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The Sacrament of Marriage

刊登日期: 2013.03.17
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

Each culture has different wedding ceremonies. In the Chinese culture, we offer a cup of tea to the parents of the groom and, when possible, pay respect to the ancestors. That’s it. 

In the western culture, there is the custom of the exchange of vows with the option of rings, in front of an official who represents society. In the US that person has to be duly authorized to represent the state: a public official in a non-religious ceremony or a minister in a religious ceremony. In the Catholic Church, we require a Catholic priest or his delegate and the exchange of vows formulated by the Church. 

The wedding is a public ceremony. It is not a private commitment between the bride and the groom. Again, from the last two articles, society has a stake in marriage and family. Conversely, the couple has a duty to society in their marriage and the raising of their children. 

It may be interesting for you to know that most couples getting married do not even think about that. I have many couples feeling annoyed to be required to see me for marriage preparation. Or they think that marriage preparation is merely wedding preparation. After all, they love each other. What more is there – especially when the banquet hall and the photographer have been booked? 

I tell them that I am the representative of the community, to make sure that they know what the community expects of them. This “community” includes God, their family, their neighbors, society in general and their children yet to be born. I tell them that I am speaking on behalf of their children to demand that they be prepared to be the best parents. We, the community, want no less than a wonderful couple and a loving family that all the neighbors admire and appreciate. There should be a competition for best family in each neighborhood, with many families vying for the title, and without jealousy! That is what the word Sacrament means. It is a gift from God to each family, and each couple publicly expresses the desire to treasure and use the gift out of love for God and each other. 

Is this for real? 

As real as what each of you think of the priesthood. As real as I desire for my priesthood. Or, not MY priesthood, but the priesthood of Jesus Christ that I accepted publicly on my ordination day and that I strive to live up to everyday of my life since then. 

I ask the couples preparing for marriage whether they really think that they are God’s gift to each other. Not in a self-grandiose way, but that they truly realize they are to be gifts given by God. If a gift, then, treasured. I ask them to look into themselves to see if they treasure themselves as gift of God. Do they look at the other person as a gift from God? Do they really appreciate each other and treasure each other, not merely in a romantic way but truly as a gift FROM GOD? Can I say that fewer times and less redundantly? I can’t say it enough times! That is what we are. 

From the moment of our creation, God make us His gifts. We, as Catholics, publicly acknowledge that through Baptism. The parents bring the children to be baptized and re-present them to God and commit themselves to bringing their children up in their dignity as God’s children. 

Indeed, in the Sacrament of Matrimony, the husband publicly commits himself to his wife “that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5: 27) …. as Christ does the church (Eph 5:29)” 

Now, that is love worth dying for. 

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