April 28, 2011

My wife, Merry, and I love all things British, but I’m sorry to say that our commitment did not compel us to rise at 4 a.m. to watch the British royal wedding of William and Kate. Yet through the magic of my favorite machine—the DVR—we were able to tape it and watch it later.

I’m also sorry to say that I have nothing interesting to say about Kate’s wedding dress.   For weeks the press speculated incessantly about who would design it and how it would look. Well, to this American male it looked great—just like most other wedding dresses. I can’t tell most of them apart, to be honest.

My eye was drawn more to the pageantry of the whole affair. The magnificent cathedral … the military uniforms worn by the royal men … the sometimes elegant, sometimes crazy hats worn by the women … the carriage ride through London streets … the double kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace … you can’t beat the British monarchy for how it puts on a show.

Of course, once you set the pageantry aside, what remained was a simple but profound wedding from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. As I listened to the beautiful words of the ceremony’s opening, I wondered how many people in that audience really understood what they meant:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church …

We hear words like these so often at weddings that they tend to roll over our heads. As do the wedding vows:

I, William Arthur Philip Louis, take thee Catherine Elizabeth to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law, and thereto I give thee my troth …

Yet in those words can be found the very bedrock of a culture. In many circles today marriage is falling out of fashion. Yet I think we instinctively understand that marriage, when properly understood and practiced, provides the stability of unconditional love and commitment that we need as adults. And this, in turn, creates the type of home environment our children need.

Many people enter into marriage today thinking that it’s a good step for their personal growth. It’s a me-centered mentality. So I was interested to note that in his wedding sermon Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, spoke of the importance of unselfishness. (I also noticed that William and Kate were able to listen to the sermon while seated; I’ve often felt sorry for American couples who are forced by tradition to remain standing for the entire ceremony.)

William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that He gave Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another. A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul.

Like any other couple, William and Kate now face the challenge of living out the words of commitment, encouragement, and exhortation they heard during their wedding. I can’t imagine the burdens they face—not just from a swarming and intrusive press corps but also from the hopes and expectations of a public that doesn’t want a repeat of the Charles and Diana debacle. People want this marriage to work. And some even say that the British monarchy may not be able to survive another divorce. How’s that for pressure?

So my hope and prayer is that this royal marriage will last a lifetime.

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