THREE ELEMENTS OF A CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
(The Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, Seaford. Long Island, New York. 4.4.15)
Kurt and Valerie, this day so long desired by you has now come at last when the Lord will bless and keep your love. As your priest and friend in Christ, it is my hope and my prayer that God will fill you with love, joy and peace as you begin a new chapter in your life together.
There are two schools of thought with regards to marriage. First school of thought is that marriage is very difficult. My friend, anthropologist Stuart Schlegel compared marriage to that of “learning how to play the violin.” It is very hard and challenging but when you master it, you can play the most melodious music.
The other school of thought is that marriage is very easy. Comedian Rodney Dangerfield said, “marriage is like a vacation: I married my wife as a last resort.”
A man was having a Shakespearean question: “to wed or nor to wed.”After consulting many books and counselors, he came to an existentialist philosopher by the name of Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard said, “Young man, by all means, gets married. If you marry a good wife, you will be happy; if you marry a nagging wife, you will become a philosopher.”
There are three elements, on which Christian blessing is invoked. These elements, when present and practiced, will make marriage last and enjoyable.
1. The first element of marriage is the hope for permanence.
A wedding is for a day but a marriage is for a lifetime. In a certain village in Philippines, there is a tradition that after the wedding, the bride and groom do not immediately go for honeymoon. Instead, they go to the market and buy two clay pots. They tie the pots together by the neck and throw them into the river. Whatever happens to the two pots---they may sink in the water or be carried by the streams down to the sea---the two pots stay together.
In this marriage, there are at least two symbols of this desire for permanence. You will make a vow to one another that says, “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” You will affirm this vow with the giving and receiving of a ring. Marriage is indeed difficult and challenging and it is not always easy to keep the vows in the midst of trials and tribulations. But I pray that you will strive for this ideal, the ideal on which Christian blessing is invoked.
2. The second element of marriage is the desire for mutuality.
In the Book of Genesis, God said:”it is not good that man should be alone. I will make a partner fit for him.” So he caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and out of his rib, God made the woman. Someone said the woman was not taken from a man’s foot so that she should be trampled upon, nor from the head so she should dominate over him; she was taken from the rib, close to the heart, so that she should be loved, cherished and respected.
In a sense, the role of the husband is simple: make your wife happy. And the role of the wife is just as simple: make your husband happy. How do you make it happen? In the Book of Ephesians, the Bible says: “Husband, love your wife as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. Wife, see to it that you respect your husband.” 1st Corinthians 13 defines love as “patient and kind…believes all things, hopes all things.”
One of the most commonly asked question by newly-weds is, “who is in-charge? Is it 50-50?” In Filipino culture, we often say, “the husband is the head but the wife is the neck---so whenever the neck goes, the head follows.”
Mutuality in marriage does not destroy personality but rather enhances it. Marriage that is founded on mutuality nourishes two distinct personalities into their fullness in the spirit of mutual love, inspiration and respect. The poet Khalil Gibran says, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you…Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music... And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”
Kurt, I trust that you will continue to love, cherish and honor your wife, Valerie, Valerie, I trust that you will love, cherish, and respect your husband, Kurt so that together you will live life to then full.
3. The third element of marriage is unity.
The Book of Genesis summarized it this way, “therefore a man leaves father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh…what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
One plus one equals one. What an amazing theology, what a wonderful poetry---and what an awesome arithmetic! It is like saying “two lips plus two lips equals one kiss.”
Marriage is a joining together of two persons in a mysterious and mystical unity. Jesus compared it to the unity of Christ and the Church. It is covenant between two personalities who bring together their gifts and talents into a wonderful tapestry of intimacy. The biblical injunction of “leaving and cleaving” has to do with far more than the physical. It has to do with the unity of diversity of body, mind and spirit.
Kurt and Valerie, today God will unite you in marriage. It will be further symbolized by the unity candle. Your two small candles will unite into one large candle so that together your light as husband and wife will shine brightly and help lighten the darkness of this world and become a witness to the light of Christ.
As you live up to the ideals of permanence, mutuality and unity; I pray that your marriage will not simply endure but prevail---and become truly the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Amen.