This book edited by Oliver Brennan offers a wide choice of readings, prayers, blessings, contemporary reflections and forms of engaging vows, two model weddings, one with and one without Mass, as well as a newly created ceremony for interfaith marriages.
124 pp, Veritas, 2006. To purchase this book online,
go to www.veritas.ie .
Section One:Wedding Services
Section Two: Personalise your Wedding Cermony
We live in an age that is becoming increasingly open to the spiritual dimension of human existence. More and more couples whom I accompany in preparation for their marriage say that the most important part of their wedding day is what happens in the church. This is equally true of those who are not regular church-goers as it is of those who participate in the celebration of the Eucharist each weekend. Your desire to be married in a church shows that there is something ‘sacred’ about your love. Your relationship embodies something special that transcends the realm of a mundane experience.
This book is a response to the myriad requests I receive for help in the preparation of the marriage ceremony. Its purpose is to offer a choice among the rich variety of readings, prayers, reflections, forms of exchanging the marriage vows, blessing of rings, prayers of the faithful, marriage prefaces and nuptial blessings that are available.
When real friendship’ and deep love awaken in your life it leads to a re-birth of the human heart. Each couple approaching marriage is a unique pair, carrying in their hearts a love that is overflowing and generous. It is important, then, that they have the opportunity to choose from among the words, music and song what is most appropriate to their life experience. This will ensure that the wedding liturgy is the most significant aspect of the day and sets the tone for the remainder of the great celebration. It would be hoped that through careful preparation the wedding ceremony will touch the hearts of the bride and groom, as well as the whole wedding party, in a deeply human and spiritual way.
For most people, being involved in planning a significant liturgy is a whole new experience. It is a privilege and a good pastoral opportunity to work with a couple at this moment in their lives. The meaningfulness or otherwise of the marriage ceremony can be determinative of the future relationship they will have with the faith community into which they were initiated as children.
The Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council reminds us that the sacraments ‘not only pre-suppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen and express it … It is therefore of capital importance that the faithful easily understand the sacramental signs’ (n. 59). The preparation for and celebration of a wedding liturgy provides a golden opportunity to effect this. The marriage liturgy is one of the most important religious experiences for people during their adult lives.
Few, if any, events in life surpass that of the celebration of marriage. The occasion of a marriage is one of extraordinary joy, excitement and happiness, not only for the couple, but also for their parents, grandparents, family members, bridal party and friends who gather to share in their promise of life-long faithful love in the Sacrament of Marriage.
The celebration of a marriage ceremony reminds us of a great truth of the human journey: the best things in life are free. This may seem a strange statement to those who are paying for the reception! Nevertheless, when we stop to think about what is really important in life, we recognise that the greatest gift that we can give to one another is the gift of our friendship, and even more especially our unconditional love. People gather to celebrate a wedding liturgy because a couple have gifted each other with unconditional friendship and love. A wedding ceremony touches the secret heart of life and brings what is best in life and experience to expression.
If we attend to the rhythm of nature we experience the spring season, as we may the dawn of each day, as a refreshing time, a time of possibility and promise. Entering into marriage is a new dawn, a new springtime in our lives, an occasion of great possibility and promise. The existential philosopher, Sören Kierkegaard, said something very profound about living when he wrote: ‘If I could wish for something, I would wish for neither wealth nor power but the passion for possibility. I would wish only for an eye, which eternally young, eternally burns with the longing to see possibility.’
A wedding celebration is a time of endless possibility, especially the possibility of a life lived in utter fullness, a relationship which is mutually life-giving to each partner and to the wider community, particularly the community of faith of which the couple are a part. We are on this earth to live life to the full and when we are generous in our love, care and compassion somehow life comes to bless us.
MARRIAGE AS SACRAMENT
God’s love is very concrete. It is experienced in a very particular way in human love, especially in the love relationship of marriage. There is a sense in which genuine love is beyond what words can say. A couple’s love for each other is the embodiment of God’s love. In other words, married love is an outward sign, a concrete image of God’s love: this is why the Church uses the word ‘sacrament’ in relation to marriage. The ebb and flow of the divine-human relationship is most deeply reflected in the human love relationship, especially the marriage bond. God reaches out and touches us through the love of others and Christians believe that the risen Jesus is at the heart of all love. There is nothing magical or esoteric about the word ‘sacrament’. It is really a way of naming a divine-human reality in religious language. The giving and receiving of human love is in essence the giving and receiving of God’s love. This is what we mean when we say that the couple being married confer the sacrament on each other, or celebrate their unconditional love promise as sacrament. This is the nature of the love that is celebrated in the marriage ceremony. The couple’s natural love is graced in a new way. Their relationship is enhanced through the sacramental presence of the risen Lord for the duration of their human journey.
SECTION I: WEDDING SERVICE
There are two ways of celebrating the wedding liturgy in a Catholic Church:
A wedding service with Nuptial Mass;
A wedding service without Mass.
This applies to mixed marriages (The. marriages between a Catholic and a non-Catholic) as well as to marriages between two Catholics. Before offering all the choices regarding the marriage rite, readings and prayers, I will give a complete sample of the wedding ceremony in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist and also a sample of the wedding service without Mass. On the basis of these two model wedding liturgies, a couple, with the help of the priest or minister, can choose from among the various options which follow and thereby personalise their wedding liturgy.
SECTION II PERSONALISE YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY
This section of the book offers various options from which to choose in order to personalise your own wedding ceremony.( Here we present some of the Communion Reflections found in the book)
One of the following Communion Reflections may be used:
You are a man and woman of love. You bring to this wedcling ceremony all that you are and all that has made you who you are: your families, your friends, your giftedness, your experience of life, your insights, and your wisdom. You bring your hopes and your dreams of what shared love might be.
In your love for each other we see the Spirit of Love and Life in human form and we rejoice in the wonderful ways each of you makes that Spirit visible to us. Be always the man and woman you are because that is what delights and attracts you and brings you together. It is also what we, your family and friends, delight in. But let there also be space and room for the other to grow as you form a bond this day that you may wish to be unending and unbreakable. May that bonding be joyful and gracious. May your love be overflowing and generous.
In all the years to come may you delightedly be N. and N., wife and husband, strong and constant in love for each other, for your families and for your friends.
Michael Morwood, Praying a New Story
Masons, when they start upon a building,
are careful to test the scaffolding:
make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down, when the job’s done,
showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
old bridges breaking between you and me,
never fear. We may have let the scaffolds fall,
confident that we have built our wall.
Seamus Heaney, ‘Scaffolding’
Now you feel no rain,
for each of you will be a shelter to the other.
Now you feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no loneliness,
for each of you will be a companion to the other.
You are two bodies,
but there is one life before you and one home.
When evening falls,
each will look up and the other will be there.
He’ll take her hand; she will take his
and you’ll turn together
To look at the road you travelled to reach this:
the hour of your happiness.
It stretches behind you, even as the future lies ahead,
a long and winding road, whose every turning
Old hopes, new laughter, shared fears.
Your adventure has just begun.
‘The Apache Wedding Blessing’
God in heaven above, please protect the ones we love.
We honour all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together.
We honour Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons.
We honour fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts.
We honour wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our father’s arms – that it may never thirst for love.
We honour water, to clean and soothe our marriage – that it may never thirst for love.
All the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony and true happiness as we forever grow young together.
If two are caring as they are sharing life’s hopes and fears;
If music of laughter outweighs sadness and tears;
Marriage is togetherness.
If both derive pleasure from the mere presence of each other;
Yet when parted no jealousies restrict, worry or smother;
Marriage is freedom.
If achievements mean more when they benefit two;
And consideration is shown with each point of view;
Marriage is respect.
And if togetherness, freedom and respect are combined with a joy that words can never fully define, then marriage is love.
‘Marriage Is Love’
If you can always be as close and happy as today
Yet be secure enough to grow and change along the way.
If you can keep for you alone your love as man and wife
Yet fmd the time to share your joy with others in your life.
If you can be as one and walk through marriage hand in hand,
Yet still support the goals and dreams that each of you have planned.
If you can dare to always go your separate ways together;
Then all the wonder of today will stay with you forever.
Always love each other.
And keep close to your heart the plans you’ve made
And the dreams you’ve seen come true.
Keep close to your heart the loving things each of you say and do.
Keep close to your heart
The memories of the happy times you’ve known
The caring and understanding times
And the way your love has grown.
And may you both treasure all these things, for they’re such a special part of your union today, with the one you love, who will always be close to your heart.
Then Almitra spoke again and said, ‘and what of marriage, master?’ And he answered saying:
‘You were born together and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of the lute are alone although they quiver with the same music.
Giye your hearts but not into each other’s keeping,
fof only the hand of Life can contain your hearts,
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:
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), The Prophet
When we love, we see things other people do not see.
We see beneath the surface to the qualities which make our beloved special and unique.
To see with loving eyes is to know inner beauty.
And to be loved is to be seen and known as we are known to no other. One who loves us gives us a unique gift;
A piece of ourselves, but a piece that only they could give us.
We who love can look at each other’s life and say,
‘I touched his life’ or ‘I touched her life’
just as an artist might say ‘1 touched this canvas’.
‘Those brushstrokes in the corner of this magnificent mural, those are mine.’
‘I was part of this life and it is a part of me.’
Marriage is to belong to each other through a unique and diverse collaboration,
like two threads crossing in different directions, yet weaving one tapestry together.
Author unknown, ‘So What Do We Mean by Love?’
Love is a temporary madness,
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides,
and when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness.
It is not excitement.
It is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being ‘in love’ which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground and when all the pretty blossom has fallen from their branches they find that they are one tree and not two.
Louis de Berniere, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’
The love of God, unutterable and perfect,
flows into a pure soul the way that light
rushes into a transparent object.
The more love that it finds, the more it gives itself;
so that as we grow dear and open,
the more complete the joy of loving is,
and the more souls who resonate together, the greater the intensity of their love,
For, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.
Dante (1265-1321), ‘The Divine Comedy’
When two people are at one in their inmost hearts
they shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze
and when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts
their words are sweet and strong like the fragrance of orchids.
The I Ching (c.1000 BC), ‘When Two People are at One’
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
for the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely; as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely; as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
in my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith:
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
with my lost saints – I love thee with the breath,
smiles, tears of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’
A good marriage must be created.
In a marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say ‘I love you’ at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted.
The courtship should not end with the honeymoon.
It should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is a standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife the wings of an angel.
It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is fmding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner.
It is being the right partner.
Wilfred A. Peterson, ‘Art of Marriage’