MARRIAGE PREPARATION COURSE
The Marriage Ceremony
Marriage is a great Sacrament ... and the day on which the young couple, in a sublime act of confident trust and love, bestow the Sacrament each upon the other, is a day to be forever remembered. A day of joy in the heart of Mother Church, and in the hearts of the bride and groom, it is as well a day of happiness for those privileged to share their joy.
1) THE CHURCH AND THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY
With solemn warnings, with suppliant prayers, and with rites wondrously symbolic of the close and indissoluble life-long union to be established between the betrothed couple, the Church adorns the celebration of marriage. To the reception of this Sacrament of the living, to its worthy and fruitful administration, the Church requires that these two young people bring a pure soul and a clear conscience. With this object in mind, She exhorts them to receive the Sacrament of Penance before the wedding. Finally, the wedding ceremony itself is followed by a special Mass wherein normally the newlyweds should receive Holy Communion, the Sacrament of divine Light and of supernatural brotherly love.
For the bride and groom, this is a particularly decisive day in their own lives and, because it marks the crowning point of their mutual love, they seek to share their happiness with their relatives and friends. On this special day of special days apart, they don their best apparel, and enlist the sweetest melodies to sing the joy of their union, and the happiness they expect from it. Then, united for all eternity in the Sacrament of marriage, they leave their families to found their new home, a home of their own.
In the midst of the worldly celebrations and decorations, in the midst of the earthly rejoicings that accompany the religious celebration, we must, however, never lose sight of the profound depth of the great event which is to take place. It is sad that so many young people on the eve of this great Sacrament give their time and attention only to preparing the exterior brilliance of their marriage and forget the essential things the Sacrament and the Mass, of which all else, no matter how beautiful and touching, are still only accessories.
OBJECT OF THIS LESSON
This present lesson places the marriage ceremony in its true and proper perspective both from the religious as well as from the worldly point of view. The explanations given here are designed to help and enable the future spouses to keep the memory of this special day one of charm and enchantment in the years that lie ahead.
We shall consider 1) what precedes the marriage ceremony; 2) the liturgy of marriage; 3) the events that follow the ceremony.
I. WHAT PRECEDES THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY.
First to be acquainted with the news of the intended marriage should of course, be the parents, then the intimate friends of the engaged couple. These intimate friends may be informed either orally or by letter. If she so wishes, the bride-to-be may make the occasion of a tea or evening party her opportunity to "break the great news." Only after the engagement has been announced to the parents and friends, should it be published in the newspapers for the general public. Delicate attention to these conventions will be a help in maintaining precious friendships.
1) VISIT TO THE PRESBYTERY
We have already dealt with this matter at some length in Lesson 8. It is unnecessary, therefore, to repeat all the details here. There are a few points, however, that may well bear repetition at this time: 1) In order to avoid possible difficulties, delays, and other inconveniences, see your pastor (preferably together) at least a month before the date that you have set for your wedding. 2) During this visit to the rectory, in addition to the prenuptial enquiry, details concerning the date and hour of the wedding may be settled as well as any other matters that the couple may wish to arrange. Here let it be noted that, while a simple wedding costs very little, the cost is bound to increase in proportion as more details are added. Due consideration must be given therefore to oneís purse and position in society. (This same principle holds good for the reception and honeymoon also.) Obviously, it would be foolish for a young couple to have to spend the first year of their married life extricating themselves from debts incurred by too lavish a wedding.
The ceremony should be dignified and beautiful. Donít invite singers whose performance would be more theatrical than liturgical and who would be only a distraction to those assisting at your marriage. See to it that the singing, if there is to be some, be the chant of the Church. Certainly the pastor or the priest who is to officiate at your marriage should be consulted in this matter.
2) REST FOR THE BRIDE-TO-BE
It is of the utmost importance that the bride-to-be, the future mother. learn how to rest and relax before she gets married. Today, most young women who are contemplating marriage will likely have been working for several years at positions which require great expenditure of energy. The result is that too frequently their wedding day finds them nervous and exhausted. A time of rest in order to regain their normal health is a "must" for them before they enter a condition of life that is going to require the constant giving of themselves as mothers.
The future husband will do well to see that his partner-to-be takes this much needed rest. The health of the children to come is at stake. Women are naturally ambitious, and for a few dollars more they may not hesitate at times to risk their health. The future husband should therefore insist, if necessary, that his fiancee quit work some time before the wedding date in order to take this well-merited rest. The length of this rest may vary according to the individual case; nevertheless, some rest does seem imperative for any young woman who has been working outside the home.
At this point we take the opportunity to recommend to the future spouses a medical examination before marriage if they have not done so already before becoming engaged. This examination, even when not required by civil law, is nevertheless to be very strongly recommended. By the exchange of such certificates, each has some definite degree of knowledge concerning the health of his or her intended life-partner. If, then, the health of one is found to be in such a state that it can jeopardize the happiness of the marriage, there should be no hesitation in making the decision that such a situation imposes.
The modern wedding announcement is usually worldly and drab in tone. Others, equally modern but with Christian meaning and character, are inspiring and charming. Of these latter, the following is given as an example that at the same time leaves scope for individual initiative:
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smith
have the honour of announcing
that their daughter,
Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Jones
have the honour of announcing
that their son,
will be united in Christ, in the Sacrament of Matrimony,
at the Church of the Holy Rosary,
Saturday the twenty-ninth of June
One thousand nine hundred and forty-seven
The Nuptial Blessing will be imparted by Rev. Father
The Nuptial Mass that follows will consecrate to God the offering of their hearts and home.
|It gives them particular pleasure to invite you to assist at this ceremony, or to join your intentions with theirs.||
Reception after the ceremony:
At the home of Mr. and Mrs. Smith,
430 Main Street.
(Note: This is to be regarded only as an example of the wording of the announcement. For details concerning arrangement of lines, type styles, etc., consult the printer who is to do the work for you.)
The announcements and invitations are sent out by the parents of the bride.
In order to provide your wedding guests with a means for proper liturgical assistance at the Marriage Mass, the Oblate Catholic Centre, Laycock St., Penshurst. N.S.W.. has published a booklet entitled "THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY." Copies may be obtained in either English or French. This booklet (of vest pocket size) contains the text of the exhortations, blessings, etc., pronounced by the priest, the entire marriage ceremony, as well as the entire nuptial Mass. "The Marriage Ceremony" is neat, original, new, and ... Christian. With the aid of this pamphlet, not only the newly married couple but all those in attendance are enabled to participate in the ceremony with respect and dignity.
4) STAG PARTIES
Marriage is a great social act. It is understandable, therefore, why it is usually preceded and followed by various social activities to mark the young coupleís passage into a new way of living. Unhappily, the celebrations organized for this purpose too often devolve into pagan orgies that are thoroughly contrary to the Christian spirit that should animate them. The following points should be of great help both to you and to the friends who will be entertaining you. If you wish to make your marriage a Christian marriage, then insist that all entertainment be clean and properly conducted. It may require some courage to assert this principle to some of your friends but (and this is fact) others have done so and today have the satisfaction of knowing that Christ did not have to remove His blessing. For them, marriage is and will be a lifelong memory of clean, wholesome joys, rather than one blighted and tainted by the memory of drunken orgies and obscene jokes.
Undoubtedly, a gathering of young men, friends of the groom, in order to celebrate his approaching marriage, is legitimate and in conformity with the rules of Christian propriety. It is their opportunity to manifest their friendship for the groom, to extend their congratulations, and to make the presentation of appropriate, serviceable gifts. What conforms neither to the rules of etiquette nor of Christian propriety is the transformation and degradation of these evenings into veritable orgies of excessive indulgence in alcoholic beverages, lewd songs, coarse stories and conversations, etc. These are decidedly unworthy of true Christians, and are deserving only of strong disapproval, censure, and rebuke. Quite often, what promised to be a pleasant evening is changed into an entirely ugly affair by the arrival of one or two "friends" loaded down with beer, wine or whiskey.
There are three thoughts that we would give you for consideration at this point: 1) Is it the intention of this "stag" to honour you, or is it to be an excuse for a "drink?" 2) Is it honoring you when you and the girl whom you love enough to lead to Godís altar a few days hence, are made the object of your companionsí smut! 3) What would be the reaction of your future wife if she were to see and hear what is going on?
Therein you have the answer to the spirit in which these "stags" should be conducted. Demand and insist that any parties held in your honor shall be really clean and wholesome and, consequently a matter for enjoyable memories. Take whatever precautions may be necessary to ensure, if there is to be any drinking at all, that it will be kept to a minimum. Otherwise, almost inevitably some one will overindulge and from there it is but a short step before the lewd stories get started. Be firm and insistent on this point. After all, itís being held in your honor. Make it such that it leaves no "sour taste in your mouth" afterwards. Donít let your entry into the marriage state be marked by concessions to those who are too cowardly or too carnal-minded to live up to higher, nobler ideals.
"Showers" are gatherings at which gifts of various kinds are presented to the bride-to-be. It is apparent that these gifts will be in proportion to the number and to the social standing of these friends. The multiplication of showers means more gifts but, as is usually the case, since it is the same friends who sponsor the showers, the result is that the more numerous the showers, the more does the quality of the gifts tend to decrease. It would be wiser, therefore, to keep the number of these showers at a minimum, thereby permitting every one to present a little less perhaps, but, on the other hand, more substantial, useful, and important gifts. This reduction of the number of showers would decrease the nervous strain to which the bride-to-be is subjected. Preparation for marriage is sufficiently tiring without adding extra burdens.
6) WEDDING CLOTHES
The wedding apparel depends upon the type of wedding selected. If your means and taste incline both of you to have a fashionable wedding, the following clothes will be necessary: For the groom: black cut-away or morning coat, dark grey-striped trousers, black shoes, page-grey gloves, grey cravat, pointed collar, high hat. For the bride: long gown, of the color desired, etc., with appropriate accessories, veil, gloves, bouquet. A milliner should be consulted.
If the wedding is to be less elaborate, the following clothing is suitable: For the groom: an ordinary business suit, with soft, suede hat and gloves. There is no obligation to wear the traditional blue suit, grey hat and gloves which proclaim the newly-wed wherever he goes. For the bride an afternoon dress or a tailored suit. According to the rules of etiquette, a long gown should not be worn unless the groom is dressed in formal black with a high silk hat. This rule, however, is quite widely ignored. Gloves are a requisite as is also the bouquet.
One major factor must be stressed: In her preparations, the bride should place keen emphasis on the matter of modesty. Long sleeves and high neck are much more becoming and attractive than short, almost non-existent sleeves or a low cut neckline.
7) MATERIAL PREPARATION
Material preparations for the wedding and reception should be handled by the brideís parents. The bride should, of course, be consulted concerning these preparations. Exaggerated spending should be avoided. In order to save the bride all unnecessary anxiety, arrangements concerning the reception afterwards should be taken care of by the mother or sister. The bride herself has enough to do, especially since all material preparations on her part should be completed at least a week before the wedding so that she may relax and rest before the great day.
8) SPIRITUAL PREPARATION
Marriage is a Sacrament of the living. It is a Sacrament in which the bride and groom are themselves the ministers. They would commit a serious sacrilege if the morning of their marriage were to find them not in the state of grace. In this case, confession is obligatory for them, just as it is for the reception of all the other Sacraments of the living.
Furthermore, since the Sacrament of Matrimony is the source of all the graces granted to the newly-weds and to their home during their entire future life, it is obvious how important it is to receive it only after having cleansed their souls of all that is displeasing to God, and that might diminish the abundance of graces that should fill their souls. For this reason, Holy Mother Church strongly exhorts the future spouses to go to confession before the wedding (either immediately before the ceremony or the evening before) in order to receive forgiveness of all their sins.
This confession before receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony should be fervently prepared: A careful examination of conscience should be made; there should be sincere sorrow for all their sins. Their confession at this time constitutes an excellent opportunity for the future spouses to make a general confession to cover all their past life. Thus, their wedding day will, in a sense, be like a new beginning in their lives. May they take advantage therefore of Jesusí infinite mercy to find again their baptismal purity, if unhappily they may have lost it, or, if they are already at peace with God, to enrich their souls with a superabundance of graces.
The ideal would be for the future spouses to make a closed retreat, particularly a special closed retreat in preparation for their marriage. Take advantage of the splendid opportunity to do so. In retrospect, it will be one of the most joyft I events of your life.
Following the confession that precedes your wedding, it is advisable to ask the priest for a confession "note," that is, a written notice stating that you have been to confession. This note is given to the priest who performs the marriage; it assures him that all is in proper order for the marriage that is about to take place. Finally, it is necessary, particularly during the last few days before the wedding, to prepare by prayer and meditation for the reception of the grace of the Sacrament.
II. THE LITURGY OF MARRIAGE
This section will treat of 1) the Sacrament itself; 2) the Marriage Mass; 3) the nuptial blessing. Since these three elements of the marriage ceremony are intimately linked together, the Church desires that they be not separated except for very special reasons. Marriage, being a Sacrament, and therefore a source of grace, it necessarily originates in the Sacrifice of Calvary. Can there, then, be any method more suitable whereby to seal the union of two lives than to do so at the foot of the altar on which Jesus renews His sacrifice of love ! From the Redeeming Cross flows also the meritorious efficacy of the nuptial blessing imparted to the bride by the Church.
1 - THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE
The administration of the Sacrament of Matrimony comprises several ceremonies: 1) the priestís allocution; 2) the mutual consent; 3) the blessing and putting on of the ring; 4) the final exhortation.
In the past, many marriages were celebrated in front of the church: "There before the main entrance of many European churches, the lovely Ďnuptial portalsí around which artists described in graceful sculpture the symbolical parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins awaiting the coming of the bridegroom." The Church now requires that the marriage be celebrated at the altar. (Roman Ritual, TIT, VII, Ch. 2.)
Unless authorized by the bishop or pastor, the wedding should be held in the parish church (usually that of the woman). The bishop never, except in a very extraordinary case, permits the celebration of this Sacrament in a private home. Nor will he authorize, except for an urgent reason, its celebration in the chapels or oratories of convents or of seminaries.
Ordinarily, the ceremony takes place at the entrance to the sanctuary, outside the chancel (communion rail), in front of the main altar, or in a side chapel or at a side altar, as in the case of the wedding of a Child of Mary, at a chapel dedicated to Mary.
The bridegroom and his witness (usually the best man) should be the first to arrive at the church. They advance to their respective kneeling benches on the Epistle (right hand) side, genuflect, and then await (standing) the solemn entrance of the bride. The bride now enters the church and, preceded by the ushers and the bridesmaids, is escorted by her father, followed by the page and flower girl. The procession approaches the altar while the organ plays; then, the future spouses greet each other by an inclination of the head, the bride hands her bouquet to a bridesmaid, and all kneel. The ceremony is now about to begin. (N.B. At this point the couple should both remove their gloves.)
There then they stand before the altar where Jesus will again sacrifice Himself for His Church in order to sanctify Her, and with Her to create, nourish and mould holy members. Towards them advances the priest, robed in the vestments of the Holy Sacrifice if he himself is to celebrate the Mass that follows. (Otherwise, he will be arrayed in surplice and white stole.) During the ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage, the two witnesses stand beside the bride and groom.
Thus it is that, linked with the Sacrifice of Jesus, at His altar, before His priest vested for Holy Mass, the spouses themselves administer, each to the other, the Sacrament of marriage, tie the bonds of conjugal life, and start the flow, each for the other, of the sacramental grace that will accompany them throughout life.
A) PRIESTíS ALLOCUTION
The priest begins by an allocution. This instruction is reminiscent of an Ordination. Before an ordination, the Bishop, in the Name of Jesus, solemnly warns the candidate for Holy Orders of the grandeur and the important functions that the Holy Ghost will confer upon him.
Thus, before the spouses contract the great Sacrament of Matrimony, the priest in the Name of Jesus warns them of the sublimity of the marriage bond, blessed by God from the beginning of the world, honored by Jesusí first miracle at Cana, and elevated by Him to the dignity of a Sacrament. This. Sacrament is sublime, representing as it does, the mystical union of our Divine Saviour with His Church.
The priest then invites the spouses to etch deeply within their hearts the holy obligations of Matrimony: inviolable love and fidelity, mutual help and support, union of the flesh in one heart, the firm, clear resolution to accept all the children God will be pleased to grant them, to consecrate these children to Him by baptism, and to educate them for Heaven.
Herewith is the text of the priestís allocution. This allocution, the final exhortation, and all the prayers of the ceremony, should be frequently meditated upon, both before and after the wedding.
"My dear friends: You are about to enter into a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred, because established by God Himself; most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.
"Truly, then, these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other, that recognizing their full import you are, nevertheless, so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this common life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy; and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that He gave His Only begotten Son; and the Son so loved us that He gave Himself for our salvation. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends,"
"No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today, never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God. Nor will God be wanting to your needs; He will pledge you the life-long support of His graces in the Holy Sacrament which you are now going to receive."
B) CONCERNING MUTUAL CONSENT
a) Formula: This is the Sacrament itself. The formula of the Sacrament is in the native tongue (not in Latin) since it is the two spouses themselves who administer this Sacrament to each other.
Formula of the Roman ritual: The priest asks the Bridegroom
"N., wilt thou take N., here present, for thy lawful wife, according to the rite of our Holy Mother, the Church?"
R Ė "I will."
Then the priest asks the Bride:
"N., wilt thou take N. here present, for thy lawful husband, according to the rite of our Holy Mother, the Church?"
R Ė "I will."
The union is contracted. Only death can break it.
b) Joining of the hands1: The man and the woman join right hands, and the priest says
Ego conjugo vos in matrimonium,
in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.
I join you together in marriage,
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
It is to be noted that this formula does not create the marriage bond. In pronouncing it, the priest marks, officially states, and witnesses in the name of the Holy Church that the Sacrament has been conferred.
The Priest then sprinkles them with Holy Water.2
C) BLESSING AND PUTTING ON OF THE RING
V. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
R. Qui fecit caelum et terram.
V. Domine exaudi orationem meam.
R. Et clamor meus ad to veniat.
V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
V O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come untoThee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us Pray. ó Bless, O Lord, this ring, which we
bless in Thy name, that she who is to wear it, keeping true faith unto her
husband, may abide in Thy peace and obedience to Thy will, and ever live in
mutual love. Through Christ Our Lord.
The priest sprinkles the ring with holy water. The bridegroom receives the ring from the priest and places it on the third finger of the brideís left hand. The priest says:
|In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. R. Amen.||In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. R. Amen.|
a) Meaning of this ceremony: The ring symbolizes the conjugal union joining the two hearts in one love, one loyalty. It is a permanent, precious and rich symbol. Hence, one can readily understand the holy attachment and veneration of the husband and children for the wedding ring of a deceased mother. This ring recalls the ring of consecrated souls who on their wedding day contract a mystical union with Jesus.
b) History of this rite:
i) Origin: The Romans gave a ring, not at the wedding but at the engagement. It was a ring of iron, unadorned by precious stones, which the man gave to his fiancee as a pledge of their future union. The ring marked promised faith; it engaged the fiance to his future spouse. Later, the Catholic Church adopted the same rite for Christians by bestowing Her blessing upon the engagement ring.
ii) Today: Since the 13th century, the ring has been a distinctive mark of the married woman. The ring may be of gold or silver, and preferably, plain. A plain ring, unadorned by precious stones, a marriage guard, better expresses the Catholic tradition.
Why only one ring? As a matter of fact, in Belgium and throughout Europe generally, each of the spouses wears a nuptial ring. This custom tends to spread here. The ring worn by the man has the advantage of reminding him that he also is bound by marriage and that he has promised fidelity to his wife.
V. Confirma hoc, Deus, quad operatus es in nobis.
R. A templo sancto tuo, quod est in Jerusalem.
Pater noster ... (Secreto)
V. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
R. Sed libera nos a malo.
V. Salvos fac servos tuos.
R. Deus meus, sperantes in te. V. Mitte eis, Domine, auxilium de sancto.
R. Et de Sion tuere eos.
V. Esto eis, Domine, turns fortitudinis.
R. A facie inimici.
V. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
R. Et clamor meus ad to veniat.
V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
V. Confirm, O God, that which Thou hast wrought in us.
R. From Thy holy temple which is in Jerusalem.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Our Father ... (silently)
V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil.
V. Save Thy servants.
R. Who hope in Thee, O my God. V. Send them help, O Lord, from the sanctuary.
R. And from out of Sion defend them.
V. Be unto them, O Lord, a tower of strength.
R. Before the face of the enemy.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us Pray. - Look, O Lord, we beseech Thee, upon these Thy servants, and graciously assist Thy own institutions whereby Thou host provided for the propagation of mankind: that those who are joined together by Thy authority may be preserved by Thy help. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
D) FINAL EXHORTATION
The bride, the groom, and the witnesses remain kneeling; the guests may sit down. The final exhortation may be made immediately, but preferably it should be given after the Mass, the better to illustrate that the ceremony of marriage is, in a sense, part of the Nuptial Mass ... that is to say, that the newlyweds unite themselves with the Divine Victim in offering themselves and their descendants in sacrifice to the Saviour to obtain the graces they will need through their life together. (See Note: P. 242 No. 2).
Having been united in the holy bonds of Matrimony, give thanks to the Almighty for the favours which he has bestowed upon you. The graces which you have received have been granted for the purpose of animating you in the discharge of the obligations which the marriage life imposes, and which are beautifully expressed in these words of the Apostle: "Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church ... Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it: that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life ... So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies."
Ever mindful of these duties which you awe to each other, and to those with whose welfare you may be especially charged, cherish with solicitude the grace that has this day been conferred upon you; it will direct you in every difficulty; it will comfort you in the hour of trial; it will be a continual source of peace, of joy, of mutual affection on earth, and a pledge of your eternal and perfect union in heaven.
Prayer after the Marriage Ceremony:
O God, Who hast ordained and sanctified the holy state of Matrimony for replenishing the earth, for mutual consolation, and as a type of the union of Christ and His Church, give to these here present who have this day entered into this sacred relation, grace to both thankfully accept its blessings and faithfully to fulfil its duties. Accompany their union with Thy constant assistance, to enable them to live together in peace and love, in the careful discharge of all their duties to Thee and to each other.
Deliver them from all evil temper, from every heedless action, which may in any way embitter or weaken the tie by which Thou hast bound them together. Make them true and affectionate, studious to please, and ready to deny their own will and inclination in all things. Let not the trials and crosses of life induce them to murmur, nor let their earthly prosperity cause them to forget Thee, the Author and Giver of all blessings; but by patience and meekness, by prayer and thankfulness, may all blessings be sanctified unto them, and fit them for an eternal union with Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Following are the magnificent prayers that the Church recites for the new spouses during the marriage Mass. It is easy to understand the treasures of grace lost by those who marry without the Mass or with a non-Catholic since none of these prayers is said for them. It is strongly urged also that you receive Holy Communion during "your Mass" in order to gain even greater blessings.
2 - THE NUPTIAL MASS
A) PLACE IN THE MISSAL
The Nuptial Mass is truly inspiring and is placed between the Mass for the Ordination of priests, deacons, and subdeacons, and that for the Propagation of the Faith. This arrangement demonstrates the superiority of Holy Orders to Matrimony because Holy Orders creates ministers of the Divine Mysteries. However, the purpose of Matrimony in the Catholic Church is to multiply the number of the true children of God, and by this multiplication of the faithful to extend the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ to the infidel nations.
B) LITURGICAL DIRECTIONS
The special Nuptial Mass may not be celebrated a) during the prohibited times, that is to say, from the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas inclusively; from Ash Wednesday until Easter inclusively; November 2 (All Soulsí Day); b) if the wife has previously received the nuptial blessing at a former marriage; c) outside the prohibited time: Sundays, double feasts of the 1st and 2nd class, December 31, during the octaves of Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany and Corpus Christi, Vigils of Epiphany and Pentecost. In these last cases, the Mass of the day is celebrated with the insertion of the special prayers of the Nuptial Mass.
C) TEXT OF THE MASS FOR THE SPOUSES
The Church places on the lips of the priest and of those in attendance, the vows and wishes of the aged Raguel in favour of the young spouses, Tobias and Sara.
May the God of Israel join you together: and may He be with you, Who was merciful to two mere children: and now, Lord, make them bless Thee more fully. Ps. 127. Blessed are all they that fear the Lord.. that walk in His ways. V. Glory be to the Father ... (We repeat: May the God of Israel... more fully.)
Graciously hear us, Almighty and Merciful God: that what is done by our ministry may be abundantly fulfilled with Thy blessing. Through our Lord...
St. Paul teaches that Christian Marriage is modelled upon that remarkable dogma, the permanent, intimate and loving union of Christ with His Church. Thanks to St. Paulís revelation, married people may now understand something of the sublimity of Christian marriage. In His Passion, Christ took the Church as His Bride. In so doing, He gave Christian marriage its symbol and its model. As Christ and His Church, so husband and wife.
Brethren: Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; because a husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church, being Himself savior of the body. But just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, cleansing her in the bath of water by means of the word; in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish. Even thus ought husbands also to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh; on the contrary he nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ also does the Church (because we are members of his body, made from his flesh and from his bones). "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery.... I mean in reference to Christ and to the Church. However, let each one of you also love his wife just as he loves himself; and let the wife respect her husband.
Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine on the sides of thy house. V. Thy children as olive plants round about thy table.
Alleluia, alleluia. May the Lord send you help from the sanctuary, and from out of Sion defend you. Alleluia.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. V. May the Lord bless thee from out of Sion: and mayest thou see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. V. And mayest thou see thy childrenís children: peace upon Israel.
The Gospel proclaims the unity and the indissolubility of marriage in the words of Christ "The two shall become one flesh ... What God has joined together, let no man put asunder."
Text: (St. Matthew, 19, 3-6) At that time, there came to Jesus some Pharisees, testing him, and saying, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?" But he answered and said to them, "Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, ĎFor this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one fleshí? Therefore now they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."
What a light in the darkness of today, when divorce and trial marriage brutalize the conscience, destroy family life, and endanger the very roots of society.
The priest and the spouses, through the priest, confidently offer, in advance, their future married life, in union with Jesusí Sacrifice.
In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped: I said, Thou art my God; my times are in Thy hands.
Receive, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the offering we make to Thee on behalf of Thy holy bond of wedlock: and even as this institution is the gift of Thy bounty, so dispose of it according to Thy will. Through our Lord ...
This Communion during the Nuptial Mass is very important. That is why the Missal always assumes that the bride and groom will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to gain additional graces. How? By Communion, Jesus, the glorious Sacrifice, the mystical Victim, united to all His members, "descends into the soul of each of the spouses and elevates them to Him". In His intimacy, Jesus unites, marries (so to speak) these two newlyweds in a bond of profound divine love. Lost in the soul of Jesus, the bride and groom learn and drink deeply of mutual love, fidelity, patience, chastity, and acceptance of the Fatherís Will. Strengthened by the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, they also receive His blessing from which all other blessings flow.
A Mass, celebrated without the spousesí receiving Communion, reminds one of a tree deprived of its deepest roots or of a building without a solid foundation.
Behold, thus shall every man be blessed that feareth the Lord; and mayest thou see thy childrenís children: peace upon Israel.
We beseech Thee, almighty God, to accompany the institutions of Thy providence with Thy gracious favours; that Thou mayest keep in lasting peace those whom Thou hast joined in lawful union. Through our Lord ...
3 - THE NUPTIAL BLESSING
A) VENERATION OF THE CHURCH
Why and how does the Church manifest a special veneration for the nuptial blessing? Why? a) Because it is a precious sacramental, that is to say, it is an outward sign instituted by Holy Mother Church, a sign that signifies and produces in proportion to the holiness of the Church Herself a superabundance of special graces. b) Because it is a very ancient rite of the Church.
How? The Church manifests its veneration for the nuptial blessing a) by incorporating it into the Holy Mass. Just as in the case of ordinations, it is during the Mass that this blessing is conferred. This blessing may never be given apart from the Mass (Canon Law, Canon 1101 No. 1, and Roman Ritual TIT. VII, chap. 1, No. 16); b) by liturgical pronouncements on the subject.
B) LITURGICAL DIRECTIONS
a) The Church insists that all Christians receive this blessing: "Let the pastor see that after the celebration of Matrimony, the spouses receive the SOLEMN BENEDICTION which may be given even though the couple have been married for a long period..." (Canon Law, Canon 1101 No. 1, and Roman Ritual TIT. VII, Chap. 1, No. 16). The Church permits it even on the most solemn feasts.
b) The Church bans the nuptial blessing only during the prohibited time, and even during this time the Bishop may permit it for a just cause and on condition that the spouses abstain from all excessive show in the celebration of the wedding.
c) If the bride is a widow, the nuptial blessing is forbidden unless she has not already received it at her first wedding.
C) COMPOSITION OF THE BLESSING
The nuptial blessing is composed of two parts: 1) two prayers inserted between the Our Father and the Libera Nos; 2) a wish for a long and fruitful life. This prayer follows immediately after the Benedicamus Domino or the Ite. Missa est. It is followed also by a final exhortation, concluded by the sprinkling of holy water and the priestís blessing.
1) The two prayers after the Our Father: Immediately after the Our Father, the priest turns towards the couple who are kneeling. The witnesses stand.
1st prayer: Let us pray. Be appeased, O Lord, by our humble prayers and graciously further this Thine institution which Thou host ordained for the increase of mankind; so that what is joined together by Thine authority may be kept by Thy help. Through our Lord ...
2nd prayer: Let us pray: O God, by Thy mighty power Thou didst make all things out of nothing. Having set in order the beginnings of the universe and made man to Godís image, Thou didst appoint woman to be his inseparable helpmate, in such wise that the womanís body took its beginning from the flesh of man, thereby teaching that what Thou hadst been pleased to institute from one principle might never lawfully be put asunder. O God, Who hast hallowed wedlock by a mystery so excellent that in the marriage-bond Thou didst foreshow the union of Christ with the Church; O God, by Whom woman is joined to man and that fellowship which Thou didst ordain from the beginning is endowed with a blessing which alone was not taken away either by the punishment for the first sin or by the sentence of the flood; look in Thy mercy upon this Thy handmaid, who is to be joined in wedlock and entreats protection and strength from Thee. Let the yoke of love and of peace be upon her. True and chaste, let her wed in Christ; and let her ever follow the pattern of holy women: let her be dear to her husband like Rachel; wise like Rebecca; long-lived and faithful like Sara. Let the father of sin work none of his evil deeds within her. Let her ever be knit to the faith and to the commandments. Let her be true to one wedlock and shun all sinful embraces. Let her fortify her weakness by strong discipline. Let her be grave in demeanour and honoured for her modesty. Let her be well taught in heavenly lore. Let her be fruitful in offspring. Let her life be good and sinless. May she win the rest of the blessed in the kingdom of heaven. May they both see their childrenís children unto the third and fourth generation, and may they reach the old age which they desire. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.
As we see, the entire programme of life for a truly Christian wife is outlined in this admirable prayer. Christian wife, make it your duty to learn it by heart, to meditate on it frequently, and to compare your way of living with what is expected of you by the Church.
(2) Wish, exhortation, and blessing. The Missal invites the priest to address a few words on conjugal fidelity, mutual love and fear of sin (The final exhortation given above after the blessing and putting on of the ring [See page 237] may be used here.) Besides, particularly during times of fasting and on solemn feasts, the spouses should practise voluntary continence (without, however, being in any way obligated to do so) in a spirit of self-mortification. This continence in the spirit of self-mortification has been traditional since the early days of the Church.
After the exhortation, the priest sprinkles the newlyweds with Holy Water. He recites the prayer PLACEAT from the Ordinary of the Mass, then gives them, as well as all the attendants who have offered the Holy Sacrifice in union with the newlyweds, a blessing in the Name of the Holy Trinity.
When the Mass is ended and their thanksgiving made, the bride and groom, accompanied by their witnesses and parents, go to the sacristy for the signing of the register. From the sacristy the procession re-forms, the husband and wife, arm in arm, leading, then the Maids of Honour and guard of honour (if any), the witnesses, the parents of the bride and groom, the rest of the procession. Thence to the place where the reception is to be held.
D) APPENDIX: ANCIENT CEREMONIES
We would like to recall here some ceremonies that formerly surrounded the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.
1) STRETCHING THE NUPTIAL VEIL
In the Middle Ages, it was the usual custom to stretch a veil, not only over the bride, but also over the bridegroom, lying face downwards before the altar. St. Ambrose, in the 4th century, makes several references to this ceremony.
This rite goes back to the Romans. We know, in fact, that for her wedding the young Roman girl covered her head with a red veil, which differed from that of married women in colour only. This ceremony was still practised in Mexico as late as the end of the last century. It still survives in the ceremony of "donning the habit" or in the ceremony of profession in various religious communities when the traditional pall is stretched over the virgins newly united to Our Saviour Jesus Christ. This cloth extended over the religious had formerly no funereal character; in time, it unfortunately became mortuary in tone and was even accompanied by a tolling bell. Actually, it formerly symbolized the joy of a spiritual wedding.
2) KISS OF PEACE
In former times, either after the nuptial blessing or even after the last Gospel, the husband climbed the steps to the altar to receive from the priest the Kiss of Peace which he transmitted to his wife.
3) WEDDING CAKE
During the Middle Ages, in many localities the priest, either at the Church or after escorting the newlyweds to their home, presided over the blessing of the bread and wine in memory of the wedding at Cana. This custom was widespread in England. This is, in all probability, the origin of the "Wedding Cake".
4) CROWNING THE NEWLYWEDS
This ceremony was formerly the custom. The spouses, candle in hand, presented themselves before the priest. The priest while blessing them would place on their heads a rich crown or one made of olive branches. This custom is still followed at the religious profession of many communities of nuns.
5) BLESSING OF THE NUPTIAL COUCH
Finally, we mention here for the edification of those who strive to understand Godís plan in Christian marriage, a pious practice preserved in the Roman ritual, but which, due to lack of faith on the part of paganized Christians, has fallen into disuse: the blessing of the nuptial couch. Here is the actual text of the Ritual: "Bless, O Lord, this nuptial couch so that those reposing on it, may live in Your peace, persevere in fulfilling Your will, arrive at old age, multiply in their children and arrive at the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen."
Then the priest sprinkles the nuptial couch with Holy Water. This ceremony, appropriate as it is, should be brought back into practice. It is useful to remind the spouses of the dignity of their married life and of the sacredness of the laws of Matrimony. It would teach them the grandeur of their ministry, as associates of God and of the priest, in extending the Mystical Body in whom Jesus grows and perpetuates Himself.
III. AFTER THE CEREMONY
1) THE RECEPTION
As a general rule, the reception is held at the home of the brideís parents. However, there is no reason why, under certain circumstances, another place may not be chosen. When the newlyweds arrive at the place where the reception is to be held, those who attended to its preparation should already be there to receive them. The priest who blessed the wedding should be invited and, if deemed proper, he should be asked to say a few words offering best wishes to the young couple.
Care must be taken in the organizing of the reception that there is not too much in the way of alcoholic beverages. Care should be taken also to avoid all suggestive stories. This is equally applicable for the friends of the young couple when they entertain them after they return from their wedding trip.
At the reception, the wedding presents are displayed. It is customary to attach the card which accompanies the gifts, indicating from whom they came. These cards must be carefully kept since the bride must acknowledge every present received, with a note of thanks written by herself at the first opportunity.
Everything is to be gained by having the reception as simple as possible. Usually, formal and elaborate affairs are far from being joyous and pleasant and are not always a refreshing memory. An informal reception with its spirit of intimacy and frank enjoyment is in our best tradition.
2) WEDDING TRIP OR HONEYMOON
Newlyweds will have discussed this thoroughly before the wedding. We highly recommend that it be made quietly and calmly. Avoid large cities after a long and tedious journey. As far as possible, you should seek a quiet spot where you can be alone far from a bustling city. Also, avoid visiting a host of new relatives. The longest and most expensive wedding trips are not necessarily the happiest and best. Make your honeymoon simply a prelude to your home life.
3) HOME OF YOUR OWN
Circumstances and means permitting, the newlyweds should not live with parents, but have a home of their own. The economic preparation for marriage will have intelligently taken care of this matter. Nowadays, with the cooperative movement which is being developed, the possibilities of owning a home are becoming greater. The possession of your own home is a powerful and irreplaceable element for stability and happiness. We urge you, therefore, to look seriously into this matter of cooperatives.
The home should be adorned by a crucifix in the living room, and with beautiful pictures; unedifying pictures should not be permitted. This home should certainly be consecrated to God by an image of His Sacred Heart. For further information on the enthronement of the King of Love in your family, see Pages 91-92, or insert a request for information with your questionnaire to this lesson.
4) WORKING WIVES
After marriage, the bride should not work outside the home, even if she did so before. This practice draws her interests away from the home, and tends to kill family life. The young bride should concentrate on building a spiritual home, keeping it, adorning it, and beautifying it. Furthermore, the first child will be at ease, will be truly at home, with a mother who will have consecrated the months of waiting, preparing for the great arrival by rest, tranquillity, and peace, and by studying the all-engrossing subject of motherhood. It is on the child to come that these two hearts which God has united, should now concentrate.
(1)Where the custom prevails, the following words are here repeated after the priest. The man first says: "I, N.N., take thee, N.N., for my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."
Then the woman says: "I, N.N., take thee. N.N., for my lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." The priest then continues: "Ego conjungo vos.,.. " (as above).
(2)Where the custom prevails: While placing the ring on the brideís finger, the bridegroom says: "With this ring I thee wed, and I plight unto thee my troth." The priest continues: "In nomine Patris...".