Many Catholics assume that the culture's approach to a wedding and the Church's approach should be the same. Of course there are many similarities, but there are also many differences, especially when we talk about the 'Sacrament' of Marriage.
In the mind of the Church the Sacrament of Marriage is more than a simple promise - rather it is a sacred bond that unites a man and woman as one, which invites them to respond to a specific calling that God has placed in their hearts. It is a bond that lasts for life which is permanent, faithful, and fruitful. Marriage is not just about two people, but is the foundation of the family, the "domestic church," the most basic and foundational structure, not only for the Church, but for all of society.
A reflection on the symbolic nature of the wedding ring:
The symbol that is constantly with me is my wedding
ring. It is a sign to others that I am a
married woman but as a symbol it implies much more. A circular piece of metal
might ordinarily be used for joining or holding things together – as a sign of
two people’s commitment this sign works.
However take it away from its usual context, make it of precious metal and
wear it for no useful reason other than it looks good, and it assumes greater
importance. As a circle with no end to
it my wedding ring brings to mind the ongoing love and commitment we have given
to each other, that is lived daily as it is worn. Precious metal symbolises the care we need to
take of the commitment; and even yet, gold is soft and wears over time, as does
any relationship that is not nurtured with care and compassion. In the alternative for the blessing of the
rings in the Rite of Marriage that we used, it is prayed:
“Lord bless these rings which we bless in your
Grant that those who wear them
may always have a deep faith in each other’.
In and with God, we do have a deep faith in each other;
not just in the human other but in the other
‘created in the image and likeness of God who is Himself love’ (CCC1604)
and through whom we experience and minister God to each other.
The second part of that blessing stated:
‘May they do your will, and always live together, in peace
goodwill and love’
brings to mind my
mother’s or mother-in-law’s wedding ring, now deeply imbedded in the aged skin
on the finger, thin and worn, but still with enough strength and vitality (when
polished up!) to see either through these last years. This too is a powerful
symbol that carries with it a depth of understanding. A good marriage, built on
the solid gold foundations of deep faith in God expressed thorough the love the
couple share with each other, their children and their families and their
church communities will stand strong in the face of any challenges a couple is
presented with over the years.