The Community’s Celebration
The following essay is based on an essay written for my Marriage class as part of my masters degree. The content and style was influenced by the assignment.
Since Marriage is ordered toward the increase and sanctification of the people of God, its celebration displays a communitarian character that encourages the participation also of the parish community.
Four years ago I took my girlfriend on a river walk behind my grandmother’s house to a waterfall. There I proposed, she accepted, and we were engaged. We sat at the foot of the waterfall enjoying a picnic and beginning to discuss our ideas for our upcoming wedding. We started with non-negotiables, and my first non-negotiable was that our wedding would be at the church at which we were both parishioners. I recognized that the parish was going to be a part of our marriage and I felt that it was important that the parish also be a part of the wedding.
I was excited to learn that the involvement of the assembly is emphasized in the new Order of Celebrating Matrimony. The new rite says “the Marriage is to be celebrated in the parish of one or other of the engaged persons.” The rite indicates what I had recognized when I was newly engaged. The community which celebrates the wedding with the couple should continue to be involved in the couple’s lives throughout the marriage, and the best way to make this possible is for the wedding to be celebrated in the couple’s parish. “Other laypersons … can play a part in various ways both in the spiritual preparation of the engaged couple and in the celebration of the rite itself. Moreover, the entire Christian community should cooperate to bear witness to the faith and to be a sign to the world of Christ’s love.”
While this was perhaps part of the theology of the old rite, there are new elements of which emphasize this in the new rite. After the consent, “the priest invites those present to praise God: ‘Let us bless the Lord.’ All reply ‘Thanks be to God.’” After the blessing and giving of rings, “then a hymn or canticle of praise may be sung by the whole community.” These simply additions demonstrate the community’s involvement in and excitement for the couple’s marriage.
When one member of the community is hurting, the whole community hurts with him. When one member of the community is joyful, the whole community share’s in her joy. Because the community is in communion with the couple, the couple’s joy is the community’s joy. Especially if this couple is involved in the parish and has been for some time, the community knows them and has journeyed with them. They may remember when the couple began their relationship. They may be aware of some of the challenges the couple has already experienced. They may share in the couples dreams and aspirations for their new family. The couple’s story is a part of the community’s story. In this joy, the community exclaims thanksgiving to God and breaks out in song!
Besides feeling joyful for the couple, the community has its own reasons to be joyful. The marriage is not only for the good of the couple but for the good of the community as well. The love of this couple is a witness to the community of God’s love for his people, of Christ’s love for the Church. It is a love that prompts the husband and wife to give of themselves to each other but also to their children and their community. The union of this couple in marriage means the community will grow through the addition of children. The community will benefit from this family’s service. Recognizing the gift that the couple is and will be to the community, the community sings and gives thanks to God!
 The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, Second Edition (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2016), 28, accessed November 23, 2016, https://www.litpress.org/Products/GetSample/4641/9780814646410.
 Ibid., 27.
 Ibid., 26.
 Ibid., 65.
 Ibid., 68.