Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaSunday, March 2, 2014
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arriage is a life-long, solemn covenant between a man and a woman. This bond lasts till death do them part. The Scripture makes it emphatic: "What God has joined together, no man must divide" (Mtt. 9:6).

On the other hand, wedding is the solemnization of the love between a man and a woman before God and the people. It marks the beginning of marriage. It takes place at a specific time and on a definite day. On their way to the wedding venue, the intending couple has as their vehicle number this inscription: "About to wed." After the solemnization their vehicle number becomes "Just wedded."

There is a clear dichotomy between marriage and wedding. We talk of married life and wedding day. Marriage begins with wedding and ends at death. Wedding begins at the church or any other designated place and ends there. When wedding ends, marriage starts. It is during wedding that the man and the woman exchange their marital consent and they promise to be faithful to each other till death. The wedding transforms the man and the woman into husband and wife. Before the wedding, they were two mathematically. After the wedding, they become one sacramentally. That is why the Bible says, "They are no longer two, therefore, but one" (Mk 10:8). As far as Christianity is concerned, a man and a woman living together after payment of dowry without wedding are said to be living in 'Concubinage.' Their relationship is not marriage as such because they are living in sin. It is during wedding that God blesses the couple and makes their union 'sanctifical' (from the word Sanctity). Their sexual relationship can be simple termed fornication. And the Holy Writ clearly says that fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Gal.5:19 - 21). The marriage equation is: Dowry plus wedding = Marriage. The contrary is: Dowry minus Wedding = Concubinage.

Nowadays, there is a mad rush in preparing for wedding rather than preparing for marriage. Most couples who rush into marriage crash too soon. This is as a result of preparing for wedding without preparing for marriage. Recently, a tensed woman came to me as I was enjoying cool breeze under a tree. She was sweating like a cow heading to the abattoir. I nearly took to my heels but for the masculine blood in me. With high ferocity of breath she told me, "Father, in short I want to divorce!" I asked her in return, "Divorce who?" She replied, "In fact I want to divorce my husband. He has been beating me. He is nothing but a chimpanzee. He is as wicked as the devil. He is also wayward." I calmed her down and cited this biblical quotation to her: "Whoever divorces his wife (or husband) and marries another is guilty of adultery" (Mk. 10:11). She told me that they have already separated long ago, after only two years of marriage. I further asked her if she was asking for divorce or for the dissolution of the marriage. She replied, "Any of the above." I then advised her to approach the Church Marriage Tribunal for advice since she is a Catholic. She left was appreciation marked all over her face.

Experience has shown that many engaged persons rarely devote time and attention in their pre-marriage course, which lasts about three months (twice or thrice weekly). Some of them who attend the course at all do so to fulfil all righteousness. They lack attention in the subjects being taught. Some sleep off during the course time, dreaming of their wedding day. They concentrate only in material preparations for the wedding, such as invitation cares, wedding cake, video-coverage, wedding gown (which are often indecent), ear-rings as huge as bicycle wheels, long artificial nails, food, drinks and wedding movement. There was an instance of a lady who registered for pre-marriage course, but her attendance was irregular. Rather she bought the latest music album and was learning day and night the bridal dance for her wedding day. She imported her wedding gown from London. The artificial hair and long nail she imported from India. Her man himself attended the course seldom. Instead, he travelled to China to book for their golden invitation card. From there he flew to Australia to purchase his wedding suit. Their perfume was bought from Switzerland. The engaged persons indeed excused themselves from pre-marriage course most of the time, on the pretence that their occupations rarely spared them time. Who cheats who?

Many men and women lack basic concept of marriage. They fail to understand that the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Wedding day is one thing; marriage is another. Do you know that the sweet chewing sound of the bitter-kola is not comparable to its bitter taste? Some persons rush into marriage without sufficient time for courtship, during which they learn one another. Courtship should be devoid of sexual relationship. It is not a time of co-habiting. Enquiries about one another and their families' background should take place during courtship. The irony of it is that before any serious commitment is made, the woman is already pregnant. So, she has no choice except marrying the man responsible, even if there is any impediment. Often, medical tests are ignored. The craze to get married intoxicates some people like alcohol. When sensibility returns, regrets follow. I have come across a couple who met themselves at a ballroom dance. The next day, the dowry was paid. On the third day, the woman is already salivating as a sign of pregnancy. In a month's time they did wedding made-easy. After one month of the wedding, the marriage crashed. I have also seen a marriage that lasted only three days from the day of wedding. Some couples rush into marriage with the view to approach the Marriage Tribunal to seek for nullity as soon as things fall apart.

Some men and women enter into marriage out of deceit. Some falsify their age. Often the man is fifty years older than the wife. The woman can also claim to be twenty years by paper when she is already forty years old by nature, courtesy of 'make-ups.' Impotency, which is the inability to perform sexual intercourse as a result of permanent disability or deficiency, is often hidden. If a man is involved, he arranges for a man to perform his sexual responsibility and begets children on his behalf. Impotence in the man is total lack of genital erection. On the part of the woman, it entails lack of vagina or womb. The Church teaches that any sexual intercourse between husband and wife must be open to child-bearing. The use of contraceptives is prohibited.

Marriage must be entered into by free consent. Therefore, a man or a woman forced by human or economic factors to contract marriage has incurred an impediment. Before the Altar on the wedding day, a pertinent question is put before the intending couple: Ikenna and Ifeoma, have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage for the rest of your lives?" If both answer in the positive, then the marriage will proceed; if not, it is to your tents Oh, Israel!"

It is very essential to remind intending husbands and wives that marriage is a lasting bond "for better, for worse." That means it can be sweet and sour. Love and fidelity are tested in times of difficulties or problems. There is no marriage without a cross. Prayer, patience and tolerance are needed so far there were no detriment impediments from the onset. Flimsy reasons to divorce one another are not permissible.

A married man came into my office weeping like a professional mourner. It took me a dozen of handkerchiefs to absorb his tears as I was consoling him. He tearfully told me. "Father, if I had known that marriage is like this, I would have become a Reverend Father." I burst out laughing. Looking confusedly at me he asked, "Father, I am in hell. Why are you laughing at me?" In turn, I told him, "If I had known that Priesthood is like this, I would have opted for marriage." The two of us burst out laughing for over one hour. At the end I made it clear to him that no vocation is so easy. Each has its own cross. He left with gratitude and courage. He swore to carry his marriage cross while I swore to carry my priestly cross till we meet at Calvary for crucifixion on Good Friday and glorification on Easter Sunday.