Marriage and the Family (and the Church)

 

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A broader sense of Christian community, and even ecumenical hopefulness, has been a topic which drives my burgeoning love for the Anglican community.  I know that Tony has recently posted some very lucid concerns regarding the current, though less well known, theological debates roiling the Episcopal Church.  However much I may agree with his assessment of these issues (especially his statement that he feels like, “I walked into the middle of a Family Feud that I’m not much interested in taking to the grave, and while I hold on in trust, I’m still at a point where I’m apprehensive as to how it will turn out.”), I cannot help but feel like this is the place I want to struggle with and through my faith – especially given that my options are to join a communion that seems to be indefinitely charged by ethnocentric concerns (Orthodoxy) or a to join a communion that seems to be forever trapped in an authoritarian “top down” hierarchy (Roman Catholic), neither of which I have any hope of functioning within because I fail to satisfy the rites of passage that seem to entitle the leadership of these traditions beyond less tangible evidences of calling or anointing.  Consequently, the BCP and the common worship play a large role in my confidence.  This weekend I received a powerful reminder about why that is.

No amount of ink that I could spill on the topic of marriage as theologically analogous within Christianity would ever amount to more than a drop within the ocean of ink that has already been put to paper on the topic.  Nonetheless, I attended a wedding celebration this weekend and was reminded of the power of community, yet again.

I know that our blog contributors have spent a lot of energy struggling through what marriage in our world, in our country, and within Christianity should look like.  At the very least, I think we all have a renewed sense that we must allow the sacramental identity of Christian marriage to shine through as something much different than the secular civil unions that share the moniker.  It is with such an understanding that I attend Christian marriages.

I am generally a happy person at a wedding, though, and this was a happy wedding.  Both bride and groom were my students at one time, and I have a mentor relationship with the young man.  They love each other, they are mature individuals with a strong sense of identity, and they are ready to start a life serving each other sacrificially.  However, my happiness comes from more than just future prospects for the happy couple.  I am happy at wedding ceremonies, because I am happy in my marriage.

When I attend a wedding ceremony, I understand that, as a guest of the families, I am part of the covenant that is about to be made.  However, not only am I participating in the covenant between the bride and groom, but also I am renewing the covenant I have made with my wife.  I have never attended a wedding where I did not tearfully, joyfully look back to my own wedding day and determine in my heart to love my wife better, to serve my family more faithfully, to show Christ in my home more completely.  And, certainly, that is the point of ceremony for human beings.

This spiritual and communal reality is what I have come to love about the Anglican community, though.  I make no attempt to say that other Christian traditions (or even other cultural or religious traditions outside of Christianity) do not understand or practice this concept.  Nevertheless, I have seen time and again that the liturgy set down by the BCP continually emphasizes that living as a Christian means living within a community.  When we pray for a baptismal candidate, we renew our baptismal vows, when we pray for a confirmation candidate; we renew our commitment to the Church, and so on.  Time and again, the BCP hammers home the point that if we are to call ourselves Christian we will abide in Christ, but no person abides in Christ alone.  We do so as a family, as a community.  So, when I attend the marriage ceremonies of the people I love, I have an opportunity to remember the grace of God, to remember the union that my wife and I enjoy, to remember the heavy responsibility of raising my children, to remember that I belong to a broader community that helps me to be a better husband, father, and Christian.

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2 Comments

  1. I love the Marriage Rite in the Book of Common Prayer (the Burial Rite is also beautiful). One of my favorite parts is the prayer, “Grant that all married persons who have witnessed these vows may find their lives strengthened and their loyalties confirmed.” BCP p. 430

    As far as participating in the covenant of the bride and groom, I always make much of the vow the congregtion makes: “Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?” The people respond with “We will.” It is an awesome vow and, as you suggest, a reminder that marriage, like church, is a communal thing.

    Reply

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