Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Mark 10:9
The lessons today are from the Church’s core teaching about Holy Matrimony. We teach that Holy Matrimony is a sacrament, which is of course an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace. (BCP p.857)
As with all Sacraments, there are the two components, the visible and the invisible, the physical and the spiritual.
With baptism, the visible part is the water, and the invisible being the washing away of original sin, and the regeneration of the soul.
With the Holy Eucharist, the visible signs are the bread and the wine, and the invisible signs are the spiritual food and drink of new and unending life, being the Blessed Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Along with the Sacraments you have a minister, the one who is conveying the sacraments to you from Christ.
Several times I have heard ministers say that the wedding rings are the outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace. I’m sorry, but that is not correct.
The outward and visible sign of Holy Matrimony is the union of the man and the woman as they become one flesh. This physical union creates the spiritual bond that conveys the grace of God to the couple.
With Holy Matrimony, the ministers of the Grace of God are the man and the woman. The husband and wife convey the love of God to each other in a life long bond of love and support.
The Canons of our diocese say this about marriage:
St. Augustin of Hippo wrote this in his treatise, called, “The Good of Marriage.”(Section 43.5) As marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman in which the two become one flesh, it is both an ordinance of Creation, affirmed as such by our Lord, and a sign of the mystical union between Christ and His Church, commended as such by St. Paul (Matthew 19:3-9; Ephesians 5:22-32).
Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed. For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together to where they walk.
Wherever they walk, they are side by side, as equals, and as St. Paul wrote, they are subject to each other. They have pledged to support each other, to love and cherish each other for life.
In the service of the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, the minister asks the man and the woman if they consent to the union.
The Celebrant says to the woman:
N., will you have this man to be your husband; to live
together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him,
comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health;
and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you
both shall live?
The Woman answers:
Then he asks the man the same question, and if they both will, the service continues.
The recent innovation by some to celebrate and bless the union of two men, or of two women, is incompatible with Holy Scripture. The two persons may profess love for each other, but they lack the capacity physically to become one flesh. As we have seen this is a critical component of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
Some say that this recent innovation has diminished the institution of marriage, and that may be so, but I think the one thing that has damaged it more is the prevalence of divorce.
The advent of the so called No Fault Divorce has caused the divorce rate to sky rocket. It is as easy as it was for the teaching of Moses, as we heard today in the Gospel.
In 1969, Gov. Ronald Reagan made what he later said was the biggest mistake of his political life. He signed a bill to legalize No Fault Divorce. Couples would no longer need a reason to divorce, but could say they have irreconcilable differences.
In the 1950’s around 20% of marriages ended in divorce. By 1970 the divorce rate was around 50%. The ones who really suffer from this trend is the children whose homes have been broken.
The divorce rate has fallen since the 1980’s, but that is mostly because of the rise of cohabitation. Now many couples want to avoid the risk of divorce by testing the waters of marriage before they commit. Many men and women have seen their parents get divorced and want to avoid the acrimony they saw during the process.
The teaching of Jesus about the bond and covenant of marriage is lost on many people. They see marriage as a legal contract and nothing more.
We in the church teach that marriage is a life long bond of one man and one woman, and as the service says, it is not entered into without serious thought and preparation.
Our service of the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage says this:
The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is
intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort
given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is
God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture
in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is
not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently,
deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it
was instituted by God.
We heard what Jesus had to say about marriage; “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
We, too, will do all in our power to support those in Holy Wedlock to keep their vows, and in so doing, remain true to the teaching of our Lord.
We also recognize that many people have gone through a divorce, and I certainly will not judge anyone. We all have our failings and have made mistakes, but we must support the institution of marriage as Jesus has taught us.
May he bless all those married couples with the grace and wisdom to love and support each other until they are parted by death.