I have had marriage on my mind a great deal recently. My sister is getting married this summer, as are three of my cousins. Recently, my husband, Chris, and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary, which is such a tremendous blessing!
A number of years ago, my husband and I attended the wedding of some friends. A Dominican priest whose name I cannot recall now gave the most beautiful homily, reflecting on the sacrament of matrimony. I often think about his words and find inspiration in them.
He said that we should always thank God for the gift of marriage. Just think about how good God is to us. For those of you called to marriage, God in His great love and generosity has created an entire, other person—just for you! As He formed Eve to be the perfect complement to Adam, God has created a whole other soul, made and molded specifically for you. As I have said to my husband before, he is not a perfect person … but he is perfect for me.
Beginning from infancy with your baptism day, God has formed you to be the person you are, through the good times as well as the bad. God did the same for your spouse, too. And while you may never have even known each other growing up—perhaps living in completely different areas of the country—God knew you belong together. Slowly and carefully, like a master-craftsman, God prepared you for the day you would meet your future spouse and fall in love.
All of us should rejoice whenever a man and woman come forward before the altar of God to be married. Why? What the couple is about to do has eternal ramifications. They are, by exchanging their vows, literally changing the face of heaven! The purpose of their union is to create—with God—new life, new little souls who will hopefully one day be with all the saints and angels in heaven. Marriage is a gift to all of us!
When the man and woman marry, their lives are forever changed. Marriage only begins at the altar. The sacrament of marriage isn’t just the moment of saying, “I do.” Once the couple exchanges their vows, they live continuously in a sacrament. It is always there! A husband and wife, joined in matrimony, are always living in the grace of the sacrament. Just consider: their wedding rings are sacramentals. This is why my husband and I, when saying goodnight each evening, kiss each other’s wedding ring.
Of course, those of us who are called to marriage know that living this sacrament can sometimes feel like a crucifixion. Marriage is hard. It’s a process of dying to self and living for the other. And sometimes it can feel like we are running on empty. But Christ gave us the model of what to do during those times of difficulty: we should go to our Blessed Mother and then go to Jesus.
Reflect on the wedding feast at Cana. Like that new couple, sometimes in marriage the “wine” runs out. But if we go to Mary and then to Jesus, we will find that God will always refill the jars. We may go to him one thousand times with empty jars. No matter: He will refill them. And not just that! He will refill them with even better wine than what was there before. Ten years into marriage, my love for my husband has definitely changed: it is richer and fuller, like wine that has aged and become more perfected in time. God has refilled our jars again and again.
A man and woman must exchange their wedding vows before a priest, who is the “witness” to their marriage. But what, exactly, does that mean? Well, the man and woman are expressing one kind of love. But the priest is witnessing to another kind of a love, a higher and more perfect love: the supernatural love of God. As much in love as a man and woman may be, it is just a small reflection of God’s divine, perfect love. The priest reminds us of this love and invites the husband and wife to lead each other closer to the One who is Love.
This week we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, when Christ was lifted up into heaven. Someone once said to me, “Your stairway to heaven has a name and it’s Chris.” For those called to the vocation of marriage, our whole goal and purpose is to help our spouse grow closer to God. If we are going to be with Christ in heaven one day, it is through our marriage.
That is reason enough to say, “I do” in every moment of every day!