What do we really mean when we say that Marriage is a covenant? Does it have any significance in our daily lives? These were the questions that a group of people along with Bishop Ralph, came together to discuss at the Mother of God Parish Centre in October. The event was organised to coincide with the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and Evangelisation.
In their introduction Jane and Charles Perryman from the Sheffield Centre of Marriage Care, said that although nearly fifty years ago the Vatican Council had said that Marriage is a covenant rather than a contract, this had not been followed up by theologians in any depth.
The idea of covenant is at the centre of the biblical story and there are many recurring themes throughout scripture that brings the covenant alive. Among those which are particularly relevant to marriage are promise, faith or trust, intimacy, listening, sacrifice, generosity and forgiveness. Jane and Charles picked out some passages from scripture as the starting point for discussion.
The covenant between God and the people of Israel was made on the basis of a promise by the Israelites that they would be faithful to God’s laws and God promised to be their God. That promise was renewed time after time. When we make our original promises on our wedding day, we often have dreams about how our future is going to be. But what if they don’t work out that way?
No two people are so compatible that they will never have differences. When we love someone deeply we become more vulnerable and we expect more from them, but being human there are times we will get it wrong and cause hurt. Mostly, please God, we don’t do that deliberately but more likely it is through carelessness, forgetfulness or tiredness. When that happens, what do you do? Do you simply say “sorry”, ask for forgiveness or simply wait until the dust settles?
These initial thoughts led to some lively discussion in the groups. Some of this was centred on how we can maintain unconditional love, how we build commitment day by day and how hard it can be to forgive at times – the difficulty of being humble enough to seek forgiveness when this was needed.
Jane and Charles wrapped the evening up by showing how some of the recent research into couple relationships is in keeping with the idea of marriage as a covenant. The response to the evening was overwhelmingly positive and most of those who came said they would come to any follow up event.