An old riddle told at weddings goes like this: How many rings are there in a marriage? The answer: three. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and then the suffering. All of you married couples gathered here at this service will be able to identify with this, I am sure. As for Ethel and Sung Yi, they have only been wearing the first one, and are just about to get ready to put on the second one. But in my own reflection about the truth of marriage and the marital union of husband and wife, there are really many rings that one will have to encounter and wear. I now present the first category of these rings.
In the first stage, which is the stage that courting couples begin to find their partner in life. This is the Engagement ring period– the pairing, the luring, the alluring, and the pampering. This is the time when the woman and man are on their best behaviour and try all the tricks in the book to win the heart of the future spouse. And of all days in the calendar, today, Feb 14 is the day when all stops are pulled and the ace that is kept up the sleeve is used. Of course, florists and chocolatiers make a killing today, but that is another story.
The second category of these rings is in the period that Ethel and Sung Yi are about to embark on. It’s the wedding ring, where the following rings are also encountered – caring, dearing, and endearing, and followed very closely will be the siring, and labouring which is the start of mothering, fathering, and the demands of child–rearing.
After the honeymoon, after the children, and when the everydayness of things set in, and most of all, t is very easy for the marriage to enter into the next set of rings, where life becomes tiring, and boring. If left unaddressed, and when there is little communication, spouses can become daring, and start wandering, meandering, steering and veering away from one another. They may also begin touring and the whole marriage may be very enduring.
When that stressful stage is still left to develop on its own accord, the next set of rings is the most painful to wear. Hopefully, Ethel and Sung Yi will never get to wear this set. These are the times of sparring, firing, swearing, hollering, which often leads to injuring and tearing, and sadly, may even include clobbering, hammering and devouring.
When things get to this stage, repair is not only difficult, but because communication is already so bad, and perhaps even non-existent, many couples do not carry on. And so we have the high divorce rates of modern day. In today’s forum we can receive very good and sound advice, but I feel that the Christ aspect, as expected, is missing. And this is what must make a sacramental marriage like this one so different from other non-sacramental marriages.
A sacrament is visible sign of God’s love made present to the community and to each other as husband and wife. It is Christ who joins the two of you together. He must come between you and it is he who bonds the two of you strongly. The stronger you hold on to Christ, the stronger your marriage will be.
If you make the mistake of letting go of Christ in your married life, and live your days without Christ in prayer and seeking his wisdom and strength in handling situations, you will be letting go of the very source of your peace and happiness in marriage. It’s as if Christ is the one who is holding your hands together. If you let go of him, you will be letting go of your safety line to stability and being steadfast in your commitment to one another.
Because it is only when Christ is recognized as being the VIP in your marriage, you will enter into the last set of rings. These are the rings that make a marriage meaningful and last. These rings are the remembering of marriage vows, encountering one another and Christ, adoring, unfettering of burdens and guilt, the correct ordering of priorities, correct hearing, shouldering each other, load-bearing one another’s inabilities, and catering to each other’s weaknesses. With true empowering, honouring, and proper God-fearing, will you be the true witnesses of a sacrament as wonderful as this.