This weekend I will be in McGregor, Minnesota witnessing and blessing the marriage of an old friend's son. it will take place at Holy Family Church in McGregor. From that experience I will be traveling up towards Alexandria to have a little Fall vacation. I return on Friday to facilitate a wedding rehearsal for my best friend from grade school's daughter and I will witness that marriage next Saturday at Saint Mary's in White Bear Lake.
I hope you notice the words I am using as I talk of the marriages: to "witness and bless". The ones who actually enter into the marriage are the bride and groom. From the time of their confirmation they have become capable of being the ministers of the sacrament of marriage. I, from the outside of that relationship, witness with the best man and the maid of honor; along with the rest of the guests, the two of them make the sacrament happen. As they pledge their lives to each other they give to themselves and to us the sacrament of marriage. Only later in the ceremony do I bless that which they have made happen. This is called the nuptial blessing.
There has been a revision in the way that the sacrament of marriage is celebrated and I welcome it very much. As it should have from long ago the Church is finally saying what the gift of marriage is to the Church. Towards the end of the book of Revelation the apostle John sees "the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband." Then he hears a "loud voice call from the throne: "You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make His home among them; they shall be his people and he will be their God. His name is God among them." (Rev. 21:3)
As each couple stands before the Church and give themselves to each other we witness another instance of this image of God who is coming to make His dwelling with us. Throughout their lives together the couple proclaims by their everyday existence that God lives with us the way that they live with each other. He walks side by side the Church a companion for life. This is the great gift of marriage to the Church and to each of us within the Church.
As I was growing up marriage was all too often seen as a sort of secondary sacrament, if you couldn't endure the demands of priesthood (celibacy and all that entails) then you might as well get married. Too often priesthood was portrayed as the "heroic" sacrament while marriage was seen as the normal course for most people. I got caught up in that sense and for a while I suffered the delusion that somehow I stood in a "closer" place to God. (Many others within the Church helped feed that delusion) I really appreciate that the Church is regaining the sense of how powerful the gift of marriage is for all of us in the Church.
Thus this week I will be immersed in the wonders of the great sacrament of marriage and resting in the presence of a God who makes His home with us! See you next weekend.