Friday, we attended the wedding of a dear couple we helped prepare for the Sacrament of Matrimony. The climax of the Nuptial Rite is the recitation of vows. These vows are integral to every Catholic wedding and are steeped with meaning.
In the Marriage Rite of the Catholic Church, the bride and groom are asked these questions:
“Have you come here freely and without reservation…”
“…to give yourself to each other in marriage?”
“Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”
“Will you accept children lovingly from God?”
In the wedding vows, husband and wife are committing to free, total, faithful, and fruitful love. This mirrors the love Christ demonstrated on the cross. Jesus’ love for us is…
Free – It is given without reservation, without cost.
Total – Jesus gave us His all to the point of dying for us on the cross.
Faithful – It is unconditional; we can never lose it no matter what we may do.
Fruitful – Jesus is the bearer of life, bearing fruit through us His disciples.
We are called to love in this way in marriage. We cannot do this through our own effort; we need God’s grace. How do we get this grace?
Marriage is a sacrament. And what is a sacrament? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): “sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (CCC 1131). The best description of grace we have heard is that grace is power. Think of grace as the power gird. Through the Sacraments, we are plugged into the power gird of God’s grace. But to access this power, you must make a decision to flip the switch, which is an act of faith.
God gives us grace in marriage for two purposes:
“By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.” This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.” (CCC 1641)
The Catechism also states that…
Christ is the source of this grace…Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” (Eph 5:21) and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb. (CCC 1642)
The Catechism further explains that…
Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear…By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life. (CCC 1615)
Each Sacrament is a source of grace: Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Eucharist, Reconciliation. In the Sacraments we meet Jesus, the source of all grace. We recommend weekly reception of the Most Holy Eucharist in Mass and monthly Reconciliation for all Catholic married couples.
Marriage is hard. It is only through God’s grace that we can live out the vows we make on our wedding day.