Beautiful bride, remember that your marriage is not just for you and your beloved.
I don’t remember who said it, or whether it was before or after I got engaged, but it is a piece of wisdom that, once I heard it, I began to ponder curiously in my heart.
It stuck with me because it ran so boldly against the grain of the secular “wedding culture” I grew up seeing in movies, on magazine covers, and in the pages of books. These were stories that followed the romantic journey of a couple falling in love, planning a meticulously beautiful wedding to reflect their unique love, and the two of them driving off into the sunset to live “happily ever after”--whatever that meant. In my mind, I imagined the bride and groom living the remainder of their days in their little cottage, deliriously in love, breathing in the happiness of their marriage “ever after.”
Without realizing it, I cultivated a very “inward-facing” idea of marriage.
First, let’s clarify two things.
It is a beautiful and exciting thing to celebrate a couple’s unique love story and all the twists, turns, trials, and victories they walked through to make it to the altar on their wedding day. That’s why there’s a part of our hearts that cherishes a good love story on screen and in real life--for the hope and happiness it brings.
And planning a wedding that reflects that story’s beauty, from the colors, to the centerpieces filled with the bride’s favorite flower, to the specific readings chosen for the nuptial Mass, is also a wonderful thing. It is festivity and creativity at its greatest when we gather together to celebrate two people becoming one flesh in the nuptial Mass.
So what am I saying? Those movies and magazines and books only showed half the equation.
Or rather, the beginning of the equation. Those stories dazzled me with how boy fell in love with girl, but they usually didn’t explain, after the bride and groom drove off into the sunset, what the lifelong mission of that married love was supposed to be.
The Church teaches us that your marriage is for you and your beloved and for the edification and sanctification of the world--but if that sounds a little ambitious, try starting with those in your community! Sacramental marriage is like the ever fruitful, ever generous love of the Trinity. Although the perfect love shared between the Father and Son is incredibly beautiful and special, their divine love does not stop there. It is so profound, so life-giving, that it begets a third divine Person: the Holy Spirit.
The love of Father and Son is so profound, so life-giving that God simply delighted in creating an entire unnecessary universe to share in his Life, with unnecessary animals, trees, mountains, oceans, and human beings.
God had no need of any part of this earth. He enjoys perfect, eternal Trinitarian community. And yet, in his infinite love and joy, he created us anyway. All out of love. A love that is not caught between him and Christ, but overflows into every last atom of creation.
"The world was made for the glory of God"...”not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,” for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand” (CCC 293).
Like a small child who sits down to draw the colorful, fantastical creations of his imagination, not because he has to, but because he delights to.
This is what your marriage is meant to become.
The Catechism tells us that matrimony is actually one of two sacraments of service: “two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God” (CCC 1534).
Your marriage is for you and your beloved. To share in the joys, crosses, and daily tasks of life together. To sanctify each other as you walk hand-in-hand to Heaven, sometimes in perfect step and sometimes with one leading the other.
Your marriage is also meant to be “outward-facing” towards the community around you. True love, by its very nature, calls a person out of himself in service. Therefore true married love, by its very nature, must call both spouses out of themselves. Not just to serve each other, but to make their very marriage a gift to those around them. To “confer a particular mission in the Church and to serve to build up the People of God.”
St. John Paul II wrote in his papal encyclical Gaudium et spes, “the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church...will manifest to all men Christ's living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church.” (Gaudium et spes, 48).
It is a high calling, to strive to imitate the infinitely divine, fruitful love of the Trinity in your own marriage. To live your vows in such a way that your marriage “will manifest to all men Christ’s living presence in the world.” But it is a saintly calling, and it sanctifies the daily struggles and joys of marriage with an eternal mission.
Cardinal Raymond Burke said in an interview in 2015, "There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage. After the Holy Eucharist, it has a power beyond anything that we can imagine."
Beautiful bride, as you prepare to walk down the aisle, or if you are walking through the transition of newlywed life, remember the twofold mission of your vocation. Remember that your cherished love story and the beauty of your wedding day are only the beginning of God’s plan for you and your beloved. Allow your marriage, the joys and the crosses, to become an outward testament to the goodness of God’s love and mercy for those around you.
Our world doesn’t need perfect marriages. Our world desperately needs holy marriages. How can your marriage become a fruitful gift to the world?
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives...This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5: 25-27, 32).