Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - This autumn, Catholic weddings in the United States have employed a recent English translation of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, Second Edition (OCM), which offers couples more pastoral preparation as well as the opportunity to demonstrate theological truths during their wedding ceremonies through long-honored customs such as the arras and the lazo.
“It isn’t a huge change, to be honest,” said Father Andrew Menke, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln who is currently serving as executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat of Divine Worship. “The typical ‘person in the pew’ might not even notice…But there are a number of things that are kind of interesting.”
Among the minor adjustments, the rubrics now make a more defined distinction between the two different ways the entrance procession can be handled. Either the priest can be part of the procession, or he can greet the couple at the altar.
While both forms have always been acceptable, the first option previously had a specific order of procession. Now, the rubric simply states, “The procession to the altar then takes place in the customary manner.”
Another minor adjustment is in how the priest receives the couple’s consent to receive the sacrament.
As before, the couple either consents by stating vows or by answering “I will” or “I do” to a series of questions asked by the priest. Now the priest receives this consent with the words, “Let us bless the Lord,” to which the faithful respond, “Thanks be to God.”
Two cultural customs largely found in Filipino and Spanish-speaking communities are now accepted as optional observances in English.
The first is the blessing and giving of arras or coins. Typically, these are 13 decorative coins (for Christ and His 12 Apostles). Frequently, each coin is embossed with a different motif to represent love, faith, children, etc., plated with precious metal and presented in a small decorative chest by one of the couple’s wedding sponsors.
Father Ryan Kaup, assistant pastor at Lincoln’s Cristo Rey Parish, explained this beautiful custom, which takes place after the couple exchanges vows and rings.
“The groom holds the coins in his hands and the bride places her hands underneath his,” Father Kaup said. “The groom says a prayer and lets the coins drop, little by little, into the bride’s hands as the symbol of the goods they will share. And then the wife repeats this, praying while she lets the coins drop into the groom’s hands.”
The second custom is called the lazo or lasso. It is often double-loop (one for each spouse) joined together with a short length that ends in a cross or crucifix, much like a rosary. It can be made out of soft fibers, decorative beads, or flowers, and is sometimes used with a large veil that can wrap around both of the spouses.
Father Kaup said, “Before the nuptial blessing, the couple kneels, and then usually the maid of honor and the best man drape the lazo around their shoulders… It’s a symbol of the indissoluble union.”
He said he was thankful to be able to include these two customs in English Masses of Holy Matrimony.
“A lot of our younger people speak English primarily, but they want these traditions at their wedding Masses,” he said.
Previously, the priests were left to translate the prayers attached to the arras and the lazo as well as they could.
For English-speaking couples who are not Hispanic or Filipino, the arras and the lazo are two approved ways to celebrate their unity that can replace fads such as the unity candle or sand ceremony, which are not mentioned at all in the rubrics.
“It would be undesirable either to dilute or to distract from the rich symbols which are already a part of the approved Matrimony rites,” reasoned the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship in their August 2016 newsletter.
The instruction continues, “Moreover, it also seems prudent to distinguish between time-honored wedding customs derived from a host of cultural and ethnic traditions, and those of a more fleeting or even commercial nature from the secular wedding industry.”
Catholics marrying non-Catholics will find only one noticeable addition to the Rite of Marriage: the Lord’s Prayer has been added between the Prayer of the Faithful and the Nuptial Blessing. From a priest’s perspective, the rite now also includes the full text of the Communion Rite, although when one spouse-to-be is not Catholic, but a Christian, this remains optional.
“It is advisable to avoid a situation in which only one spouse (and perhaps less than half of the congregation) would be able to receive the Eucharist, highlighting division on a day intended to celebrate a new union of husband and wife,” advised the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship.
Engaged couples and their parents who have questions about these adjustments to the wedding rubrics should consult their pastors.