Friday, June 17, 2011

Catholic Weddings

I recently read an article by Our Sunday Visitor in which they noted the sharply declining rate at which Catholics are choosing to get married in the Church. One person posted a comment blaming the hoops that young couples must jump through in order to get a marriage in the Church.

The commenter noted that no small part of it may be due to the fact that the Church will not marry a couple in the botanical gardens, for example, or at a Renaissance festival. I think she may be partly right, but if she is it is only because most Catholics have not been taught the theology behind the Sacrament of Marriage. When you understand the sheer beauty of it, no botanical garden or Renaissance festival can compare.

Why the Wedding Must Be In the Church

So, let's explore it. The Catholic wedding must take place inside a Catholic Church. Why? Because the Church represents the new Garden of Eden, free from temptation or stain of sin. It is in this new Garden that we find the new Adam, the groom, waiting to receive the suitable partner which God has promised him, the bride.

Why the Bride's Father Gives the Bride Away

 As the ceremony begins, this Bride, the promised partner who is the new Eve, enters the scene and is escorted lovingly by her Heavenly Father, represented by her earthly father. She is veiled, and Adam's anticipation builds as she comes closer. Finally, God entrusts his new creation, this new Eve to Adam as he gives Adam her hand and Adam at last sees the face of his new partner.

The Vows, The Priest, and The Eucharist

The two exchange promises to be obedient to God and to one another, to love one another faithfully and exclusively all the days of their lives, and to always remain open to the gift of life. Through the hands of the priest, Christ not only witnesses and blesses these vows but then serves the couple their first meal together from the tree of life in the form of the Holy Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, Christ literally enters into the couple and confers upon them special gifts of the Holy Spirit which give them the graces needed to fulfill their vocation as spouse and parent.

The Witness of the Community

These things are done in front of the Community of Believers for good reason. The community who show up are not merely present to witness to the vows between the couple. Their presence is their promise to support them on their journey to serve Christ through their service as partners for life and parents of the next generation. 

Don't Miss Out

I wish with all my heart that someone had explained all of this to me when I was preparing to get married. Instead, I chose the route that so many are and got married in front of a justice of the peace to a non-Catholic. I regret many things about my past, but this is one of the biggest. We got our marriage convalidated later, when my son was 6 months old, but even then I did so with no real understanding of why things were done the way they were being done or the real meaning behind it all. Now that I know what I missed out on, I don't want anyone else to miss out on it.

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