Mary Walmsley

Sower of the Word

An Episcopalian’s Teaching on the Marriage Covenant

 According to the 1977 Book of Common Prayer

With support from Holy Scripture and a dictionary

by Mary Walmsley
 

                           1. What it is

                           2. Its purpose

                           3. How it is made

                           4. The participants

                           5. What it looks like

                           6. How long it lasts      

                           7. The benefits

                           8. Help available in keeping it

                           9. A warning
 
 

1. A Marriage Covenant: What it is

The marriage covenant was established by God in creation (BCP pg. 423)

It is a solemn promise under seal between a man and a woman before God for the performance

of true love and steadfast fidelity as long as both do live.

It is the spiritual bond that unites a man and wife for life.

            Since you have but one life, you can have only one such bond in a lifetime

The couple consent to live together in the covenant of marriage (BCP pg. 424)..

The difference between a covenant and a promise or contract

Covenant: a binding promise made before God, joining to God (Jer. 50:5b)

Promise: a declaration of intent.

Contract: a binding agreement between two people; such as a betrothal
 

2. The purpose of a marriage covenant

The mutual joy of husband and wife (BCP pg. 423)

Help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity (BCP pg. 423)

Procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord (BCP pg. 423)

Determination of the boundary of morality

            Sex with anyone else before making a marriage covenant is fornication

            Sex with anyone else after making the marriage covenant is adultery

 
3. How it is made

A marriage covenant is made as the man and woman speak solemn vows in the name of God

            In the name of God, I take you . . . . . . . This is my solemn vow” (BCP pg. 427)

The vows are made before God and other witnesses.

The couple is bound by their vows (BCP pg. 427).

The law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives. For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband ( Rom. 7:1-2).

One reason why a marriage may not be made lawfully (BCP pg. 424).

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery (Mark 10:11-12).

 
4. The participants

The man and woman are bound in their covenant and joined with God, making a threefold union.

To God the vows are paid (Ps. 65:1).

 
5. What it looks like

The visible sign or symbol of a marriage covenant is the wedding ring.

“I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow. With all that I am and all that I have I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (BCP pg. 427).

Like the kingdom of God, a covenant cannot be seen; it is invisible, known through the word of

            God and trusted by faith. We are able to “see” it clearly, however, through the Word of            
            God, parables, and allegory.

It was adorned by Christ’s presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (BCP pg. 423)

It signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and His Church (BCP pg. 423)

 
6. How long it lasts

The marriage covenant exists as long as both man and wife are alive.

            Both man and wife vow “until we are parted by death” (BCP pg. 427).

 
7. The benefits

It is consecrated by God (BCP pg. 431)

Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people (BCP pg. 423).

It comes with many blessings (BCP pgs. 423, 431)

It has God’s sanction as the sole intimate relationship between a man and woman leading to

eternal life (BCP pg. 430).

 
8. Help available in keeping it

God’s blessings (BCP pg. 430).

As a covenant keeper Himself, God will help them keep their covenant, if they obey Him.

All those present at the wedding have promised to do all in their power to uphold the covenant

            marriage (BCP pg. 425).

 
9. A warning
And did not He make one? (Mal. 2:15 KJV)

Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder (BCP pg. 428).