What are three essential dimensions of Thomas Aquinas’ account of marriage in the Summa Theologica?
Aquinas is perceived as the crown jewel of scholarly theology. He writes Summa Theologica in order to explain his thoughts on whether or not marriage can be defined as a sacrament. He uses objections to help explain the reasoning behind his arguments; making it a bit of a confusing read. He outlines his work by describing three essential dimensions that exist in a marriage. The words he uses to describe the parts of marriage are sacramentum tantum, res et sacramentum, and res tantum.
Initially, Aquinas starts his argument with discussion of sacramentum tantum, which is “the sign.” Marriage has no legitimacy without a mutual agreement that is known as consent. In modern days, couples still make a clear emphasis on the statement “I do.” A marriage where one person does not really desire to be wed to a person is considered illegitimate in the catholic church. The reason why if someone’s spouse passes away they can remarry is because that person can no longer give consent. This shows that consent is an ongoing aspect of a marriage. He adds to this argument that sex is not the heart of marriage. Marriage has been around since before sex because it did not exist for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Overall, consent as an action to Aquinas is essential to a marriage.
Res et sacramentum is an obvious aspect of a marriage and it is “the bond.” A marriage requires a friendship and partnership between two people for it to survive. Reality manifests through this bond and is carried out throughout the entirety of a marriage. This type of bond is unbreakable and is part of a forever sacrament. The bond reflects the strong union between Christ and the church that mirrors the aspects of a relationship. This reality also could not exist without the consent that Aquinas introduced earlier in sacramentum tantum.
The last aspect of the mystery is what Aquinas discusses as “Res tantum” which is the grace that exists in the bond that was part of the marriage. This grace is what leads Aquinas to define marriage as a sacrament as he says in his statement, “matrimony is a sacrament, it is a cause of grace (2704).” He argues that marriage is more than a remedy for concupiscence or sexual desire but a grace that becomes a genuine bond between two people. He writes that this union is a way that a husband and wife can come together as one flesh. Again a comparison of marriage can be made with the bond between Christ and the church because it is one that can not be separated.