Each year couples who attend our marriage preparation classes come with the hope to start a new life with the blessing of God

They bring with them many expectations, a long list of all the things they should have for their celebration, but have they ever thought of the unexpected?

The exhortation for the Rite of Marriage reads:

“…This union, then, is most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future, That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death… “And if true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears.The rest is in the hands of God. Nor will God be wanting to your needs, he will pledge you the life-long support of his graces [in the Holy Sacrament which you are now going to receive].”

The mystery of the sacrament shows its unexpected transcendence.  The natural marriage created by God and elevated to the sacrament by Christ, remains as a sublime reality that escapes our total understanding.

The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 21-33 relates marriage to the mystery of the union of Christ with His Church.

The vows and promises in marriage are for life despite any circumstance that may occur in the unforeseen future. By discovering the beautiful gifts that a husband and wife bring to the marriage, they build a relationship transformed by their love that keeps them together even in moments of sorrow, lost, discouragement or disappointment.

It is only there, when we are faced with the unexpected together, that our marriage survives. In these moments we are called to remind each other that our promises are made for all the days of our lives, in good times and bad times, forever.

Sometimes the problem is not the love itself but rather the capacity to give and receive it in a personal and mature way.

Nobody promised that marriage would be an easy thing. That is why; the holy Sacrament of Matrimony gives husbands and wives the remedy of the grace to come out victorious in the fight, every day of our lives, waiting for the unexpected, trusting in the help of God.

Marriage is a mission, a task a path of happiness and an anticipation of heaven ... but we will not fully understand what to expect until we get to heaven, and then maybe we’ll realize how much time we wasted, instead of seeing each day as a gift from God and an opportunity to be happy together.

Let us discover the true beauty of Christian marriage and take the risk to “expect the unexpected.”

(Carla Ferrando-Bowling serves as the director for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Family Life Office.)