The Hope of Marriage
Welcome to Wedding Season. Most likely you will hear of or get to attend a wedding sometime this summer. Last weekend, Team Orthodoxy celebrated a most wonderful day. On the Feast of the Visitation, Mike (aka. AnotherEpigone) and Brooke (aka. CatholicRuki), were united in the Sacrament of Marriage. The day could not have been more beautiful. The wedding and reception were perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better wedding. What in particular struck me about this marriage was how intensely powerful their witness was. In a world that has sought to destroy the sanctity of marriage, these two beautiful young people stood before God, the Church, and the World as witnesses to the beauty and sacredness of the Sacrament of Marriage. I remember driving home the following day feeling like I had just been on a retreat. That, my friends, is what a Catholic Wedding is supposed to be like. For myself, I walked away knowing full well not only that I had encountered Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, but I encountered Him in particular, through the Sacrament of Matrimony which Mike and Brooke conferred upon each other. God is present in all of His Sacraments. The efficacy of each Sacrament, however, depends upon our receptivity. It was clear that these two young souls were truly receptive to the working of God’s grace through this great Sacrament.
On the day before they were married, Julie and I had had decided that we would give them their gift early. We had bought them a large, realistic crucifix (interview with the concept artist soon to come). Mike said that he wished he had one a long time ago, and so I made it my goal to ensure he had one for his wedding. We bought it for them for two reasons. The first was to remind them that Love equals Suffering. Love is not a feeling, but a decision to sacrifice for the good of the other. The second was to remind them that they must not rely upon their own strength to keep their marriage strong. Struggles big and small will arise. It is Jesus on the Cross who has accomplished every good thing in Himself. Therefore, I wrote them a letter to accompany their crucifix, and I would like to share it with you, if you would allow me. I share it because I feel every marriage needs these words, especially in our modern age, where marriage is treated so poorly. If you are married or considering marriage, remember these words:
The organ begins to play and the bride begins to process. All eyes are on her, for this is truly her day. The day her beauty is revealed before the whole world. Surrounded by family and friends, this moment is beautiful and always to be cherished. There is joy on this day more than any other day. As she arrives at that altar, greeted by the man who will soon become her spouse for the rest of her life, there is an anticipation. It is as if all of the hosts of heaven are silent before this moment. This is the definitive moment. This is when heaven touches earth in physical form and two real living icons are created. One icon is created of the Blessed Trinity. Yet, another icon is created in this moment as well. As the vows are said, the icon of Christ and His Church is also painted. Thus, the two are bound, as Christ is bound to His Church, in a spousal union. Yet how did Jesus speak His vows to the one He loved so dearly?
It was the Cross.
This is why you will stand at the altar to speak your vows. The altar is the Cross upon which Christ is crucified once for all, and that is the model you are meant to follow from the moment of your vows to the day of your death. It is this altar of the Cross that became the wedding bed where Christ consummated His marriage with the Church. It is before that same Cross that you will declare your unending love for your spouse.
The Cross is the hope of your marriage. When the world, the flesh, and the Devil seek to divide you remember: the cross is your hope. No marriage can be built and become the icon it is meant to be unless it has the proper foundation. Like an icon, the foundation is the wood, and in marriage it is the wood of the Cross. The Cross will be your strength when the hard times come. The Cross will be your peace when you are tempted to lose your tempers. The Cross is your power to stand when tragedy comes. The Cross will be your safeguard, as you pray with one another. It is to the Cross you will go and from the Cross you are sent. Remember, both of you are meant to be Christ crucified for one another. Nail all of your vices and wicked passions to that Cross. Nail your fears and worries. Nail all of your troubles, knowing that Christ has conquered them. What good is the Cross if it does not have a victor? Christ has gloriously triumphed over sin and death and so He already stands as the victor over all of the troubles of your marriage.
It is also His victory that has won all of the good and perfect gifts you will experience. All true joy comes from Him. When you are tempted to praise yourself for your accomplishments, remember, it is Christ who has done the work. It is to Him that all glory is due. The Cross is therefore the hope of your marriage. May this then be for you a reminder of your most special day.
All that crucifies is good: do not look at what wood the crosses are made of, as long as it is a “cross wood.” Great crosses present themselves rarely, little crosses are given to us at every moment. Make sure not to lose any of them.
-Bl. Edward Poppe.