Last evening I attended one of the most beautiful weddings that I have ever witnessed. The couple was young. The groom may have been all of 21 years old and the bride was, perhaps, 20 years old. By modern standards, they were far too young to know what they want out of life and hardly able to enter into a marriage at that tender age. I do not share that view.
So what made this wedding so lovely? It was very clear from the words of the priest, who presided over the ceremony, that this was a marriage COVENANT not a marriage contract. The parties were entering into a covenant, with God and one another, that was life-long and eternally binding. Many non-Catholics attended the wedding which was book-ended by a nuptial Mass. Although the non-Catholics in attendance did not understand the significance of the Mass, one Protestant woman told me she was struck by the beauty of the ceremony.
The couple had met two years ago, today, inside the very Church in which they exchanged their vows last night. They had not lived together prior to the wedding, and, perhaps, the couple had even been chaste prior to their exchange of vows. What a great gift they would be giving each other if indeed they had waited to become one flesh until their wedding night! My husband likes to say, “Satan does everything he can to get a couple to have sex before they marry, and everything that he can to keep them from having sex after they marry!” As a woman in my sixties I am awestruck with the truth of that statement.
This wedding did not cost the bride’s parents a fortune, perhaps less than a thousand dollars total. The flowers were artificial. The wedding gown was simple, as was the bride's veil. The groom wore his military uniform. The mothers of the bride and groom each wore simple street dresses (the wedding was not about them, after all).
The reception was held in the Church’s old, ugly activity center which probably should be condemned by the civil building authorities. The food was likely in keeping with the simplicity of the other expenditures. My husband and I did not attend the reception as only a select few were invited to keep expenditures manageable. The parents are of simple means.
Having been to many weddings previously, including far too many of my own, this was the first Catholic wedding embedded in a nuptial Mass that I have attended as a practicing Catholic with absolute faith in God and understanding of the truth and fullness of the faith embodied by the teaching of the Catholic Church.
As the couple stood in front of the giant crucifix that hangs in our little parish church, I thought, "There symbolized is Christ on His marriage bed, the cross." Our pastor made it clear to the young couple that “The HUNT was over!” They were soon to become one flesh, thereby embodying their spoken marriage vows, and this was a forever union. He warned them that they would have good times and bad, really bad, but that they were bound to their spouse in their journey to become saints and help the other attain eternal life.
And, indeed, I have found marriage to be a cross to bear. Yes, there are more good times than bad. However, withstanding the bad times—and I mean deeply bad times—without obvious complaint and pleasantly, too—is a saint making task indeed! This sweet couple will no doubt find all too soon that “Happily Ever After” is better relegated to fairly tales and that true love requires more work and sacrifice than popular culture would have us believe.
In Eastern Orthodox wedding ceremonies, the bride and groom exchange crucifixes symbolizing the death that each must undergo to self in their marriage covenant to one another. I wonder how different our culture would be, and how different my own life would have been, if I had understood that marriage was a purifying cross whose purpose was to make me a saint rather than my achieve own personal happiness!
The good news is that we are never to old to learn!
Peace and grace be with you, Meggie.