Days after the grand affair, the world still gawks and talks. Much of the talk is about what the newlyweds have done and yet could do for the image and the substance of the British monarchy so bound up with the identity of the country itself and so besmeared with scandal and stupidity in recent decades. Thus it is that the royal family and much of Britain took this wedding and take this marriage very seriously. There is a keen sense that in some way the future of their society, as they know it, depends on this marriage.
This is worthy of worldwide attention then, because the wedding of Kate Middleton to the heir of the house of Windsor demonstrated with a great deal of very British precision and no lack of careful punctuation, exactly how to take a marriage, and for that matter, marriage itself, seriously.
There was no pretending that this marriage was merely about the two young lovers and their “feelings.” Despite the fairy-tale aspects and all the Cinderella references, this wedding anchored their marriage into a familial and social order that goes way beyond them in time and geography. Contra the modern conception of the atomized individual, both families were present and involved as though “t]he future of humanity passes by way of the family” (Familiaris Consortio), because indeed it does. Human beings do not create themselves; they do not create their own identities. They discover who they are and for (blessedly, still) most that discovery takes place in a family context, where roles of son or daughter, nephew or niece, brother or sister, weave the texture of life.
Just as human beings do not create themselves, they do not create marriage. Marriage is an estate given to man by his Creator and human beings stand under the judgment of God regarding how seriously they take it. There was no mincing of words on that score and everything attending the ceremony underscored the sacred nature of the proceedings. The couple did not use the wedding to showcase their hobbies or any other frivolity. They married in a sacred place, the most opulent and venerable space available to them given their station in life. Their wedding was presided over by the highest ranking clerics available to them. And the ceremony was accompanied by beautiful sacred music, some traditional and some composed especially to mark the occasion – but composed, as was their own prayer, in accord with the religious tradition they both inherited and assented to, screwed deeply into the sacred history of that heritage and thus timeless. Timeless the music, timeless the readings, timeless the prayers, and even the dress, for it is by such timelessness that we celebrate what is transcendent.
The woman was given to the man. Yes, there was that great catholic Christian homily by the Anglican Bishop of London, Dr. Richard Chartes, echoing the teaching of Blessed John Paul about how the man and woman in marriage make, each one, a complete gift to the other:
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; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.
But still, the woman was given to the man. The presider did not ask, “Who gives this man?” but, “Who gives this woman?” This is the mystery unfolded by reference to Creation, with the presentation by God Himself of Eve to Adam, and to Christ’s raising of the estate of marriage to a Sacrament, imaging the relationship between the Church and her Divine Bridegroom.
Woman then is a gift to man in a special way, something for him to “unwrap” and treasure. Hence the handing over of her by her father; hence the veil; hence the virginal white of the gown. And here come the cynics to remind us that they have lived together already for four years. Yes, but they did not on that account forgo the ceremonial giving and rightly so, for while the gift may have been opened illegitimately before, the giving here was still real – some things are honored even in the breach and you could see it in her eyes. They no longer live a lie, but William has in the old, but so true, terminology, “made an honest woman of her” — they tell the truth now, to each other and the world. The woman is given to the man and the world should pause and ponder.
Among other things, this means that there was no pretending that this man and woman could have been interchangeable with two men or two women. Imagine for a moment that Prince William had announced at 17 that he was “gay” and taken up with another young man. Would there have been a royal wedding and perhaps a new heir gotten by means of a lesbian surrogate and a turkey baster? No. It would not be. And we don’t say, “It would not be” with a proper British accent and a tone that indicates we simply mean “It just isn’t done.” No, we mean it would not exist. In the face of the homosexual agenda and all its propaganda, this wedding proclaimed the truth of marriage and showed homosexual pretense up for the play-acting absurdity that it is. Marriage is something, the lifelong union of man and woman, and marriage has ends – purposes – the chief among them being the procreation of children.
The British people are blunt. Kate and William must be “about the business” of having children. The sooner, the better. That, it is understood, is how the royal family and with it Britain as it knows itself will continue. “The future of humanity passes by way of the family” and the future of British society passes by way of William and Kate’s offspring – but not of course, by theirs alone. As Rowan Williams put it: “In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.”
These are the things we believe and the things we say and the way we act when we take marriage, and the future of society, seriously.
(© 2011 Mary Kochan)