This past summer a new revised Order of Celebrating Matrimony was published in the United States. The translation was improved, much the same way the translation of the Roman Missal (the book we use for celebrating all of our Masses) was improved for us back in 2011. I certainly noticed on the two occasions that I have used the new translation for Matrimony that the wording is different, and I think I stumbled over the new wording a few times, since I am so familiar with the old. I am sure I will get accustomed to the new version, however. It will just take some practice. The new revised rite was authorized for use beginning early September, and it is supposed to be in full use by us by December 30th, 2016.
Along with the revised rite, Bishop Thomas is making very clear to us that nothing foreign to the Rite is to be introduced. This pertains to music and to some practices that have crept into the rite in recent years in the United States. They are to be discontinued. Here are a few paragraphs from the Bishop’s recent letter to all pastors in this regard:
Music is an integral component to the Order of Celebrating Matrimony. It should be the concern of everyone preparing the Rite within Mass and without Mass, to observe the most current pastoral directives relative for liturgical music at weddings found in the 2007 USCCB document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (cf. no. 216-224). Music chosen for the sacred liturgy, especially at weddings, ought to be sacred in character and pastorally appropriate. Popular music from the secular culture is not “sacred music” and should therefore be avoided entirely.
To address some of the liturgical accretions that have, in practice, crept into the celebration of the former Rite of Marriage, it falls to all who are involved in planning weddings, pastorally and charitably to explain why certain elements are not part of the liturgical celebration. When couples express a desire to include any elements not foreseen by the Ritual text, they should be informed prudently that none of these are part of the Catholic Rite of Matrimony.
As the Order of Celebrating Matrimony is the Ritual text newly approved by the USCCB for use in the United States, it is therefore now and going forward the policy in the Diocese of Toledo not to include any element not foreseen by the ritual text, such as the lighting of the “unity candle”, the mixing of colored sand, the pouring of colored water, or the use of a “unity cross.” However, a Catholic devotional custom, such as the presentation of flowers before a statue of the Blessed Mother, would most appropriately take place once the liturgy has concluded and before the recessional.
I am grateful for such clear direction from our Bishop regarding this new rite. This is a great opportunity for us to “get back to the Rite” (and all rites of the Church) and let it be what it is supposed to be. If we enter into the rites of the Church as wholeheartedly as possible, celebrating them as well and accurately as possible, they can transform us more fully; and they will be more worthy of the Lord. These rites are first and foremost about giving Him glory. Although the Rite of Matrimony focuses so much on the individual couple joining themselves to each other, the primary aim is still the service of worship for the Lord. Their marriage is not being entered into for them alone: it is aimed at God’s glory; it builds up the church; etc., etc.
Another thing happens when we follow the rites as faithfully as possible: we are living out the evangelical counsel of obedience. The “evangelical counsels” are three characteristics that Tradition has always seen most powerfully present in Jesus in the Gospels: poverty, chastity and obedience. We all know that male and female religious take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Well, every Christian is called to live the evangelical counsels according to his/her state in life. One way for all of us to live obedience is to perform and enter into the rites as perfectly as possible. Did you ever think of your worship of the Lord in Mass as an act of obedience? Of course you want to do it anyhow, because you love Him, but it still counts as beautiful obedience.
Sometimes we can get too casual, treating the rites of the Church as if they belonged to us; and we feel free to alter them, sort of like choosing to rearrange the furniture in our house or change out Christmas decorations from year to year. But the rites of the Church don’t belong to us as private individuals who can adjust things according to our preference. I see this revised Rite and the Bishop’s directive as one more element in the “Reform of the Reform” of Vatican II. In this case, we are trying to improve our celebration of the Rite of Matrimony, where it has been misformed in practice over recent years, and where the translation was lacking. Here is one more opportunity to make our worship, our celebration of the Rite of Matrimony, more of a gift to Him. May we continue to work together to offer our Lord greater worship, greater glory.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,