Thursday, October 9, 2014

Marriage Symbols

When you think about marriage, what symbols come to mind?



A white dress?


All of those are great.... very romantic and common/mainstream images of married love.

What about Catholic marriage?

I always think of a cross like this ---

We had one of these on our wedding cake and it now hangs in our home. We even had this image (along with hearts and flowers of course) on our wedding invitations. I love the entwined rings, symbolizing never-ending love and connection. But what makes it most powerful is the cross. The union is centered and based on the cross of Christ... the ultimate symbol of love.
It's easy for us to forget what a radical and important image the cross really is. It is through the cross that Jesus won for us our salvation. It wasn't pretty or easy, yet Jesus picked up the cross, carried it a long way, and paid the ultimate price of His life upon it.
The cross is a very accurate and powerful symbol of what Catholic marriage is all about. I don't mean that it's a "death sentence." Rather, it's a symbol that shows how true love involves hard work, sacrifice, endurance, and sometimes even pain. True love doesn't run away when things get tough or old or different. True love is focused on the other rather than the self. And most importantly, true love involves a union of three. Catholic marriage is a union of man, woman, and God.
I recently came across this beautiful article which describes a wedding tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bride and groom carry a crucifix to the church and place their hands upon it as they recite their vows. They kiss the crucifix and then take it home, display it in their home, and teach their children to venerate the crucifix every day. The article claims that there is NO divorce in this town. I don't know if that's true, but it's definitely a beautiful tradition that puts the focus where it needs to be in a covenantal marriage.
There will be times in every marriage when the going gets tough. At those times (and every day really), we need to look to the crucifix. We need to truly see this most powerful image of love. We need to bring our hurts and hearts to Jesus on the cross and allow Him to pour His powerful Grace over us. He can and will help us live out our marriage vows. He will help us not only be faithful, but also filled with joy and love for one another.
Another powerful symbol for Catholic marriage is the washing of the feet. I'm not sure if I've ever written about it here, but I had the privilege of attending a beautiful wedding of a former student. I was stunned when the Gospel proclaimed was the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet at the Last Supper. I was even more touched when I learned that Michael proposed to Jessica by washing her feet. Their entire marriage is built on the value of Christian service.... serving one another and others. Indeed, the vocation of Marriage calls us to serve our spouse and our children in ways that are not glamorous. And it is precisely in and through that service that we journey to Heaven together.

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