This Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending what may have been the greatest wedding ever. Now, I don’t say this to imply that the weddings of my friends that I have been privileged to be at weren’t great…but this wedding was definitely something special. But, before I get to the wedding itself, I want to set the scene.
I went to Mass with two friends on Sunday. The priest is a dear friend of mine and I was excited to get to hear him preach, as well as the chance to worship and pray in Spanish. We arrived at the church five minutes before the scheduled start time, but as the Mass runs on Latin time, it was still almost 20 minutes before things got started. Mass started and the bride and groom were part of the processional (which also included quite possibly the cutest flower girl I’ve ever seen!). It was a fairly normal Mass…songs, readings, etc.
When it came time for the homily, I was a bit curious how my friend would be able to take two readings that deal with leprosy and somehow lead into the sacrament of matrimony. I shouldn’t have doubted, however, because he did it masterfully. I’d like to share some of his thoughts, being very clear that this is my attempt to relate what he said. I will not even attempt to retain his eloquence, but do beg pardon as this is a gisted translation. The first reading from Leviticus and the Gospel reading from Mark both talk about leprosy. Leviticus gives us one picture of leprosy, wherein the leper is known mainly as a person who is unclean. The reading lays out some of the restrictions by which a leper was to live. And then we have the Gospel account, wherein Jesus not only draws near to a leper, but touches him. Jesus makes concrete in that moment the fundamental fact that God is love.
God is love. We say that, but it’s hard to wrap our brains around it. And that’s where the sacraments come in. They help give us concrete examples of that gratuitous love of God. And marriage does that in a unique way. When a couple enters the sacrament of matrimony, they are the ministers. The priest is just an official witness. The sacrament comes from the couple. And that was how he transitioned into the wedding portion.
The thing that was so spectacular about this wedding was the couple. They have been together for 55 years and have seven children. Yes, you read that correctly. Together for 55 years and parents to seven children. I don’t know all the details (but judging from the shared last name, my guess is that they may have been civilly married at some point). But they were so beautiful as they exchanged vows, pledged to love each other in sickness and health. The groom had clearly had a stroke at some point and the visual it lent to that portion of the vows is something that I cannot quite put into words. There was a raucous laughter when the portion about the couple having children was reached during the rite (as quite a few of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were in the congregation). But it was just beautiful. One of the friends I had gone to the Mass with and I both bawled. There was a palpable sense of THIS being what marriage is really about.
I’m taking Canon Law of Marriage this semester and this wedding made me really think about a lot of what we’re talking about in class. But mostly, it made me realize something. Most weddings, at least in the United States, are celebrated apart from the weekly liturgy. They’re on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons and usually are made up of the couple’s families and friends. But there is something really powerful to the witness that occurs when it is part of the congregation’s celebration of the Eucharist. Because it helps to make what we celebrate in the Eucharist even more concretized. God is love. And we experience that love through and with each other.
Becky Chabot is a third year Masters of Divinity candidate at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. After graduating from Creighton University, Becky lived in Bolivia and spent a year as a St. Joseph Worker (www.stjosephworkers.org). Her research interests include Latin American liberation theology, intercultural theology, and social ethics. When not doing schoolwork, she enjoys Bob Dylan, Doctor Who, knitting, and good Scotch. She also enjoys figuring out peoples’ Enneagram numbers, Myers-Briggs types, and Hogwarts houses. Her main blog is entitled A Traveling Theologian.