Sermon at the Wedding of Tara Moore and Graham Jones at St Edward’s, Sutton Park, on Valentine’s Day 2015
Tara, Graham, you have chosen to mark your wedding day by beginning with two candles and using them to light a new candle, representing the new partnership you begin on this day.
To hold those candles you have provided a framework. Here it is, before us on the altar. It is a solid framework, made of metal, cast in the shape of a heart. After this wedding day, it will become a feature of your home, a reminder of the vows you are about to make. It would be easy to dismiss the design as just another heart, on Valentine’s Day, a day when the world uses the image of the heart in a million different ways. But today I invite you to stop and reflect on the deeper meaning which this shape holds. Let it be the framework for your marriage!
Those scientists who study the heart know that if you take a few living cells from a human heart and keep them alive in the laboratory, they twitch. They are yearning for something, seeking a signal which will help them move in time with one another. Just as conductor in an orchestra helps each musician to play their part at the right time, so the heart has a corner which is its own ‘conductor’, a ‘heart within the heart’ which orchestrates all the cells into the right beat. But it is not enough for the heart to be co-ordinated; the heart must be a complete chamber, lacking no part, in order for it to complete its mission and bring life to the body it serves.
Today, you, Graham and Tara, commit to become one flesh, one household within the Body of Christ. You must move together to achieve your common purpose, and you must be conducted by Christ. Let Him be your guide in all things, and rejoice in the wonderful words of the Gospel: that Jesus calls you His friends, chose you to bear fruit, and fills you with confidence that God, our Heavenly Father, will give what you ask. Your marriage, blessed by God, is a sacrament – a sacred bond carrying God’s promise of assistance. When things get difficult – as at times they surely will – you will have every right to turn to God in prayer and say: “Lord, we celebrated our marriage in your house. Now we need your help.” And because God is faithful, you will find that help will be given, in God’s way and at God’s timing, which is never comfortable but always wonderful!
Like any muscle, the heart grows bigger when it is exercised. Tara, when you spoke to me of meeting Graham, you said that for you, “Life got bigger!”, and that you were looking forward to your new identity as a couple. All this is good, but for your marriage to have a healthy heart, you must keep exercising it. St Paul teaches us the way: Your love for each other will grow greater whenever you choose to excuse, trust and hope in one another. As you share your life with one another, you will become more aware of each other’s limitations and imperfections. Sometimes even a healthy heart will skip a beat, but it quickly regains its rhythm. In the same way, although you may stumble along the way, be slow to take offence, and quick to apologise and forgive. The most important words to sustain a healthy marriage are “Please”, “Thank You”, and “I’m so sorry!”
Never give the heart of your marriage the chance to become diseased, for if you do not look after it, it will become clogged. The moment you spot jealousy, resentment, rudeness or selfishness taking hold, perform surgery! And perhaps a day will come in your life when you have had a row and you cannot find the words to restore peace. Should that day come, go to this solid heart, which is the framework of your marriage, and light once again the candle with your name on it. That will be your acknowledgement that you have put your own needs first, and you are sorry. And when your spouse sees this, let them light their own candle as a sign of their willingness to forgive. When you see that both candles are lit, come and rekindle, together, the flame of your marriage, remembering the vows which you make on this day.
The heart is not like any other muscle in the human body. Other muscles become fatigued when they work for a long time. The heart must continue pumping every minute of our life. This makes it the perfect symbol of the love of which St Paul speaks: Love is always patient, love always endures. Love does not come to an end.
Together, Tara and Graham protect the heart of your marriage. A heart has two chambers. One pumps the blood through the body, sending life-blood to its furthest extremities. So must you love one another and bless those whose lives intertwine with yours, especially souls in great need. A heart in love beats faster; with your love for one another, you will be more able to bless each other and bless the world around you.
The other chamber of the heart pumps spent blood to the lungs, so that it may be refreshed; so too you must spend times of refreshing with one another and with God. God has spoken to the world through many prophets and saints. The one most people will think of today is Valentine, a Christian priest who gave his life for being faithful to what he believed, but of whom we know little more than legend. I am thinking of a different saint, Margaret Mary Alacoque, who lived in seventeenth century France. In the 1670s, she received a series of visions of Jesus Christ. He showed her His Heart burning with love, and said: “Behold this Heart, which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love.”
The Gospel we heard today reminds us that Jesus gave his life on the Cross so that all who accept his love can go to heaven. 1500 years later, Jesus reminded the world of this love through St Margaret Mary. She described His Heart as a furnace of burning white love, but also drew it crowned with thorns and pierced to remind us of what He suffered for us. Graham, Tara, today Jesus calls you his friends and asks you to do what friends, do, spending time with Him. I can promise you that time spent in prayer – alone and with each other – will bear fruit in enriching your life. You can provide the candles, but only Christ can provide the true light for your lives.
Finally, I would like to share with you a reflection on Genesis. What meaning can we find in a poetic story about woman being created from the rib of man? The rib is the bone closest to the heart of a man, the bone which will shatter before it allows his heart to be damaged. And therefore:
Woman was created from the rib of man
She was not made from his head to top him
Nor from his feet, to be trampled on.
She was made from his side, to be equal to him,
From under his arm to be protected by him,
From near his heart to be loved by him.
Tara Moore, Graham Jones, if you are ready to choose to become one heart, one mind, one flesh, to kindle the flame of a lifetime of love, I invite you now, with your witnesses, to come and stand before this altar, to make your vows with all your heart.