The Sacredness of Marriage
If this is the ideal to be sought, it can be seen that marriage is different from other human relationships. There is something sacred about it. That it is possible for a couple to love each other in this way is a gift from God. In their acceptance of this gift, a couple not only experience a communion with each other, they experience a sustaining love which is bigger than their own individual efforts. They are drawn into a communion with God who assists and empowers them in their efforts to strengthen and deepen their married life.
For the baptised there is an even more profound dimension to this sacredness. For the baptised, marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is a sign. This loving communion that exists between a husband and wife is the clearest sign and indication available of the extent to which God loves the human family. That’s why the scriptures use so many marital images to describe God’s relationship between God and God’s people. Just as married love is a commitment to grow in intimacy, to permanence and to fidelity in good times and in bad, so God’s love for us is all these things.
Yet, our understanding of marriage as a sacrament goes even further than this. Not only does a couple mirror or reflect God’s love, they embody the presence of Christ in a unique way. They are tangible signs of what it means to be a Christian. In short, the sacrament of marriage reveals to us the intimate relationship we share with Jesus. We are his beloved.
In St. Paul ‘s letter to the Christian community at Ephesus, he urges husbands and wives (in terms appropriate to his day) to mutually surrender to one another in love. He then continues:
Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother to be united with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a very great mystery, and I refer to Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
So, when a couple marries in the Catholic Church, they are not simply saying ‘yes’ to each other. They are saying ‘yes’ to the Christian community:
‘Yes, we commit ourselves to being a sign of Christ’s love to you’.
‘Yes, we will strive to love one another so totally and unconditionally that you will see in us the love Jesus has for you.’
‘Yes, we will love each other forever, because that is the way Christ has promised to love His Church and, by the witness of our lives, we will make His extraordinary promise believable.’
In turn, the community of faith offers its support to the couple as they journey through life. It also undertakes a responsibility, not just to support and nurture marital vocations, but to call its couples to ever-greater heights of faith and love.
Celebration of Marriage
What is involved in a celebration of marriage in the Catholic Church?
The Rite of Marriage comprises four parts:
- The Introduction and Welcome;
- Liturgy of the Word;
- Liturgy of Marriage;
- Concluding Rite.
During the Introduction, the couple declares their intention to marry and the assembly say an opening prayer.
The Liturgy of the Word consists of readings from the Scriptures (between one and three readings) and a homily.
The Liturgy of Marriage includes the exchange and reception of consent, the nuptial blessing, the blessing and exchange of rings, the Prayer of the Faithful, the Lord’s Prayer.
During the concluding rite the civil documents are signed and the parents or family pray over the couple. This is followed by the blessing.
What is the difference between a Catholic marriage with a Nuptial Mass and one without it?
With a nuptial Mass you celebrate Mass and receive the Eucharist. If Nuptial Mass is not celebrated, usually Holy Communion is not distributed.
If both the bride and groom are Catholic and most of the congregation are likely to be Catholic the nuptial mass would be customary. If one person is not a Catholic, and a large number of the guests are not Catholics, then the couple may choose not to have a Nuptial Mass.
What couples will need to prepare for the wedding day:
- The wedding preparation checklist is the first thing that couples would need to have a look at before all else;
- The wedding readings (*.txt format) is a good resource for couples when compiling the wedding booklet in preparation for the rehearsal;
- The official government forms and church forms will be provided by the priest.