The Wedding Clothes and Paul’s Advice on Clothing
It must have taken you a long time to get ready this morning, N. It must have taken you some time too, N. You are dressed beautifully, just like in those fairytales we learned in school where the next line after the wedding was always, ‘and they lived happily ever after’. N and N, we want you to live happily ever after. But those nice clothes you are wearing today don’t bring lasting happiness so tomorrow morning when you get up you won’t wear those clothes. You will dress more casually. And we hope you will be just as happy tomorrow as today. So if the clothes that you wear don’t make for happiness, what does?
In the second reading that you chose, Paul gives a recipe for happiness. What advice for happiness does Paul give? After all that I said you would think that he wouldn’t mention clothes, but in fact he does. Paul says it all depends on the clothes you wear. However I will leave him off the hook because he does not mean outward clothes, but inward clothes. Paul says these are the clothes you are to put on, “be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity and humility, gentleness and patience”. Then he gives advice on bearing with one another and forgiving each other, and finally he says the last piece of clothing to put on is love.
So we could say that Paul’s advice for dressing is like this: When you get up in the morning and look in your wardrobe and wonder what to wear, you should begin like this. For underwear put on compassion. As a shirt or blouse put on generosity. For a skirt or trousers put on humility, for a pullover put on gentleness. For socks put on patience. When you’re wondering about which pair of shoes to wear, put on the shoes of forgiveness. Lastly when you’re putting on your coat, put on love. In the fairy tales, they lived happily ever after. N and N, we want you to live happily ever after. The clothes you’re wearing now won’t be of much help for that but Paul has good advice on what clothes to wear if you want to live happily ever after. When you get up tomorrow morning, what clothes will you put on? Paul says to put on compassion, generosity, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love.
A Christmas Wedding
Getting married in the presence of the crib reminds us that the greatest marriage of all time, as the Bible describes, is the marriage between God and humans. In Jesus, God and humankind are married. In the book of Revelation we read, “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and the bride has made herself ready”, the Lamb is referring to Jesus, the bride is referring to the church. Heaven is wedded to earth in Jesus. In our first reading we heard of the the man and the woman becoming one. God and humankind became one in Jesus, the greatest marriage of all time. “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and the bride has made herself ready”
A Reminder of your parents’ wedding
N and N, all of us gathered here today, your families, relations and friends are delighted to be able to share the happiness of this day with you. All married couples here today have an added reason for joy today, because N and N, the occasion of your wedding today sparks off memories of their own weddings and reminds them of the commitment they’ve made to each other and that their marriage is a sacrament blessed by God, and so N and N your wedding here today is a reminder to them to cherish and foster their own marriages, to seek God’s blessing on their own marriages once again today.
N and N, I don’t need to tell you that today marks a complete new beginning in the lives of both of you. Your wedding lasts only today, but your marriage is for the rest of your lives. Today you both go back to school again, the school of marriage. Today you begin to learn again, to learn to love each other in a deeper way. You are joining yourselves to each other today to become one, without, of course, losing your individuality.
Becoming one doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that you will learn and become better at as you share your married life together. Becoming one means loving each other, sharing your lives with each other, taking each other into consideration always. Becoming one means getting rid of all selfishness out of your lives because there is no room for selfishness in marriage. If selfishness is not rooted out or creeps in later on, its sure to cause problems. If God blesses your marriage with children, then you will also take your children into consideration in all that you do. Marriage is a school of love.
Human Weaknesses and Healing in Marriage
N and N, you are both human and you bring with you to your marriage normal human weaknesses. You will probably discover weaknesses in the other which you do not now know. This will be an opportunity to love the other, heal the other, forgive the other. There will be times when like at the wedding at Cana it will seem as if the wine really has run out, times when you will forgive each other and make a fresh start. As St. Paul said in the reading which you chose: “Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins”. Marriage is also a school of forgiveness.
Jesus Unites Himself with You Today in Your Marriage
What I have spoken about up to now is the human aspect of marriage. But you are not just fulfilling the natural human desire to share your life with another, your marriage is also a sacrament. As a sacrament your marriage unites you with Jesus and brings you God’s blessing. It is not just N and N united to each other in marriage today, it is N and N united to each other with Jesus in marriage. You have decided to depict this beautifully during this Mass: you have decided that after you have exchanged your vows you will light the third candle in the centre representing Jesus, and all three candles will remain lighting until the end of Mass; one candle representing N, one candle representing N, and the centre candle representing Jesus. Therefore on those occasions when it will seem as if the wine really has run out, you can and should turn to Jesus for help and guidance. It is God alone who can give you the happiness which goes beyond human expectation.
Your Faith Makes your Marriage a Sacrament
To receive every sacrament one needs faith, faith in Jesus Christ. Even if we did everything at the altar here today beautifully or indeed perfectly but you had no faith, it would not be a sacrament. Today, N and N, it is your faith in Jesus Christ which makes your marriage a sacrament, faith in the fact that Jesus unites and binds himself to you today.
Your marriage is also a sacrament because you are undertaking today not just to make your house a home, but to make it a home of Christian family life, to make it a Catholic home. As St. Paul said in the second reading which you chose: “Let the message of Christ in all its richness, find a home with you”. You are undertaking today to bring up the children God may send you with a strong faith in Jesus.
Marriage Symbolizes the Faithfulness of God to Us
Because your marriage is a sacrament, it has lasting value; your promise to each other is until death, to be faithful to each other always. The OT compares marriage to the covenant that existed between God and his people. The NT compares marriage to the relationship that exists between Christ and the Church. Your fidelity to each other symbolises and reflects the faithfulness of God to us his people, the faithfulness of Christ to his church. God is always faithful to us his people, Christ is always faithful to his church and today your promise to be always faithful to each other until death symbolises and reflects the love of God for his people and the love of Christ for his church. In effect, what the Bible says on marriage is ‘if you want to see what God’s plan for his people is you can see it in the fidelity of marriage’.
Marriage is Human and Divine
N and N, your marriage is something very human, fulfilling the desire in the hearts of all of us to share our lives with another, but your marriage is also a sacrament of God. N and N, may God bless you both and keep you faithful to each other and to Him all the days of you lives.
Your Vow to Each Other
N and N today you give your word to each other to take each other “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” all the days of your lives. This word you are giving to each other is not just any word, but a solemn promise, a vow before God. This is a huge step to take into the unknown. The reason you take this step with confidence after much careful consideration is because it is not just any word you are giving each other, but, as I said a solemn vow before God, in other words it is a covenant between the two of yourselves and God. That is why we describe marriage in the Catholic Church as a sacrament.
The second reading which you chose for your wedding contains Paul’s description of Christian loving. Love is always patient and kind. It is never jealous, etc. A couple does not begin marriage with this perfect love. The couple grows in loving and grows by loving. Love is hard work. Sometimes love will mean you will have to suffer, if not the love is a disguised form of selfishness. But just as the Church is strengthened through suffering, your relationship will grow in the valleys. There is more growth in the valleys than on the mountain-tops.
Marriage Instituted by God
Marriage is too big a commitment to leave it only in your own human hands. That is why in the first reading which you chose you heard that it was God who instituted marriage in Eden. Jesus raised it to the level of a sacrament. The Holy Spirit will give the graces you need to encourage each other, to share feelings, emotions and passions, hopes and fears, resentments and disappointments, ups and downs.
Three View of Love and Marriage in the Bible
____ and _____ we are all delighted to share your joy on your wedding day. We ask God to bless you on this day and keep you in united in love of each other and love of God for the rest of your lives. All the couples here will be reminded of their own happy wedding days and can once again today ask God to bless them.
If you have a sense of humour you would like to hear some of the things the Bible says about love. In Gen 29:20 we read that Jacob worked for seven years for Laban to earn Laban’s daughter, Rachel, in marriage, and they seemed to him like a few days because he loved her so much! He worked seven years for her father so that he could marry her. I am tempted to say he had it bad!
The Song of Songs in the Old Testament is love poetry between King Solomon and his girlfriend while courting before marriage. What sort of things do such a couple say to each other? I am sure that you ____and ____ say nice things to compliment each other and you tell each other you’re looking well, and looking exquisitely well today. How did Solomon compliment his girlfriend?
We know that she had long curly hair and this is how he told her it was beautiful, he said, “your hair is like a flock of goats surging down Mount Gilead.” (4:1) He also thought she had the most beautiful white teeth and this is how he complimented her, “Your teeth are like a flock of sheep to be shorn, when they come up from the washing.” (4:2) How times and the way we say things have changed! She was sometimes more delicate in how she described him, “His conversation is sweetness itself, he is altogether lovable.” (5:16) At one place in the Song of Songs she sends a message to him telling him that she is sick with love! (5:8) She was obviously a woman with good self-knowledge, that seems to me to be a pretty good description of herself, sick with love, because in 1 Kings 11 we read that King Solomon had 700 royal wives! Its no wonder people say ‘Love is blind.’
That is one view of love and marriage in the Old Testament. That view of marriage is merely at the level of satisfying our desires. We get another view of marriage in the excerpt from the Book of Tobit (8:4-8) which you chose as your first reading. Tobias’ and Sarah’s wedding has taken place they are alone that evening and pray to God to bless their marriage. They acknowledge that their marriage is not only fulfilling desires but comes from God, is instituted by God. That is why in their prayer, which you heard in our first reading, they said,
“It was you who created Adam,
you who created Eve his wife to be his help and support;
It was you who said, “It is not good that man should be alone…”
Because they know that marriage comes from God they can confidently pray to God, asking his help for their marriage. This is how they prayed, a simple prayer but beautiful,
Be kind enough to have pity on her and on me, And bring us to old age together
As I said it was a simple prayer, but a beautiful prayer, it showed their faith in God. When you read the whole of the book of the Tobit you will see that their prayer was answered. So that is a second view of marriage that we get in the Old Testament.
When we read the New Testament we get a third view of marriage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He says in his letter to the Ephesians that the love of husband and wife for each other is a reflection of God’s love for us. When we want to know how much Jesus loves the Church, look no further than the love of husband and wife for each other.
The love of husband and wife is a mirror of the love of God for us, the love of God for us that we see in his New Covenant with us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is what Paul says. Paul’s view of marriage is captured in the second Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer which you have chosen. You will hear me pray during that Preface later,
“This outpouring of love in the new covenant of grace is symbolised in the marriage covenant that seals the love of husband and wife and reflects your divine plan of love.”
So there you have three views on marriage in the Bible, as I see them; satisfying our desires, then a more spiritual view of marriage in the prayer of Tobias and Sarah seeing marriage as instituted by God, and finally the lofty heights of Paul seeing it as a mirror of God’s love for us.
So ____and ____, we pray for you today that your marriage may also soar to the heights of Paul’s understanding of marriage, that your love for each other may be so unselfish that it will be for each other an experience of the love of God.
To achieve that, do as Jesus said in our Gospel, build your house on rock, build your marriage on the rock of Jesus. Then when the storms come, as they come to everyone, the house will not fall because it is founded on the rock of Jesus. So pray to Jesus every day. Pray, not just for one minute, not just for five minutes, but for a substantial amount of time. Found your marriage on the rock of Jesus. I will finish with the words of Tobias, “May God take pity on you and bring you to old age together.”
by Fr. Tommy Lane, Ireland
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”