I was paging semi-frantically through sheet music, scanning for the unity candle song, jostling my guitar, cursing my inability to be organized while playing at the wedding of my good friends—and was suddenly stopped short by the Gospel being proclaimed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” began those famous words from the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed the mourning and the meek, the seekers of righteousness and clean of heart. Strange reading choice for a wedding, I thought. Where’s the lovey-dovey stuff?
And then, following the exchange of vows, came the intercessions—a full dozen, their length commanding my attention. Some were traditional wedding petitions: for the new bride and groom, their family and friends, and their dearly departed. But there were also prayers for those suffering from mental illness, for the poor and sick and lonely, for those who have been trafficked and abused.
That last one was a little shocking to hear at a wedding. I’ll confess that my first thought was, “Hey, I don’t want to be thinking about all the problems and suffering of the world at such a happy occasion.”
Oops. I’d fallen into a dominant myth of marriage: that it’s about two people and maybe God as well, a neat and isolated triangle of relationship.
But as Amy and Martice demonstrated in their liturgy, that’s an incomplete and secularized way of thinking about this sacrament.
Marriage isn’t about two people gazing dreamily at each other for the next several decades. Marriage is about mission.
Marriage is two people gazing out at the world, working in partnership to better witness to the love of Jesus Christ. It’s two people becoming one in order to better point out the presence of God and live the Christian call to discipleship.
Amy and Martice began that mission immediately after their vows by refusing to celebrate love without also acknowledging where it is lacking. And by having the Beatitudes read, they announced to their loved ones and themselves what kind of married couple they aspire to be.
Happily, they aren’t the only ones who have made the connection between marriage and the mission of Christian life; a priest I know confirmed that the Beatitudes are the most popular Gospel reading chosen for the weddings at which he has presided.
And from my perspective, as someone in discernment, seeing marriage as an intentional way of living out the Christian mission makes it compelling to me in a way that it hasn’t been before. I’m not interested in gazing into the face of my husband (and, eventually, children) for the rest of my life—but I am very interested in following Jesus as a committed pair and committed family.
The challenge now will be making that choice.