As the saying goes, a ‘wedding is a day but a marriage is a lifetime’. I have not posted anything in the past few weeks because last week the first one of my six children got married.
A great deal of time and attention was put into making a beautiful wedding day. It was a beautiful day. But it flew by and now all we have some great pictures and many treasured memories. As well, we have received a new daughter and her family which is indeed something to celebrate as they are wonderful people. Of course, for my son and new daughter-in-law the real work begins–the work of learning to love, day in day out, for the rest of their lives.
This is a task which is greater in immensity than scaling Everest or and greater in significance than discovering a cure for some dreaded disease. My husband and I are so extremely proud of these two young people for being willing to take up such a great and noble challenge.
It is interesting how cynical some people have become at weddings. Of course all the statistics on marriage do not bode well for couples who are decide to make a lifelong commitment these days, with only about a 50/50 chance of success. While divorce rates may be going down somewhat, many speculate that this trend is because fewer couples are willing to enter into the lifelong commitment of marriage, rather than the slight decline representing more success at marriage for life.
(There is some research to suggest that those couples who follow church teaching on marriage have a better chance–statistically speaking–but that will be the subject of another blog. For a look at some interesting research on this topic, however, see the following site: http://www.faithandreason.ca/chastity/Divorce_Rate_Comparisons_NFP_Contraception.pdf )
One cannot really fault the cynics. Love is spoken about a great deal, in our music and movies. We are somewhat obsessed with the pursuit of love, but it seems as though love is becoming more and more illusive. Thankfully, this is where our faith can help us sort through our confusion and disillusion. In a meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Family, October 25, 2013, Pope Francis said, “Spousal and familial love clearly reveal that the vocation of the human person is to love one other person forever and that the trials, sacrifices and crises in the life of the couple or the family are stages for growth in goodness, truth and beauty.” Seeking this vocation to love, if we adopt the Liturgical Sacramental worldview of our Ukrainian Catholic faith, a realistic vision of committed life long love becomes not only clear, but recognizable as an attainable goal. We begin by acknowledging that we are hard-wired to long for love and that God is ultimate good, ultimate truth, beauty and love, so ultimately our deepest longing is for God. Further, if we make Him the centre of our marriage we will always have an unfailing source of love.
Our Eastern Catholic celebration of the holy mystery of marriage makes it abundantly clear that Christ who is love made flesh and poured out for our salvation on the life-giving cross, is the centre of the marriage we celebrate.
It is Christ’s blessing, like at the wedding of Cana, that gives the frailty of our humanity the ‘divine’ grace and power to love to the end–not unlike the holy martyrs–not counting the cost of the sacrifice we are making. In fact it is with the crown of the martyrs that the bride and groom are bound mystically to one another. In this they are not only reminded of their royal lineage as ‘children of the King’ but also their call to remain true, faithful and life-giving to the end of their days
While wearing these crowns the bride and groom pray the “Our Father” together. I think this is extremely significant. Hopefully, they will pray together this very central prayer, at minimum, weekly at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, for the rest of their lives (perhaps more frequently). In this prayer the wisdom of our faith is encapsulated. In it we are reminded of who we are– ‘children of the Father, creator and King of all’ who is the giver of all good things in our lives. We are also called to gratefully recognize and honour the relationship we have with Him, called upon to grow in His likeness starting with freely setting aside our own wills in favour of God’s will and forgiving one another as He forgives.
Anyone who has been married for a while knows how challenging this call can be. I don’t know how many times I have stood beside my husband in church and struggled to honestly pray the ‘Our Father’. I am pretty sure that my husband has also struggled a time or two as well. However, I know my husband is faithfully trying to follow God’s will, setting aside his own will in submission to God. I am also trying to do this. We are sinners, and so we are wounded by each other’s imperfections but beneath it all is is this abiding submission to God. If we can persevere and trust in this commitment and learn to forgive, with God’s grace, we can remain strong in our love, following Christ with all our heart. Christ is a never-ending source of love in our lives–and in making Him the centre of our life our love will truly never end.
So whether you are single and dubious that you will ever find love, in love, newly married or disillusioned as you struggle to keep your relationship intact or broken-hearted at love that was lost, know that you can look to Jesus as the source of love. His love will not fail us regardless of our circumstances. All we need to do is seek Him. Coming to pray and worship at the Divine Liturgy next Sunday is a great place to start. Seek to find Christ in the melody and words that are sung, the intense beauty that surrounds you and maybe even in the face of the person standing next to you. Come with an open heart and faith in God who wants to fill your life with His love. A lifetime of love awaits…