Saturday, October 17, 2009

When is a covenant more than a promise?

...she glanced up the aisle and saw him, standing tall and proud. As the wedding march began she took a breath, looked to her brother who was walking her down the aisle, nodded and began the walk that would begin an incredible journey of two people committed to a lifetime of memories....

That was twenty-five years ago, October 19th, when I married my husband, Ben. I still remember thinking that my dad, who had been dead ten years, would have approved of my choice for spouse. I realize now it was not my choice but God's will that brought us together. As any married couple will attest we have had our ups and downs, our joys and sorrows, and have wondered how we could make it together another year much less five or ten. The answer to the wonder has been our faith, a deep respect for our sense of commitment, but I have come to realize it was the covenant we made in the sacrament that binds us to something neither one of us can break, nor would we want to.

I blogged recently on the commitment to the priesthood, the lifetime commitment to that call but it is the covenant, the binding promise made in the presence of God, that is the glue, the sealant of the two becoming one. Please don't get me wrong, I love my husband and I wouldn't trade him for the world. That's my point, we are married, we made a binding promise before God to not let 'man put asunder'. We recognize the fact there will be differences and we respect those differences. I have come to learn there is someone in charge of our domestic church and by God's natural Law, that person is not me, it is my husband (see blog, What's the Deal with the Veil?).

We recently discussed the idea of covenant in class, both in the class I teach and in the class I attend. It can be quite difficult to explain the idea that a covenant is more than a promise, it binds people to God as one people. ...and the two shall become one. Children who come from single parent homes, or broken homes have a difficult time accepting or understanding this concept of a promise kept no matter what. The secular media of television and music videos have no idea what it might mean to portray the Sacrament of Matrimony in light of God's covenant. Hence the term 'bonds of Matrimony'. It is a bond that forms a sacred kinship to God. My husband and I both realize the work that goes into married life. We have grieved the loss of a child, we have been separated by circumstances of war, we have had to deal with the unforeseen toll of illness and disability and it has tested us to what for some would have been the limit. As Catholics we value the sacredness of the Sacrament and for me that has made an impression that was lost on me before I became Catholic.

A covenant is holy, in that an oath is made in God's name, calling on God to bear witness to the vows recited by the bride and groom. Feminists whine about the fact that the phrase 'to obey' was in the vows and eventually they were taken out of the vows. But what happens to the other parts of the vows, sickness and health, for rich and for poor, in good times and bad... Those words don't seem to have much of an impact, one in three couples married will end in divorce before three years into a marriage. Where's the holiness in that?

Yes, a marriage takes work, commitment, a lot of prayer, respect and love. The love that is reflected in gift of self. But never forget that God made this covenant with us and will never forget the promises He made with His people, the People of God. He will not take it lightly. Remember He marries us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, He renews that covenant every time He enters into our bodies and we become one in the Body of Christ. We are bound to Him. To me that is one of the most important reasons a couple should complete the ceremony with the Eucharist. That binding of the Sacrament becomes so complete with both man and woman taking Christ into their bodies, the ultimate Bridegroom entering the Bride of Christ, the Church, represented so beautifully by this man and this woman....what God has joined together, let no man put asunder...

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