This one’s kind of a softball compared with the past couple days, but I am exhausted from the pace of this thing. Like what the h was I thinking committing myself to 31 days of posting about not things like toddlers peeing under the coffee table (happened) or how to make frozen yogurt paleo (answer: eat it fast enough you can pretend it didn’t happen. Ahem.)
Anyway, here’s a softer, gentler post for today. Church weddings – what’s the big deal?
I’ve heard all the arguments about the mountains being God’s cathedrals and the ocean being His swimming pool, or something along those lines, and I’ll heartily concur that nature powerfully reveals God to man, and that there is something awe-inspiring and reverent about being in the great outdoors.
But here’s the deal. A Catholic wedding, the birth of a Christian marriage, is a Sacramental affair. And Sacraments, when at all possible, belong within the consecrated boundaries of a church.
A church building is not just a building to Catholics, you see. Like the Jews of the Old Testament we revere the place where God dwells in a tangible way, where He is truly present. He is of course present everywhere, as the author of all being, but He has chosen to dwell in a particular way (and a deeply humiliating way, when you think about it) in the physical form of bread. I’m talking, of course, about the Eucharist.
The Eucharist, Jesus Christ incarnate in the humble forms of bread and wine, is the heart of the Church. And the Eucharist hidden in the tabernacle (tiny gold box, center of the church, marked by a red, lit candle) is at the heart of a church building.
Since Catholics don’t actually get married by a priest (he receives their vows as a witness. it’s the couple themselves who administer the vows to one another) it’s essential that they exchange their vows in the presence of the High Priest, the Eucharistic Jesus, present to them in a powerful and tangible way in the tabernacle. Yes, the priest (or deacon) is there to officiate the wedding ceremony, in one sense. But it is Jesus who receives our pledge our fidelity to our spouse. It is Jesus who extends the grace to make marriage a Sacrament. And it is in Jesus’ house, aka a church, where we go to receive this Sacrament.
Could a couple be married outside (literally, like in a field) the Catholic church and still have a valid marriage? Yep. But it’s not ideal. It would of course be a different matter under situations of duress, like during wartime or political unrest/religious persecution, or when it’s not possible to get to a church, but the desire to have a unique seaside ceremony punctuated by a dolphin salute and fireworks is not sufficient reason to go outside.
Does that make sense?
So it’s not a matter of being stuffy or backwards or old fashioned, at least not in the sense that we’re just not yet hip to the all inclusive splendor of a Sandal’s nuptial package…it’s that we have a very sacramental understanding of the Sacrament of marriage. And certain Sacraments – Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion, Marriage, Ordination…take place within the physical boundaries of a church, a consecrated space set aside for worship.