Are you getting married ‘in the Church’ or simply ‘at a church’?
People call a lot of things ‘marriage’. Everything from heterosexual cohabitation (common law marriage) to civil contracts (secular marriage) to the Judeo-Christian concept of covenant. In a Christian marriage there is a desire for the marriage to be open to the Lord and a willingness to look to scripture and the Church community for direction.
On your wedding day, when you stand before the Community of the Faithful, you will be asked to accept a mission to love each other in the same way that Christ loves the Church. In this way you will become a living sign of that love to the community. In your will to love each other, to literally give yourselves to each other, you become a ‘Sacrament’ – that is, a manifestation of the real presence of Jesus among us.
A Sacrament is not just a symbol. It actually causes what it symbolises by providing the grace needed to make it happen. The Sacrament of Marriage (i.e. Matrimony) is not the wedding ceremony and the sign is not the rings.
Instead, it is your love relationship with each other, lived out every day. This is the sign of God’s love for us; God is truly present to us in and through that love.
Therefore couples who marry in the Church, and not just at a church, have a very different idea of what marriage should be. Marriage, or more properly, Matrimony, for them is a covenant, a sacred promise made, not only to each other, but also to the People of God. This covenant is a pledge to freely give themselves in love to each other, totally, faithfully and fruitfully their whole life long in imitation of Christ.
These couples however, do not undertake this sacred covenant on their own. Through their engagement with their faith community they have access to powerful resources called ‘graces’.
The Church holds out a magnificent vision of generous self-donation that can inspire you to raise your ambitions for your marriage. These ambitions will be supported by the People of God through prayer and the Sacraments, encouraging you to strive, with ever greater determination, to achieve them.