A contribution from guest blogger Bert Ghezzi…
At our wedding in 1964, Fr. John Hugo, the celebrant, read this instruction from the Rite of Christian Marriage to Mary Lou and me. Little did we realize it then, but this message set the stage for our life of serving each other, caring for our children, and reaching out to others.
When the Rite of Christian Marriage was revised in 1976, the Instruction was omitted. But it carries such significant message for couples that I offer it here as an encouragement to engaged and married couples.
Instruction to the Marrying Couple at the Beginning of the Wedding Ceremony
My dear friends, you are about to enter into a union that is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred because it was established by God himself. It is most serious because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate that it will profoundly affect your entire future. That future, with its hopes and its disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are part of every life and should be expected in your own. And so, not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.
Truly, then these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your faith in each other that, recognizing their full import, you are nevertheless so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life with the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of the deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you belong entirely to each other. You will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make for the preservation of this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy; and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; and the Son so loved us that he gave himself for our salvation. Greater love than this no one has, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure, conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to humans in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God. Nor will God be wanting to your needs: He will pledge you the lifelong support of his graces in the holy sacrament you are now going to receive.
Bert Ghezzi is a popular speaker and the author of many books, including Voices of the Saints. His most recent book is The Angry Christian: A Bible-based Strategy to Care for and Discipline a Valuable Emotion, published by Paraclete Press.