My beloved better half and I are celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary.
It is amazing that we have shared nearly half our lives together in holy matrimony.
Neither of us has ever been bored in each other’s company.
We also found marriage vows to be very true indeed in stating the future.
That said, adversity has brought us just as close together as have our happiest experiences.
We were best friends before we married and we remain best friends today.
We specifically requested the 1662 Book of Common Prayer version, which our celebrant was reluctant to say, however, we pressed on and won.
Feel free to read the prayers in full. For now, here are the salient points (emphases mine):
At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,
EARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
If no impediment be alleged, then shall the Curate say unto the Man,
WILT thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?
The Man shall answer, I will.Then shall the Priest say unto the Woman,
WILT thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?
The Woman shall answer, I will.
Then the Man leaving the Ring upon the fourth finger of the Woman’s left hand, they shall both kneel down; and the Minister shall say,
Let us pray.
ETERNAL God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life: Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, (whereof this Ring given and received is a token and pledge,) and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then shall the Priest join their right hands together, and say,
Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
Then shall the Minister speak unto the people.
ORASMUCH as N. and N. have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a Ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be Man and Wife together, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
And the Minister shall add this Blessing.
OD the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.
One of the things that surprised us most about married life is the sudden rapidity of adverse events, whether those related to our jobs, family or health.
We could be fine one day and plunged into emergency mode the next.
This is why it is important to marry your best friend.
I personally know of a few instances where a husband couldn’t cope with an in-law’s illness or he didn’t want to be a father once his children became teenagers. Divorce ensued.
Marriage is more than hot sex on demand.
It is a solemn contract to be honoured every day and in ways one does not expect, some of which might be quite unpleasant.
‘Sickness’ refers not only to eventualities with husband or wife but also their respective families.
Engaged couples should be aware of that beforehand. Married couples would do well in making sure their children are aware of it.
I am reminded of the words to Fiddler on the Roof‘s ‘L’Chaim’:
One day it’s honey and raisin cake, next day a stomach ache
Drink l’Chaim, to Life!
Sanctity of marriage
One of the terms I heard most frequently during my years at Catholic school was ‘the sanctity of marriage’, which no priest, nun or lay teacher ever explained. Nor did my parents.
It’s a bit difficult hearing that expression as a teenager in full hormonal explosion as you make the rounds of older cousins’ weddings to tall, beautiful blondes. It was hard not to look at them in awe and think, ‘Lucky guy!’
Yet, three of those marriages failed. One cousin, twice affected, never remarried and returned to the Church. The other remarried and has enjoyed two decades of happiness to another beautiful woman.
Couples who have been married for a long time never discuss the nuts and bolts of the sanctity of marriage. It’s time they did. I did not understand the full import until several weeks ago when I read a sermon by John MacArthur. I summarised it in July and included the link to what he had to say in full.
This is what struck me the most:
And then finally, marriage is picture. It’s picture and what is it picture of? It is picture of Christ and his what? Church. Ephesians 5, it is a graphic demonstration in the face of the world that God loves and has an ongoing unending relationship with the bride whom he loves. And for whom he lives and dies and I dare say that the whole metaphor of marriage of a symbol of Christ and his church has lost its punch because the church is so rife with divorce and fouled up marriages.
For those who prefer a secular explanation, he has this:
Some psychologists did a study and came up with a theory that you are what you are because you are adjusting to the most important person in your life. Whoever the most important person is in your life, that’s the person you are trying to please.
Both of those explain the sanctity of marriage on a temporal and a heavenly level.
I wish all my married readers many additional years of happiness together.
I also hope that my single readers pray — and wait — for the man or woman of their dreams who will love and cherish them not only on their wedding day but until death do them part.