We have spoken of marriage as a sacrament in the broad sense as a state of life. In the strict sense, the sacrament is the celebration of the marriage by the Christian community surrounding the couple. Sacrament celebration is the way the community celebrates the love of God that it recognizes in the love between this man and this woman. Sacrament celebrates their love and their commitment to each other and at the same time reinforces that love and commitment by proclaiming it to the whole community.
Understanding the wedding as a celebration of the whole Church around the couple provides the basis for proper planning of the event. First principle in planning is to remember that Christian marriage, like every sacrament, is celebrated by the whole community.
Wedding are more often style shows and exercises in superstition than liturgical celebration of prayer and worship. Much more attention is paid to what that bride and bridesmaid are wearing than to the liturgy (often) itself. All too often even faithful church members sit through a wedding as if they have forgotten all the responses and songs, participating like spectators at a show rather than like members of a worshiping community.
The Issue of Indissolubility
Up to this point we have skirted the contemporary questions about the indissolubility of the marriage. That was intentional, because that issue so often dominates discussions of Christian marriage, overshadowing the great richness of the Christian tradition on marriage.
The words of Jesus on divorce are strong ones, and the church has always tried to live up to that demanding vision. For the first thousand years or so, Church teaching stressed that divorce and remarriage were not permitted in light of the moral demands of Jesus.
The marriage tribunal seeks simply to determine whether a given marriage was in fact a valid, sacramental, and consummated marriage. Since many divorces occur because of...