the yoke is in part, in the virgin is complete. Thou hast chosen the angel's mode of life; thou art placed in the number of those who never felt the yoke."

T. i. or. xxxi. p. 502. See also Ib. or. xxxii. p. 517, D.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 240

Timotheus of Alexandria ( AD. c.310-c.395), flourished in 385, a disciple of St. Athanasius, whose see he obtained. He was present at the Council of Constantinople, held in 381.

"If any one calls a cleric to unite a couple in marriage, but he shall hear that the marriage is unlawful . . . ought the cleric to agree to the request, and make the oblation?

(Answer) Say at once, if the cleric hears that the marriage is unlawful the cleric ought not to become a partaker of others sins."

Galland. T. vii. Resp. Canon, pp. 348-49.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 241

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386), Palestinian; ordained by Maximus, he was made bishop of Jerusalem in A.D. 345; scholar and Doctor of the Church. None of his writings have been preserved to us, except eighteen catechetical instructions addressed to catechumens, and five mystagogic discourses addressed to neophytes.

"And the doctrine concerning chastity, let the order of monks and of virgins especially attend to it, who are observing in the world an angelic life, and then, the rest of the Church's people also. . . . But be not, while observing chastity, puffed up against those who are living in the inferior state of wedlock. For marriage (is) honorable, and the bed undefiled, as saith the Apostle. Thou too who keepest thy purity, weren't you not also born of married persons? Do not, because thou hast a possession of gold, set at naught the silver."

Catech. iv. n. 2-5y pp. 63-4.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 239

St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403), Palestinian; bishop, abbot, scholar.

"The greater part of these heresies forbid to marry, and command to refrain from meats, not exhorting unto this for the sake of a (holier) state of life, nor for greater virtue, and rewards, and crowns, but because they account the creatures of the Lord abominable. But the holy Church both commends virginity, and praises a single life, and chastity, and widowhood, and also honors and approves an honorable marriage, and condemns fornication and adultery, and lust. Whence may be seen the characteristic of the holy Catholic Church, and that of the false ways of all the rest. . .He (Christ) is delighted with those who are able to show forth these ensamples of piety, choosing to practise virginity and purity and continency. He honors one wedlock, and in a special manner adorning, as a pattern, with the gifts of the priesthood, those who, after being once married, were continent, or who had preserved their purity spotless ; even as His Apostles becomingly and holily established as a law of the Church for the priesthood."

T. i. Adv. Howes. (48), j?. 410.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 241-242

"The same holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church desires to save also those who are in venerable wedlock: for how could marriage not be honorable . . . seeing that the Saviour was invited to marriages, to give His blessing to that state. Had He refused to be present at the marriage, He would as suredly have been the destroyer of marriage. . . . Honorable therefore is marriage, seeing that Himself established it."

Adv. Hæres. (67), p. 714.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 242

Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398), an active Pope, involved in the administration of the Church and the handling of various factions and viewpoints within it; author of two decrees concerning clerical celibacy. The decree of A.D. 385 stated that priests should stop cohabiting with their wives.

"Husbands love your wives, Ephesians 5:25. Let this bond of nature, this yoke (imposed) by means of the blessing, be a union of those (before) separated. . . .Though the husband be harsh and savage in temper, the wife must bear with him, and on no pretext seek to sever the union. Does he strike? Still he is your husband. Is he drunken? Yet he is united to thee by nature. Is he harsh and hard to please? Still he is a member of thy body, and the most honorable of thy members."

T.i. P. i. in Hexaemer. Hom. viii. n.5, page 95.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 240

"You have asked whether a woman that has been betrothed to one, may be married to any other person.

We, by all means, forbid this to be done; seeing that it is accounted by the faithful a kind of sacrilege to violate by any transgression the blessing which the priest bestows on her that is about to be married."

Galland. T. vii. Ep. i. ad Himer, n. 5, p. 534.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 241

St. Gregory of Nyssa, (A.D. c.335 - c.394), bishop of Nyssa in A.D. 371, an erudite theologian who made significant contributions to the doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene creed. Gregory's philosophical writings were influenced by Origen. He was the brother of the great St. Basil.

"Let no one, however, imagine from what has been said (on virginity) that I repudiate the marriage state (economy); for I am not ignorant that upon this too there is not wanting the blessing of God."

T. iii. de Virginit. c. 8, page 136.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 240

St. Amphilochius, (A.D. c.339-c.403), bishop of Iconium, in the history of theology he occupies a place of prominence for his defence of the divinity of the Holy Spirit against the Macedonians.

"A wonderful thing, therefore, is virginity, as being a possession unsubdued, a plant unfading, a free dwelling-place, the ascetic's delight, as being above human nature, as exempt from passions that seem necessary, as penetrating, with Christ the bridegroom, into the chambers of the heavenly kingdom. . . . But, having said all this, we do not establish an opposition between virginity and marriage, but express our admiration of both, as mutually needful to each other; since the Lord, and the preordainer of both, does not place one in the balance against the other, for from both He receives goodly worship; for without reverend and God-fearing worship neither virginity is venerable, nor is marriage honorable."

Orat. ii. de Occursu Dom. n. 1, Galland. T. vi. p. 467.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 240-241

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

"We know that God is the Lord and the guardian of marriage, who suffers not another's bed to be defiled; and he that commits this crime, sins against God, whose law he violates; whose grace he dissolves. And, therefore, because that he sins against God, he loses the fellowship of the heavenly sacrament."

Dissuading from marrying Christians to Gentiles, he says:

"As the marriage must be sanctified by the putting on of the veil by the priest, and by his blessing, how can that be called a union, where there is no agreement in faith."

T. ii. Ep. xix. Vigilio, n. 7, p. 844.
See also Ep. xlii. n. 3 (Syricio), p. 960.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 243

St. Theodore of Mopsuestia, (A.D. 350-428), bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia and ecclesiastical writer. A friend of St. Pachomius.

"When thou art about to take a wife, read not only the laws of those that are without, but besides these, those also laid down amongst us : for by these, and not by those, is God to judge thee in that day!"

T. iii. Quotes ducendce uxores. Horn. iii. n. 1, p. 255.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 243

Expounding Genesis. 24:67:

"Let women imitate her (Rebecca) and men emulate him (Isaac): let it be their anxious care to bring home their brides thus. . . . Why dost thou make a parade of the venerable mysteries of marriage? Thou oughtest to drive far from thee all these practices, and to train the maid from the first in modesty, and to call in the priests, and by prayers and benedictions to rivet fast the concord of their common habitation."

T. iv. Hom, xlviii. in Genes, n. 6, p. 566.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 243

Commenting on 1 Timothy 4:3, he says:

"What then, do not we forbid to marry, someone asks? God forbid! We do not forbid those who wish to marry, but those that do not wish to marry we exhort to virginity. It is one thing to forbid, and another to leave one to his own free choice. He that forbids, does it once for all (or utterly), but he that leads on to virginity, as a higher state, does not this as forbidding marriage, but as exhorting to virginity."

T. xi. Horn. xii. m Ep. i. ad Tim.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 244



We believe Matrimony to be a sacrament of the New Law, instituted by Christ; whereby a new dignity is added to the lawful covenant of marriage, and grace given to those who worthily receive it. Marriage is not a contract. As Scott Hahn has said, "In a contract you exchange property, whereas in a covenant you exchange persons."


Though the institution of this sacrament by name is not mentioned anywhere in the Scriptures, the doctrine, that Christian matrimony is a sacrament which confers grace on the parties who worthily receive it, is the common doctrine of the Latin and Greek Church as well as the heretical and schismatical churches in the early church of the east, as is evident from the rituals and books of the administration of sacraments, used by:


The Church's Scriptures that support Holy Matrimony or Marriage:


The creation of Man and Woman, Account 1

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.

Genesis 1:26-28

The creation of Man and Woman, Account 2

18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; 22 and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.


23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:18-24

Our Lord catechizes and gives counsel concerning Marriage

4 He [Jesus] answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

Matthew 19:4-6

Jesus' Teaching about Divorce

5 But Jesus said to them: . . . 6 "But from the beginning of creation, "God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."


Mark 10:5-12

St. Paul catechizes and gives counsel to those married and single

1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. 6 I say this by way of concession, not of command. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. 10 To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)— and that the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. 16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

The Life That the Lord Has Assigned


17 Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was any one at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was any one at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God.

The Unmarried and the Widows

25 Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away. 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

36 If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry — it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.


39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I have the Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 7

The Christian Household

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.


Ephesians 5:21-33

Children and Parents

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 "that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth." 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-4

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Colossians 3:18-21


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