A Wedding Mass

At a wedding Mass I attended recently, the homilist addressed the soon-to-be-married couple, telling them that in each other they have found “the cause of and the work of your salvation.” The phrase struck me as a fine way to characterize marriage.

Each spouse is the cause of the other’s salvation. Of course, the ultimate cause of salvation is God’s love in Christ poured out in the paschal mystery, but in a unique way spouses become for each other sacraments of this love. Functioning as sacraments of God’s love, spouses capacitate each other to love, to say “yes” to God’s persistent invitation to engage in self-offering love. When we discern that we are in fact loved, it is easier for us to turn aside from selfishness. Our very salvation is affected and in part effected by the love given to us by others.

Each spouse is the work of the other’s salvation. Marriage is one possible flowering of a believer’s baptismal vocation, the summons to discipleship. Each spouse works out his or her salvation in and through the work of helping the other spouse on the path of discipleship. This work is the work of patience and forgiveness, of fidelity and mutual correction.

Marital love, like the love of the Triune God, is a love that faces outward and overflows from within. The blessing at the conclusion of the celebration gave expression to this idea:

May be you be witnesses in the world to God’s charity, / so that the afflicted and needy who have known / your kindness / may one day receive you thankfully / into the eternal dwelling of God.

It was most fitting, then, that the couple chose for their wedding Mass the reading from Revelation 19 concerning the divine invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb in God’s eternal dwelling.  How fitting, too, that they also chose Romans 12, in which Paul writes about the bodies of believers as living sacrifices, surely the work of salvation.

What is true of spouses in a particular way is true also of all believers: Do we not all have a measure of co-responsibility for each other’s salvation? May the married couples in our lives inspire us in this work.

 

 

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4 comments

  1. Interesting post, but I am concerned that this way of speaking places an excessive burden on marriage, which is a good but not the ultimate good. A means of grace, but not the cause. To be an instrument of God’s love or one who shares in the paschal mystery with one’s beloved spouse is to cooperate with grace, but it is not to “cause” salvation. If it were, it would also be possible for a bad marriage to deprive another of salvation. We don’t believe that!

  2. This also presumes that the spouses are practising Catholics. The elephant in the room is that many couples seeking to get married these days do not start from a place where these concepts have any resonance. Of course, one can, and should, try to remedy this by means of marriage preparation, but it is an uphill task sometimes.

    I would not want to suggest that only devout and practising Catholics should get married in Church. Sometimes all that you can do is to give people a positive experience and hope that they will bring their children to be baptised, when you can do likewise. Often, the task is to plant seeds and to hope that they will one day take root.

  3. I usually ask a couple, the first time we meet for marriage preparation, “Why do you want to get married?’ Most of the time I hear things like “because we love each other” or because he/she completes me, makes me a better person.” Faith, spirituality and sacrament are hardly ever mentioned or even in the conceptual realm of couples who have minimal connection with the church. There was one couple whose answer surprised and left me momentarily speechless. When asked the question they replied “We want to help each other get to heaven.” They got it! I don’t think in 36 years of priesthood a couple so clearly understood the theology of marriage and of the body. Marriage provides the grace to help husband and wife cooperate with God’s plan for their salvation. Needless to say they didn’t get Father’s usual “catechesis” on the spiritual/sacramental/religious nature of their union to be. This couple has gone on to teach NFP and continue to be involved actively in the life of their parish which I no longer serve as pastor. But, they continue to influence my marriage preparation sessions with couples seeking to get married.

  4. I’m in Rita’s corner. A married couple’s purpose is not to be “the cause of and the work of” one another’s salvation, nor is it simply to “help each other get to heaven.” Such notions diminish the social and service dimensions of marriage — its ties and responsibilities to family, community, society and the church. The Catechism calls Holy Orders and Marriage “sacraments at the service of communion” . . . [They] “are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so.”

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