An exhortation about marriage and its meaning, its sacrifices, graces and joys

Because of the entry I wrote about Extraordinary Form Nuptial Masses for mixed-faith couples, I was prompted to re-read an exhortation which was often used (and still can be) at the time of the sermon by priests in the USA to  exhort and instruct the couple during the marriage rite.

Exhortation Before Marriage

Beloved of Christ. You are about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred, because established by God Himself. By it, He gave to man a share in the greatest work of creation, the work of the continuation of the human race. And in this way He sanctified human love and enabled man and woman to help each other live as children of God, by sharing a common life under His fatherly care.

Because God Himself is thus its author, marriage is of its very nature a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self. But Christ our Lord added to the holiness of marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He referred to the love of marriage to describe His own love for His Church, that is, for the people of God whom He redeemed by His own blood. And so He gave to Christians a new vision of what married life ought to be, a life of self-sacrificing love like His own. It is for this reason that His apostle, St. Paul, clearly states that marriage is now and for all time to be considered a great mystery, intimately bound up with the supernatural union of Christ and the Church, which union is also to be its pattern. This union, then, is most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.

Truly, then, these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other, that recognizing their full import, you are, nevertheless, so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete. God so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son, and the Son so loved us that He gave Himself for our salvation. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears. The rest is in the hands of God. Nor will God be wanting to your needs; He will pledge you the life-long support of His graces in the holy sacrament which you are now going to receive.


Let us not forget that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Uphold and defend the holiness, dignity and meaning of marriage.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. heway says:

    Thank you Father – my son is to be married in September. This week he and his brothers are at home because of his father’s declining health. they were called to his bedside last Friday at which time he was anointed. I plead for prayers that a miracle may allow him to live to see his son joined in Holy Matrimony. I have copied the exhortation for my son an dhis bride-to-be.

  2. MargaretC says:

    How beautiful!

  3. wanda says:

    heway, you have my prayers. This is a beautiful exhortation. I thank God for the grace that has flowed from the sacrament of marriage in His Church. He has brought us safe this far by His grace for nearly 42 years.

  4. akp1 says:

    I am happy to say that I think that I hear this at most weddings I’ve attended!

  5. Dad of Six says:

    Our eldest has become engaged to lovely, faithful RC woman. I have forwarded this exhortation to both of them, and my wife, who God blessed me with 25+ years ago.

  6. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    This is my standard wedding sermon, regardless of the readings chosen. It appears in the 1964 Collectio Rituum.

  7. AnnAsher says:

    Heway, prayers and love.

  8. JackintheVox says:

    From the newly approved Order for the Celebration of Holy Matrimony within the Ordinariates for former Anglicans:

    Admonition and Scrutiny
    (The Priest shall say:)

    Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the
    presence of this congregation, to witness the joining together of this
    man and this woman in Holy Matrimony; which is an honourable
    estate, instituted of God himself, signifying unto us the mystical union
    that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ
    adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he
    wrought, in Cana of Galilee, and is commended in Holy Writ to be
    honourable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be
    enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly; but
    reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering
    the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

    First, it was ordained for the increase of mankind according to the will
    of God, and that children might be brought up in the fear and nurture
    of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

    Secondly, it was ordained in order that the natural instincts and
    affections, implanted by God, should be hallowed and directed aright;
    that those who are called of God to this holy estate, should continue
    therein in pureness of living.

    Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that
    the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

    Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be

    Therefore if any one can show any just cause, why they may not
    lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for
    ever hold his peace.

    (Speaking to the persons that shall be married the Priest shall say?

    I require and charge you both, as you will answer at the dreadful day
    of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if
    either of you know of any impediment, why you may not be lawfully
    joined together in Matrimony, do you now confess it. For be you well
    assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s
    Holy Church doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is
    their Matrimony lawful in the sight of God.

    Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity!

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