Saturday, July 27, 2013

promises, promises, promises!

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I have no intention of speaking for very long, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear. I'm very much aware that at weddings people's attention-span tends to be somewhat short, what with the excitement of the day. Indeed, I have often thought that the fact that the liturgy places the sermon directly before the exchange of vows is somewhat unfortunate – William Shakespeare himself might have written the sermon, and Laurence Olivier declaimed it, only to have the congregation mutter to themselves, I wish the silly old fool would get on with it and stop delaying what we all came here for!

So I will confine myself to a few brief remarks. I'm sure you are all aware that for a wedding to take place that there are three essential elements. The first is the happy couple themselves; the second is the two witnesses; and the third is the priest. What you may not be aware of is that each of those parties make some serious promises, either explicit or implicit, during the course of the ceremony.

I'm sure you are wondering at what I mean by that – surely it is only the bride and groom that are making promises today? So let me explain. I'll begin with myself, the priest who solemnises the marriage. I am not here today representing myself. Rather I am here as a representative of God's Church; and in that role, my presence indicates that Douglas and Laura are making their vows in the presence of God. And when a couple are joined together in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the promises made are not just one way. Just as they promise to be faithful to one another, so God, who is always faithful, promises that he will always be with them, giving them through his Grace the support they will need to remain true to their vows.

Our Gospel reading today is indicative of the over-abundant generosity God will employ in the pouring out of his grace. At Cana, the couple ran out of wine; Jesus, having been appealed to by his Blessed Mother, stepped in to save the day. And if you do the math on how much wine is provided, it comes out to somewhere between 700 and 1000 bottles … abundance indeed … indicative, I think, of the grace upon grace God provides to all who enter into this holy state.

The vows of the bride and groom are very, very, explicit. And indeed they are very well known, not only because we have heard them at every wedding we have attended, but also because every book we have read, or film or TV show we have watched, with a wedding in it will have had those vows or some variation on them. So familiar are they, that perhaps we hardly hear them. Today I urge you to pay close attention. Because in those vows are very relevant to all here today.

This brings me to the third party, the witnesses. Weddings are a public event, and the official witnesses, like the priest, serve in a representative role … it would be rather cumbersome, not to say very lengthy, if everybody present here today had to sign the paperwork to say that Douglas and Laura had indeed made the needed vows. But when the best man and maid of honour sign on your behalf that the bride and groom have indeed made their vows, they are also declaring that they have been married in accordance with the rites laid down by the Church. And those rites include, directly after the bride and groom have made their vows, that the congregation are asked if they will support and encourage the couple in their marriage. And you declare that you will. 

So note well the vows that Douglas and Laura make in a few minutes. When they promise to love each other, you will soon promise to encourage them in that love; when they promise to be faithful, you will also promise to support them in that fidelity; when they vow to cherish each other until death parts them, you promise to do everything in your power to help them live up to those sacred vows.

So no pressure then! But don't be too alarmed … because remember, the wine at the wedding feast at Cana wasn't only for the couple; it was for the guests also; God's Grace is for all; and he will support you in your task of supporting Douglas and Laura, just as he will support you in all aspects of living your lives according to his plans … if only you will accept his help … and that is something that I pray that all present will do … and especially that Douglas and Laura will always be open to God's grace and help … this day and always: this I pray in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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