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Document Details :
Title: La 'liturgie de bénédiction d'un couple à l'occasion de son mariage'
Subtitle: Spécificités des Églises de la Réforme
Author(s): PARMENTIER, Elisabeth
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 11 Issue: 2 Date: Autumn 2005
The “Liturgy of the Blessing of a Couple on the Occasion of Their Marriage”: Particularities of the Churches of the Reformation
The article discusses the celebra tion of marriage in the Protestant tradition and analyzes the lan guage of 'blessing' that these churches prefer in regard to mar riage. There are three general points of consensus among Reformed theologians about marriage that are in tension with the structure of the Reformed mar riage liturgies: (1) The Reformed conviction is that the Church does not perform marriages but that the couple gathers in the church to praise God for their union. However, the church celebration seems to be doing something dif ferent than what has happened at the city hall. What, the author asks, does the church celebration in fact 'do'? (2) The Church recognizes the dignity and independence of the couple's relationship, yet the fact of a celebration in the parish community implies a role of the local community, and thus the Church, in this ceremony. (3) The Reformed tradition says that what happens in the church with the couple is not a sacrament but a blessing. However, the liturgical celebration itself suggests more than a simple blessing. Its prayers evoke a meaning in marriage that signifies a deep connection between marriage and the Church. The introduction to the new German Reformed rite emphasizes that the blessing of the couple is the establishment of an alliance between the couple that is analogous to that between Christ and the Church, thus suggesting a greater role of the church ceremony than that previously admitted. In general the Reformed liturgies require that a minister perform the blessing of the couple, a restriction that is not usual in regard to blessings. This also suggests that something more than blessing is going on. The churches of the Reformation from the beginning have not wanted to cat egorize marriage as a sacrament because they find no biblical warrant to do so. Thus, the category of blessing seemed to fit the reality. Blessing, however, can apply to a variety of situations, and the blessing of a marriage seems of a different quality than other sorts of blessings, which may be performed by any Christian, rather than being restricted to a minister. The author argues that this special category of blessing needs further study. Further, she says that the churches of the Refor mation would do well to rediscover the particular contribution that liturgy can make to Christian life, lest it lose its power to counteract negative cultural tendencies. The language of sacrament, understood as prophetic sign, can allow the marriage rite to be undertaken not as a simple blessing of something accomplished by the civil authorities but as a gift of the Spirit, evoked by the Church for the couple, thus celebrating not primarily the love of the couple but the insertion of the couple into the saving love of God that is able to withstand the forces aligned against it.