The celebration of a Christmastide wedding was a really beautiful way to begin the New Year. What a powerful expression of hope a marriage is, especially if, like this one, the couple are practising Catholics and faith is the deepest motivation of their lives.
That the wedding day itself marked the real beginning of married life, and not just a kind of formalisation of goods which have already been possessed and enjoyed by that point, added to the power of the day. In almost 20 years as a priest I have witnessed the celebration of such marriages perhaps just four or five times. They are always marked by a particular quality of joy in the couple which radiates upon all the guests, whatever their state.
I predict that Christmastide weddings will become more popular, albeit for pragmatic reasons. It is much easier to find a reception venue just after Christmas when people are satiated with feasting and celebrating, not least because they started their “Christmas” in November.
A Christmastide wedding also makes theological sense, I thought during the days leading up to it, as we heard again and again from the Evangelist John, who tells us that God is Love, that we should love one another since love comes from God, and anyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
The beautiful Prologue to St John’s Gospel familiar from Christmas carol services – “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God and the word was God” – is a kind of theological poetry which explains how the worlds of eternity and time can become one, how divine and human nature can have dialogue – and, even more, unity.
This relationship between the human and the divine is relevant to sacramental marriage. In the act of giving ourselves to one another in a covenant of love, humans find the closest analogue for the divine, and we embrace a love which can fulfil the human desire for transcendence. The immortal longings which love awakens find their origin and purpose only when caught up into the eternal love of God. This is why the couple sit so close to the sanctuary. This most human of experiences – falling in love – becomes holy when sourced in and offered back to the God who is Love, whose own inner life is self-gift.
Christian spouses pledge a love to one another which bears a likeness to God’s, declaring their desire henceforth to live in communion; by the mutual, reciprocal gift of self to one another, a gift which encompasses everything about them, including their sexual nature, so that this love may bear fruit in the genesis of children.
In the beginning God created with a word; he said: “Let there be light, and there was light.” God’s word is always life-giving. Christian spouses speak words – vows – to one another which are unlike other human words. They are words full of grace and truth. They are words which are creative. They will become flesh as the couple live out these vows in the greatest and the most mundane moments of their lives. This is only possible because they have become children of God through baptism, by accepting the Word-Made-Flesh as the pattern of their own humanity. God has chosen to dwell with us. For that reason we can believe in the transcendent power and reality of human love.